Bike Ride With Rector Goes National
Yesterday marked the seventh time when students, staff and friends of ITMO University meet with Rector Vladimir Vasilyev for a picturesque bike ride in St. Petersburg’s seaside district. This year, the baton was picked up in Vladivostok, where the international conference METANANO-2017 is currently underway. After midnight in Moscow time (7:30 AM in Vladivostok), 40 participants of the conference, including Russian and international professors, scientists and students, started the final day of the conference with an invigorating bike ride. How a tradition brings together people from the opposite ends of a continent and across all generations – all that and more in our article.
Through the Primorsky Victory Park to St. Petersburg Stadium, across the Yachtenny bridge while fighting the gusty sea wind, then down into the 300th Anniversary Park to see the sun setting down next to the towering Lakhta Center. Around eighty students, staff and friends of ITMO University took this route on an unexpectedly warm evening in St. Petersburg.
Bikes, scooters, roller skates and even a branded pedicab for snow leopard Tim – having chosen a vehicle of their liking, participants tried to chase after the University’s Rector. To him, the bike ride is far from a challenge – more like a light cardio, since he often begins his day by making a few laps around Yelagin Island.
The seventh bike ride was continued by the staff of The International Research Center for Nanophotonics and Metamaterials, headed by Pavel Belov, Ph.D., who are currently in Vladivostok at the METANANO-2017 conference. Here, in the Far East of Russia, they continued the tradition started 6,500 km away in St. Petersburg. Almost 40 participants took a ride along the embankment on the campus of Far Eastern Federal University, reached the monumental Russky bridge, visited the historic Voroshilov battery and came back around. The final route ended up 10 kilometers long; participants included professors, scientists and postgraduate students from ITMO University, Moscow State University, University of Southhampton (UK), Aalto University (Finland), National University of Singapore, Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) and Fudan University (China).
We decided to find out why taking this ride with ITMO’s team is just as interesting and fun to a first-year student, a Master’s student, employee of the university, a professor from Shanghai and even the Rector himself.
Professor Lei Zhou, Fudan University in Shanghai (participated in the Vladivostok bike ride)
I really enjoyed the morning ride. As a professor of my age, I can say that it was far from easy, so some of us fell behind and relaxed. The format of this event is fantastic – you get to talk to people with all that wonderful scenery around you. The location for the conference itself is very unique and beautiful. And Vladivostok isn’t that far from my home country of China. Perhaps that is why there are so many Chinese students here. I believe the last time I rode a bike was five years ago. Shanghai is a very large city, and for us a bike is not means of leisure, but a means of transportation. Streets there are filled with people and bicycles. Yet here, there aren’t that many people and you can truly enjoy the ride with your colleagues and take in the views.
Vladimir Vasilyev, ITMO University’s Rector
This is actually my second bicycle ride today – I took another one in the morning. There are pros and cons to both riding alone and with a team. When I take my morning rides, I can rest and think since there’s no one around. When we meet up with friends and colleagues twice a year, there’s a completely different vibe, and it feels great. It doesn’t matter here if you’re a Rector or a student, we’re all a team here and the mood it creates is part of the “first non-classical” atmosphere.
Sergey Vasilchenko, first-year Bachelor’s student at Computer Technologies Department
This is my first time taking part in the bike ride. I was wondering what this part of St. Petersburg looks like, particularly the Lakhta Center. To be honest, I’ve never been around these parts before. A bicycle is my primary method of transportation, which I use to get to university.
Daria Prosochkina, second-year Master’s student at Department of Computer System Design and Security
I’ve been to five rides already. I enjoy the atmosphere and I also get to see my friends. This time I bought a new bicycle and wanted to try it out. My house is nearby, so I often ride on Yelagin Island – it’s only a 15-minute ride away. I wasn’t able to be there for the previous bike ride, so this is my first time on this new route.
Konstantin Kostin, first-year Bachelor’s student at Computer Technologies Department
This is my first bike ride with the rector. I saw an announcement about it on VK and decided to come along. I love bicycles and brought mine here from my hometown of Kirov. I still haven’t managed to bike the entire city of St. Petersburg, but I’ll get around to that. These days I use it to get to university; I’d never been in the places the bike ride’s route goes through, so it’s twice as exciting forme.
Maria Khuzina, Manager of ITMO University’s Internationalization Office
I’m riding with Rector for the third time. My bike is a peculiar-looking “Strida”, which turns some heads. I like the bike rides, as this is where you get to see all the different people who work and study at ITMO. When you’re at your office, you don’t see anyone but your coworkers, you just know that there are others. Here, though, you can see a “cross-section” of the university: from fresh-faced first-year students who are just getting to know the university and its culture and settled-in Master’s students, to sure-footed postgrads and colleagues who you often only talk to through email. Some are roller-skating, others are on scooters and skateboards – everyone’s trying to keep up with the Rector. We always start off in a pack, somewhere around 60-70 of us; it’s comfortable, there’s no rush, and passers-by turn around to look at us. Over the course of the ride, the pack of course, stretches out: some are slower, some are faster. But it doesn’t matter who comes first: nobody’s going to get lost anyway, and we’ll wait for everyone before we take our traditional group photo.
Semyon Shabanin, fourth-year Bachelor’s student at Department of Computer System Design and Security
Usually I, like most others, ride a bicycle, but today I’m trying to complete the route on a scooter for the first time. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with the rest, although I’ve been riding one since I was a child, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ve decided that if I fall too far behind, I’ll just catch up to them on their way back.
Shamil Troyanovskiy, second-year Master’s student at Department of Modern Functional Materials, member of ITMO’s Megabyte Student Radio team
I’m a “bike ride veteran” – didn’t miss a single one. I love bicycles and the Rector. I even have my own rituals: I try to get ahead of everyone and take their picture, or to take pictures with the Rector during stops or on the way. At the end of each bike ride, I always take a selfie with the Rector – I’ve got a whole collection now.
The idea of this event appeared several years ago. As per tradition, dozens of students and staff of the university ride along a chosen route, take pictures and hang out. These biking shindigs are held twice a year, in spring and in fall.
ITMO University conducts numerous events dedicated to the promotion of sports and healthy lifestyles. Most of them – like the “GTO” open festival or the Students’ Sports Clubs’ Tournament “St. Petersburg Games” – are organized by the University’s students.