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Romee Nicolai appointed as Amsterdam’s bicycle mayor

Published on 26-03-2024
From patching tires since childhood to spending a summer refurbishing a discarded racing bike, cycling runs deep in the veins of Master’s student and Bike Kitchen founder Romee Nicolai. On Friday, 8 March, Nicolai was appointed Amsterdam’s new bicycle mayor. ‘I also hope to learn from the experiences of bicycle mayors working in other cultures and situations.’
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Romee Nicolai bike mayor

More than mere transportation

Nicolai sees cycling as more than just a way to get around: ‘As bicycle mayor, I see the opportunity to bring together knowledge about sustainability, the city and cycling. I want to encourage conversations about the importance and role of cycling in the city – not only as a convenient means of transportation, but also as a way to express yourself and meet others.’

The Bike Kitchen as an inspiration

Previously, Nicolai founded the Bike Kitchen, a do-it-yourself bicycle workshop at the UvA. ‘Roeterseiland Campus is filled with thousands of students and bikes. It seemed like the perfect place for people to meet and learn how to repair their bikes at the same time. I’d like to incorporate this premise into my approach as bicycle mayor. I believe that bringing people together yields the best results.'

"I want to combine academic, social and practical knowledge and thereby ensure that the public realm acquires new meaning and purpose."

Street experiments

‘As bicycle mayor, I’d like to organise street experiments where we redesign existing spaces. In Mexico City, they turn a major thoroughfare into a cycle-only street every Sunday. I’d love to do something similar in Amsterdam, for example during the city’s 750th anniversary celebrations.’ She also wants to establish partnerships: ‘By connecting local residents, repair cafes and primary schools, we can organise cycling and bicycle repair workshops. This way, young and old learn from each other and bring attention to cycling and safety on our roads.’

Reshaping the public realm

Nicolai has been able to gather plenty of ideas for her mayoralty during her Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at the UvA. ‘I want to combine academic, social and practical knowledge and thereby ensure that the public realm acquires new meaning and purpose. Moreover, there’s an extensive network of bicycle mayors from around the world, so I hope to learn from the experiences of other cultures and situations as well.'

What does a bicycle mayor do?

The idea of a bicycle mayor comes from the Dutch organisation Bycs, but has since spread to cities around the world. A bicycle mayor takes on the task of promoting cycling within his or her city, for example by highlighting the economic, environmental and health benefits. This is achieved through partnerships with the private and public sectors and by involving the community. Each bicycle mayor chooses their own key issues to focus on during their term in office.