It’s Wednesday, just around dinnertime. Patrick Beijk, owner of the Mr. Mofongo café on the corner of the Broerstraat and the Oude Boteringestraat, is removing bikes from the café patio. ‘It’s just awful. As soon as I’ve removed one bike, someone else parks theirs in the empty spot’, says Beijk.
The sign that forbids bike parking on his patio is completely ignored, according to Beijk. He estimates that he and his staff remove a few hundred bicycles a day. ‘It’s like we’ve got a second business in bike removal’, he says.
One look at the Broerplein makes it clear that it’s extremely busy. Overflowing bicycle racks mean students resort to parking their bikes wherever they please. Beijk is annoyed: they bikes don’t just blocking his garbage containers and the back entrance for suppliers, but also the staff entrance and the door to his wine bar. Even his patio is turning into a bicycle parking facility. ‘As soon as one bicycle has been parked there it’s like a signal to everyone else.’
Student party Lijst Calimero asked the RUG board whether they are working on a solution. ‘De Broerstraat is a throughway for motorised traffic’, says faction member Reinier Alberts. ‘Bicycles parked on the street can be dangerous.’
Jouke de Vries, president of the university board, is aware of the issue. He blames the cyclists. ‘People barely make use of the bicycle parking facility underneath the Harmony complex. People just want to quickly park their bike and be on their way. We need a behavioural change, and that’s hard to enforce.’
Extra parking facilities
The RUG will be talking to the city about enforcing parking policies, says Jan de Jeu, RUG board vice president. There are also plans to create a bicycle parking facility underneath the UB. The basement is currently used for book storage, but that needs to change as quickly as possible. ‘As soon as we’ve emptied out the basement, it can be used as parking space’, says De Jeu.
There is also a bicycle parking facility underneath the Public Library at the Oude Boteringestraat. Once that library moves to the Groninger Forum at the Grote Markt, the law faculty will move into the building. De Jeu: ‘Then that bicycle facility will be available for students as well.’
Whether the RUG will have exclusive access to the new parking facility isn’t yet clear. ‘The bicycles aren’t just a university issue, but a city-wide issue’, says De Jeu. ‘So we can’t just decide that the facility is only available to our students and staff without discussing it with the city first.’