Rainbow bike path: valuable symbol, but more is needed
In June 2021, Pride Month, the longest rainbow bike path in the world was realised in the Utrecht Science Park. With the bike path, Utrecht University, Hogeschool Utrecht and UMC Utrecht call attention to acceptance, equality and safety for people from the LGBTQ+ community. Milou van de Brug and Miriam Wickham investigated how the rainbow bike path was received by students and staff of the three institutions. They also asked what it would take to make LHBTIQ+ more inclusive. During coming out day on Tuesday 11 October, they share their results.
Need for more inclusive gender registration policy
The researchers' survey reveals that staff and students of the three knowledge institutions are overwhelmingly positive about the rainbow bike path; they give it a 5.66 on a scale of 1-7. Conversely, a rating of 8. According to participants, the bike path symbolises the institutions' commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, and helps raise awareness. At the same time, according to Van de Brug and Wickham, former student and PhD student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, respectively, the survey results give reason for more efforts in favour of LGBTQ+ inclusivity. "Several results point to the need for more direct action."
Glad that the majority of staff and students are positive about the rainbow bike path, but the survey also shows that there is still work to be done
Among other things, the survey results show a need for more inclusive gender registration policies, more all-gender toilets and more representation and participation from the LGBTQ+ community in diversity and inclusion initiatives. The survey further shows that employees and students and staff belonging to the LHBTIQ+ community question the sincerity of knowledge institutions in their commitment to inclusiveness. 65% of LHBTIQ+ senior staff who participated in the survey said they think the rainbow bike path was meant to enhance the institutions' image. The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) programme is not known to many participants, nor do they know that the rainbow bike path is part of a comprehensive strategy and action plan. Also, few seem to be aware of existing groups like the UURainbow network. According to Van de Brug and Wickham, the survey also clearly shows the need for greater visibility of existing LGBTQ+ initiatives.
Several needs not new
Janneke Plantenga, Diversity Dean at Utrecht University, thinks it is valuable that research has been done on the rainbow bike path. "I am super proud of the 8 and it is nice to read that the majority of staff and students are positive about the rainbow bike path. But the survey also shows that there is still work to be done. Firstly, to make visible what we already do and where people can go, and secondly, how we can connect to the needs of the community."
"Some of the needs that emerge from the survey, by the way, are not new to us," Plantenga continued. "Following the realisation of the rainbow bike path, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion programme has indicated that it will take the following five actions for the LGBTQ+ community in the coming years: the realisation of at least one all-gender toilet group in every university building; investigating the possibility of adapting the UU gender registration; the realisation of transition leave agreements; the appointment of a diversity network coordinator and investigating the need for safe space meetings and a training offer on sexual safety. At the moment, 11 buildings of Utrecht University already have at least one all-gender toilet group, a coordinator of diversity networks has been appointed and an advice around gender registration is expected in spring 2023.
Read the policy note that Wickham and Van de Brug drafted for more information including the survey results and the composition of the respondent group.