Bert van Wee


Professor of Transport Policy and Scientific Director TRAIL Research School.

Family life?

I live with Dineke, and have two sons (1992 and 1999).

Favourite leisure activity?

Outside of work, I have many interests that are largely outside of the sphere of work. I am a great music lover. I like to play the piano or other keyboards, alone and preferably with others, like in the TLO band. I also like to listen to music. I go to concerts on a regular basis. Pop, funk, blues, jazz, soul, Latin, and preferably cross-overs between those types. I also like to look up music on Youtube and listen to and watch clips. Fantastic what's on there! Moreover, through clips you often discover beautiful other performances of the same songs. Furthermore, I am active in the world of oldtimers. I myself have two oldtimers, two beetles. Restoring and tinkering, meetings of a club I'm a member of, the occasional classic rally. I also spend quite a lot of time on social contacts, especially friends and family. On Tuesday evening I play table tennis with some friends at my home in the garage. And I like to ride racing bikes. 

Best event in your career?

The TU Delft Teacher Award (Leermeesterprijs) (2020), for education, research, governance/management, social visibility and exemplary role. And that three of my PhD students Cum Laude have been awarded a doctoral degree, four PhD students have now been appointed professors.

Highlights I also find of great social interest in our work, from the media to (former) ministers. Furthermore, the Edward L. Ullman award for my work in the field of transport geography (2015). And the mention of a place among the more than 6000 most influential (quoted) scientists worldwide on the basis of the Web of Science database. And I really liked the fact that my parents, who both only attended primary school, really enjoyed it when their son was on TV.  

Biggest current challenge?

Given my age (January 2021 I will turn 63) I no longer have any major plans. Together with my colleagues Jan Anne Annema and Jonathan Köhler (Fraunhofer Institute, Germany) I am currently editing a book on transport innovations. 

Best thing about your work?

It’s not very imaginative, perhaps, but: more or less everything. The best thing is the variety: teaching, research, management and additional activities. This is partly the result of the wealth of contacts. As far as teaching is concerned, I love seeing how within five years, sometimes a bit longer, first-year students go on to become academics who are capable of structuring and researching complicated issues, and of conceiving solutions to problems, which are often actually implemented as well. Regarding research, I very much enjoy supervising PhD candidates. But I also enjoy doing some of my own research when I get the chance, such as now, in the field of transport and ethics, or in the form of literature reviews, for example.

Why Delft?

The big advantages of Delft for me are that research is application-oriented (and policy-oriented), and there is a great deal of scope for multidisciplinary research. The fact that the interfacultary TIL (Transport, Infrastructure and Logistics) Master’s programme has been made possible is a great tribute to Delft. (Editor’s note: this programme is organised by three faculties: Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering and TPM).

Best characteristic?

According to a test I once took, I am supposed to be extremely associative and quick to make connections between everything. Perhaps that explains my preference for multidisciplinary research. It is partly through that that I always have numerous ideas for new research. The test also suggested that I have a highly people-oriented management style, something that is almost exclusive to women …. On the other hand, that particular style is also associated with being less results-oriented. But that doesn’t worry me. I can also get very enthusiastic about things very quickly.

Least good characteristic?

I am impatient and not always very diplomatic – not a good combination! I cannot abide injustice, which means I often think it is more important that things are fair, rather than effective or efficient. What’s right will win out in the end. Otherwise, I do not have a great eye for detail; I am more comfortable with the bigger picture. And I always find it difficult to make choices if it means missing out on other attractive options.

What subject do you believe should be high on the political agenda?

Generally speaking, I think that long-term issues are not given enough attention, and that too much attention is paid to short-term ad hoc problems. For example, I am very concerned about the depletion of fossil fuels, especially oil, possibly also other raw materials, and climate change. If we really get into trouble globally, then future generations will look back on this period in amazement. After all, we know that these problems are very likely to come our way (although there is still discussion about human influence on climate change, and about whether there will be alternatives to oil in time). We have the technological knowledge to deal with them and we know that it only costs half to 2% of GNP. However, we are not doing it because there is still some uncertainty and because we cannot organise it. Explain that to people, especially in Third World countries, who are likely to pay the highest price ... 

Source of inspiration?

Everyday life, such as contacts with my family, including my children, and friends. Contacts with policymakers and other academics, scientific literature. Everything, really. If I had to choose, then I would say I get most inspiration from the academic discussions I have with colleagues both within and outside TLO.

Philosophy of life?

Try to see the positive side of as many things as possible. A bit like Johan Cruijff: every disadvantage has its advantage. And, another thing I borrowed from someone else: it's better to be sorry for things you tried but didn't work, than to be sorry for the fact that you wanted to try things but didn't try. Finally, without humour, life would be much more boring!

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