With my work-from-home thesis in my pocket, it was time to go back to campus. Which was, of course, the ideal time for the municipality to decide to re-asphalt a road on my way to university. In an attempt to route cyclists around the construction zone, they put up signposts guiding them through backstreets paved with setts. Annoying as hell to cycle on, especially if you’re in a hurry.
In my young-man-yells-at-cloud moment, I realised that almost all of Enschede is one massive construction zone. The university recently finished renovating the TechMed Centre, added road ‘shrinking’ red paving to the campus’ roads (also annoying to cycle on), installed underlit yield signs at Witbreuksweg, and are working on the Horst tower elevator maintenance. The municipality itself seems to want to overhaul and/or redesign literally all of their roads. But all of this pales in comparison to the national government’s plans to maybe a new railroad in between Enschede in Hengelo: the ‘Noordtak’ (Northern branch) of the Betuwelijn. But, where they want it, is now a nature reserve.
You can imagine that that will yield many people also yelling (‘this will mean the end of our pretty landscape’), which also comes with heaps of rhetorical dishonesty. ‘Will this train thunder through your backyard?’ and ‘The North branch seems primarily targeted at an increase of railroad cargo capacity.’
Which is true — and the whole point. It even says so in the motion they refuse to link to. What they forget, or don’t realize, is that there are already not one but two arterial roads running through their beloved landscape. Massive metal boxes on rubber wheels, grinding down the road surface as they go, all already in your backyard.
In an attempt to fix our massive climate cock-up, we need to shift away from trucks to more efficient and sustainable modes of transport. Which means trains (and to a lesser extent, boats). There are already large swathes of nature being swallowed by climate change; attempting to stop this modal shift to preserve this specific preserve is myopic (yes, I love this word).
So even though all this construction, renovation, redesigns — what have you — can be impactful to those affected by it, they are important to move humanity forward as a whole, both on small (road work, elevator maintenance, heat pumps) and large scales (more trains!) The world is all but static, some things just have to change. Instead of considering railroads, transmission lines, or windmills (err, wind turbines; sorry professor!) an eyesore, consider them symbols of how far we, as a species, have come.
That is not to say those proposals (say, the northern branch) are good per se. That’s where we as students at a technical university can come in. We’ll have to take over at some point, and guide these changes onto the right tracks (ha!). With that in mind, I will begrudgingly keep taking the detours over setts, to do my part in the future. Will you?