Cyclists and pedestrians having to dodge each other near Koningsberger building

Shared space voor KBG
The "shared space" in front of the Koningsberger building. Photo: DUB

Anita van Leeuwen-Tolboom is annoyed by the situation on the strip that connects Leuvenlaan and Princetonlaan. She is an employee of the Faculty of Geosciences and cycles there every day on her way to the bicycle shed under Vening Meinesz Building B.

She is irritated by pedestrians who cross the road without looking. They are often distracted by their phones and do not hear when cyclists ring their bells because they're wearing headphones. “I even bought a louder bell,” she says. “But I don't think it's loud enough.”

Conscious choice
The university has consciously opted for a so-called pavement with a shared-space design. “The philosophy behind shared space is not new and has proven itself in many other places,” argues area development manager Jeroen Hutten.

According to Hutten, the main advantage of this model is that road users adjust their speed and take each other into account. He acknowledges that there is a certain degree of risk involved, however. “Collisions may occur, but they will not result in serious accidents because everyone is cycling slower.”

In addition, the charm of a single-coloured carpet has influenced the university's considerations. It looks nicer. However, a line of stones has been placed in a different direction, creating two separate paths. When asked which part is meant for cyclists and which part is meant for pedestrians, Hutten does not have a clear answer. “Everyone should be able to move within the entire zone.”

Too easy
Van Leeuwen-Tolboom finds Hutten's argument "too easy". She is bothered by the fact that the university acknowledges the risk but chooses not to do anything about it. She would prefer the bicycle path to be painted red, which would delimitate a clear space for cyclists to circulate. She argues that the university does not have to do it right away, but could take the opportunity to do it “during a future renovation."

According to Hutten, paint alone would not solve the problem. “Pedestrians still have to cross a cycle path. The only difference is that cyclists will not adjust their speed. If pedestrians cross without looking because they are distracted by their phones, the situation would be even more unsafe.” An explanation Van Leeuwen-Tolboom seems more satisfied with.

Information campaign
Hutten believes that inattentive pedestrians are a problem at Utrecht Science Park. He looks out the window in his office at the Administration building, then counts “1, 2… just like that, 5 people on the phone”.

“The behaviour of traffic users has changed,” he concludes. “But if you ask whether we would have laid down the bishop given what we know now, the answer is probably 'yes'.”

Hutten would like to set up a campus-wide campaign aimed at taking each other into account in traffic. Hutten does not know whether that campaign will happen or not and, if so, what it would look like. “I'm into area development and not into communication,” he jokes.

Alternative routes
There are plans to offer alternative routes for pedestrians to go from the Koningsberger building towards the centre of De Uithof and the bus stops. To make room for these routes, part of the Botanical Gardens will be cut off and developed as a public park. This is likely to reduce the number of pedestrians walking. The Executive Board will soon decide on the precise design.