Utrecht Science Park home to world's longest rainbow bike path

Last year, HU student Elias van Mourik had an idea. What if we realised a rainbow-coloured bike path at Utrecht Science Park: an inspiring daily reminder of the need to promote inclusion and diversity? This proposal was warmly received by, among other parties, the City of Utrecht, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (HU) and Utrecht University. And on 7 June, work started on transforming a stretch of bike path along Padualaan/Heidelberglaan into the world’s longest rainbow bike path.

The rainbow bike path is a colourful symbol: a permanent and inspiring call to promote diversity and inclusion, regardless of a person’s cultural background, sex, gender or sexual orientation. One of first people to endorse Elias’ plan was councillor Melody Deldjou Fard (GroenLinks), who championed his proposal within Utrecht Municipal Council. This gradually got the ball rolling. Melody and Elias jointly wrote an open letter, with a variety of individuals and organisations signing their support. In response, both the HU, where Elias is studying Social Work, and Utrecht University rallied behind the initiative – as well as agreeing to foot the bill.

Visibility

“It’s great to see that both the HU and Utrecht University are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion within their institutions. After all, we need to create a safe learning and work environment, where everyone feels at home – and free to develop their talents and interests. And let’s not forget the importance of visibility. Utrecht Science Park is a neighbourhood in its own right, and visited daily by a wide range of young people. This is where you can see the future of our country taking shape. And that’s precisely why we believe USP is the perfect place to create a visual landmark for diversity and inclusion,” says Elias. Elena Valbusa, who works as a Diversity Officer at the HU: “This new bike path serves as a wonderful and powerful symbol of diversity and inclusion at Utrecht Science Park. It shows how important these two themes are to the city’s two leading educational institutions, UU and the HU, which have helped turn this idea into reality.”

Longest in the world

The rainbow bike path is the longest one in the world. “On the one hand, this is definitely down to a certain ambition on our side,” admits Elias. “But you should also see it as a political statement. After all, the rainbow symbol is a sensitive topic in some countries. In a lot of places, you still risk being discriminated against, harassed, imprisoned or even worse as a member of the LGBTIQ+ community. Say it makes the news somewhere – due to being the world’s longest rainbow bike path. That may remind local citizens that they have a LGBTIQ+ community of their own, and send a message of encouragement to its members.”

Inspiration

Elena: “I’m impressed with how Elias has managed to get so many partners on board in such a short period of time. It shows that with perseverance and enthusiasm, you can get lots of people together behind the same goal – and really make a difference. I hope that Elias’s initiative serves as an inspiration to other students who would like to do something to promote diversity and inclusion. If you’re a HU student, you’re welcome to get in touch with the folks at the Diversity and Inclusion Network or the Community Building and Student Engagement programme.”

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