Survey on Social Safety

Cyclists don't feel safe on cycle paths to Science Park

fietspad bij DeSterren Foto: DUB
Cycle path near DeSterren. Photo: DUB

In collaboration with the Utrecht Cyclists' Union, Vidius conducted a survey to investigate how safe the cycle paths to and from the USP are. According to Boris Beije, a Social Geography & Planning student and chairman of the committee responsible for the survey, people have been talking about the cycle paths on campus for quite some time.

“From those conversations, I found out that students don't feel safe when they have to cycle to the USP alone in the dark. That's why we thought it was important to conduct a thorough investigation to communicate these feelings more widely," he explains. Vidius did not look at actual crime rates in these areas. "That would be a lot trickier. The survey focuses on the feeling of safety".

The questionnaire consisted of 17 questions about safety on the cycle paths around the USP. Some of the questions were about whether people are afraid to cycle on their own, whether they feel unsafe when cycling alongside a nature reserve, and whether they feel safe cycling after sunset. It was posted online on February 2 and subsequently spread through Vidius' social media channels as well as through WhatsApp groups of students. Sixty students enrolled in UU and HU filled it in. The number of men and women was the same. “We’re satisfied with the number of responses,” Gijs Grimbergen, Vice-chairman of the student union, says. “It’s not a representative survey but it’s enough to show that there’s a real problem.”

Onveilig op het fietspad

The Y-axis shows the absolute numbers. Five of the make respondents have felt unsafe while cycling to or from the USP. 

More than a third of the respondents state they feel unsafe on the cycle paths around USP. “I'm not relaxed,” one respondent wrote. “I keep a close eye on my vicinity and make sure to pay attention. I frequently look over my shoulder too". Another respondent, a man, said he doesn't feel unsafe himself but he knows that "others, especially women, feel incredibly unsafe on the part of the cycle path from De Sterren to De Berenkuil, up to a level that when someone they know says ‘hi’ to them, they’re scared to death.”

About half of the women who answered the survey don't feel at ease cycling around the USP, compared to a fifth of the male respondents. The survey also showed that the routes reaching the campus from De Sterren and Galgenwaard stadium are considered equally unsafe. In addition, all respondents cycling from De Bilt or Zeist feel unsafe sometimes, compared to about half of the people cycling from the city centre. Ten percent of the respondents avoid cycling to and from the USP on their own or after sunset. Respondents were also asked what they do to make themselves feel more at ease. "Listening to music" was the most popular answer, followed by "calling someone" and "sharing my location."

sterren en galgenwaard

The graphs above show how many people feel unsafe on different cycle paths leading to the USP.

Respondents also pointed out how the paths could be improved in terms of safety. Most said the cycle paths need better lighting and the surrounding should be more lively. By means of this questionnaire, Vidius hopes to point out the problem to the university and the municipality, who both own part of the grounds where the cycle paths are located and thus are jointly responsible for making them safe. “Lighting is something that could be fixed immediately,” Gijs ponders. "Liveliness, on the other hand, is much more difficult. We don’t have a concrete plan for that. We’re hoping that the municipality and the university will have a look at that themselves.”

Vidius has been in touch with the municipality and the university to raise the issue but no plans have emerged as of yet. "However, they have indicated that they have been concerned themselves for some time. We hope that both institutions will take the initiative to improve things. If they do nothing about it, it would be a clear sign to us that they’re not taking the safety of their cycle paths seriously."

alleen fietsen

The number of people who avoid cycling alone to the USP.

In composing the survey, Vidius was assisted by Peter van Bekkum, president of the Utrecht branch of the Cyclists' Union. In a meeting with Vidius, the cyclists' union stressed that ensuring physical safety on the cycle paths often takes priority over social safety. This has also been the subject of frequent research in the past. "More and more attention is being paid to social safety, also in terms of cyclists' mobility. For instance, the municipality's document Nachtcultuur 2030 (available in Dutch only, Ed.) mentions that safety should be improved at cycle paths in remote areas that are used by nightlife goers. This makes it even more important for us to focus on this specifically."

Vidius would like to follow up on the survey and talk to cyclists who sometimes feel unsafe going to or from the USP. Do you want to help them out? Just send an e-mail to