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From patching tyres since childhood to spending an entire summer refurbishing a discarded racing bike, cycling runs deep in the veins of Master’s student and Bike Kitchen founder Romee Nicolai. But besides being busy with cycling, she also likes to think about bringing different groups in society together. On Friday, March 8, 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.’

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.'