Just when you thought the Dutch way of urbanization couldn’t get any more innovative, comes the news that Amsterdam will be appointing a Bicycle Mayor – the first position of its kind anywhere in the world. A semi-official post, carved out by cycling advocacy group CycleSpace, the Bicycle Mayor will be tasked with promoting and protecting cycling in the city, communicating cyclist needs to city hall and connecting cycling groups to government when necessary.
Already one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the world, about 60% of inner city journeys in Amsterdam are taken on bike. “We are really far ahead in Amsterdam, but there is a tendency now to see bikes as a problem. People don’t see the magic of it anymore, because they’re so used to it. We see that kids are not riding in the city center anymore, because adults are afraid for them,” said CycleSpace co-founder Maud de Vries to CityLab. Despite its strong and historic cycling culture, die-hard advocates like CycleSpace worry that the values of cycling could become untrendy. Meanwhile, cars are still given the most space on Amsterdam’s streets, causing grief for cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Prominent cyclists with a passion are encouraged to apply for the position of Bicycle Mayor by 1st May 2016, and the winning candidate – chosen through public voting and an expert jury which includes the Mayor of Amsterdam, cycling advocacy groups and transit officials – will be announce on 24th June 2016. This is just the first such position CycleSpace is working to fill – they plan to appoint Bicycle Mayors in 25 cities across the world, including Beijing, Sao Paulo, Chicago, Cape Town and Warsaw.
This is not the first time Amsterdam has thought outside of the box when it comes to civic engagement, however. In 2014, the city established the position of Night Mayor, dedicated to connecting citizens, local government and nighttime business (such as clubs and bars) – and CycleSpace cites that development as their inspiration. Both the Night Mayor and the new Cycle Mayor positions do not have direct executive powers, but instead act as a connector and facilitator between all stakeholders.