It’s Monday morning 9.00hrs when the men from the sheltered workshop (MTB) haul some twenty bicycles onto the loading space of a pickup truck. These 'orphaned bikes' have been left behind in the bicycle sheds on Tongersestraat 53 during the past six months. Painted on the crossbar of one specimen – not exactly a wreck – is the name of a registered SBE student, but there was no reply to the warning e-mail.
Maastricht University has about one hundred bicycles removed every year. It is a never-ending story, says location manager Guido Boere. “Especially the exchange students leave their bicycles for what they are and take off. We remove them, for safety and tidiness reasons but also to make space. All UM buildings in the city centre, and in particular the university library, have too few bicycle parking spaces. Employees are unwilling to relinquish parking places for this purpose. There are now plans to use the garden on Tongersestraat 49.”
Two hired hands from the MTB permanently scan all university bicycle parking areas for flat tyres, loose chains and twisted handlebars. Suspicious steeds get a tie-wrap around the rear wheel. If they are still there after three months, they are removed and owners have a few weeks to collect them. “Once a student came and said his bicycle was missing. He said that he had just returned from a traineeship abroad.”
Once they are loaded onto the pickup, the orphans disappear to a municipal plot in Bosscherveld. After that they go to a recycling centre, or if they are really unwanted, to the scrapyard.