• Educating students

    Bike patrol

    If you have cycled to the Broerplein, Aletta Jacobsplein or Harmonie complex lately, you have probably met the five WerkPro bike stewards – whether you were happy about it is another matter, though. Keeping the bike racks neat and emergency exits clear are their main tasks. The UK spoke with Max Makkink, Nadine Speelpenning and Annet Schuining about this Sisyphean yet enjoyable job.

    Nadine: ‘I think we look official in our uniforms, so we’ve noticed that people feel more comfortable asking us than just some random stranger. We get approached a lot by people asking for directions, usually tourists and foreign students.’

    Max: ‘We are often the first person that some people see who come to the university, so we also feel like we are ambassadors in a sense.’

    Nadine: ‘People would protest and say they were in a hurry, and it also happens that some people are approached by several of us within the same day, first at the Broerplein and then also at the Harmonie complex. But we always try to be friendly and calm and understanding.’

    Nadine: ‘We think it’s important for people to be able to find their bikes again. Moving a bike isn’t meant to be a punishment. It’s just about making sure they’re in the right place and not blocking the exits. Then, you’re just out of luck.’

    Nadine: ‘And there’s a lot of interaction. People get to know you, and they’ll say ‘good morning’ to you. That’s just nice.’

    Nadine: ‘It is nice on cold days that we have to work outside, because sometimes, people come up to us and say, ‘It’s so cold! Would you like a cup of coffee?’ Yes, absolutely! Thanks! We are standing out there in the cold, so that’s another really nice thing about this work. Ninety-nine percent of the time, people are very friendly and warm, and it’s just every now and then that you run into really stubborn people.’

    Annet: ‘It varies quite a bit. If the weather is nice, then everyone is happy and they enjoy being outside. If you approach them, then their response is usually pretty nice, but if it’s raining and you send them away, that is not as pleasant of an experience.’

    Annet: ‘During the exam weeks, everyone is naturally just more stressed out and they take that out on us at times. Sometimes they’re in a hurry and they just want to drop their bike off wherever, and then we have to send them away because otherwise it sets a bad example for other people. They’re usually annoyed to hear that, and they say, ‘But I’m in a hurry!’ Yeah, I know. And that’s pretty frustrating for us as well.’

    Annet: ‘People are just herd animals. They follow each other’s example, so if one person puts their bike somewhere, then everybody else does it too and it just piles up. If we aren’t here, it all becomes a big mess.’