It was quiet on campus during the coronavirus pandemic. That is to say, there were few visitors. However, it was certainly not a quiet time for work. Last year, the loop duct for the thermal storage was extended across campus, which resulted in a lot of digging and inconvenience. Smaller but equally necessary modifications to the infrastructure and green areas were also completed over the past year and during the spring. Lex Roders, who works at Vastgoed en Huisvesting (real estate and housing), is responsible for infrastructure on campus. Elike Wijnheijmer is park manager and ensures that all activities and construction on campus align with the plans for traffic, landscaping, and developments on campus. They talk about the most recent developments and give a preview of what is to come.
Accessibility of Aurora for Cyclists
The education building Aurora is nearly complete, and there will be space for 1300 bicycles in the lower level bicycle storage area in September. Lex Roders says that a bicycle path will be constructed from the two exits towards Forum, along De Elst, passing the amphitheatre and Impulse, and connecting with Bornsesteeg. Near the southern entrance of Aurora (across from Vitae) there will also be a temporary crossing for the bus lane for cyclists travelling west from Aurora. For a future phase, a new cycling path has been planned from Aurora to the Mondriaanlaan and Dijkgraaf to the north side of the bus lane.
Lex: “To facilitate the cycling path towards Forum, the covered bicycle parking had to go (editor’s note: it will be replaced by a non-covered bicycle parking area at a nearby location), and there were some trees in the way.”
This is where Elike Wijnheijmer’s expertise comes in. Elike: “Those trees were part of the collection of apple trees of the Centrum voor Genetische Bronnen (CGN) and were planted in an orchard structure. That is why I consulted with CGN to find a new place on campus for these trees. This type of structural change must be implemented in consultation with the other parties, as every change impacts the spatial distribution of functions and in turn, the campus landscaping. That means that when artworks must be relocated, this is then organised in consultation with the art committee.”
Thymospad: Ecological and Safe for Traffic
A similar infrastructural change was required for Thymospad, the cycling path from Sports Centre de Bongerd to Orion. Lex: “This previously unappealing corridor is now a wide cycling path and footpath with adjoining green space, half of which is located on the grounds of Plus Ultra. Elike: “Kandans (owner of Plus Ultra I and II) was prepared to collaborate on the creation of an ecologically rich design. Based on the planting principles that we use for campus (Green Vision Wageningen Campus 2019), it was decided to plant a flower meadow, fruit-bearing shrubs such as black and red currants, wild roses, and a mixed hedge. Because it can be very wet, a wadi was dug out between the flower meadow and the ornamental trees, and the pin oaks that were already there were reused. The planting plan was coordinated with our campus ecologist Wieger Wamelink.”
At the same time, a wide footpath was created along Plantage, streetlights were installed, and a one-way traffic system was implemented. This all contributes to a more pleasant environment with increased traffic safety. The final stretch from Plantage (between Unilever and Upfield) will be renewed after Upfield is completed.
An Urban Environment That Must Stay Green
These modifications are the result of the traffic plan that the Executive Board adopted in 2019. As campus continuous to grow, the infrastructure must keep in step with that. Lex: “In anticipation of this, several projects will be carried out in the period 2020-2022. It includes the new, safe bicycle crossing over the Nijenoord Allee near Hoevestein that was realised in collaboration with the municipality in April of last year. Everything was done to ensure that campus remains a pleasant and beautiful environment, but definitely safe as well.” Elike: “Did you know that the daily user density on campus is comparable to the centre of Utrecht; an average of 13,000 people on 70 ha? We are talking about an urban environment, but one that we want to keep very green. On campus, over 40% of the grounds are green spaces, while this is about 20% on average for urban areas.
We are trying to streamline the use of this type of area as much as possible, through its infrastructure as well as the rules for its use. The Road Traffic Act also applies on campus, with the same traffic rules as everywhere else in the Netherlands, for example. That means that you can get a ticket for parking illegally.”
Charging Points for Shared Electric Cars
Parking on campus always stays current. The latest development is the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) project, started by Facilities and Services and Mobility Mixx. Employees can book and use the white/orange shared electric cars. The cars needed a centralised area for parking and charging. Lex: “This is why a section of the car park on Stippeneng (in front of Impulse) was equipped with charging points.”
Green Area with New Workstations and Sports Equipment
Because of the construction of the new cycling path between Aurora and Forum, a strip of about 200 m2 was created between the cycling path and the bus lane near the amphitheatre. In consultation with Sports Centre de Bongerd, which had an idea for a fitness area in the Vital@WUR framework, some sports equipment will be installed here. There are also plans to further develop another preference: more spaces to sit outside and collaborate in green spaces. It is likely that solar benches will be installed here, outdoor furniture with built-in solar panels that can be used to charge your phone. This is also one of the ideas from the CSR vibe (Corporate Social Responsibility), an initiative to make WUR’s sustainability more visible on campus. Elike: “In order to install all these things we want effectively in the space and environment, I have asked Applied Spatial Research (ASR) at WENR to create a sketched design. We will develop and incorporate the design into the ‘slipstream’ of Aurora and the construction of the new cycling path. ASR often helps with landscape design challenges and also involves students. We also want to do something on campus with their Nederland 2120 (NL2120) project, but more about this later.”
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