In the latest interview for our Urban Pioneers series, we cycle through the Dutch city with a special leader: Katelijne Boerma, Amsterdam’s Bicycle Mayor. She is part of the Bicycle Mayor Network – BYCS, a worldwide initiative of volunteers who promote cycling progress in cities.
Bicycle Mayors like Boerma act as a bridge between civil society and local governments, work to tackle cycling-related challenges in cities, shares ideas, best practices and solutions with their peers around the world, among other tasks. The Bicycle Mayor Network comprises 109 mayors in 105 cities, 34 countries; the initiative also includes five Junior Bicycle Mayors.
Amsterdam’s first bicycle mayor was appointed in 2016 and was part of the local administration. Since then, the post has belonged to BYCS, an Amsterdam-based global NGO supporting community-led urban change through cycling.
As a BYCS volunteer, Boerma is the second Bicycle Mayor of Amsterdam. Hop on board to learn more about her unique city job.
What are you trying to achieve in your position?
In short: health and mental health. To make Amsterdam a loving and caring city and ensure that cycling is accessible to everyone. If you create safe roads for children and their families to ride in, you create safe roads for everyone.
What’s your personal motivation to do this job?
This job was the best thing that ever happened to me. It is great to see that if we work together, we can all do our bit for change.
Walk us through a day in your shoes
One day, I may a few interviews with local and international media. The next, I may visit an elementary school and invite eight-year-olds to come up with ideas. My goal is to be truly involved with people, to try to find solutions and make cycling more fun and accessible. It is just the best thing people can do, for themselves, for their cities and for a high quality of life. Cycling is truly transformation and one of the simplest solutions to the world’s most complex challenges.
What are your main challenges?
For the city, differences in speed on the bike path are a big challenge, and I’m happy to see that action is being taken. I personally worry about the decline in children cycling in the Netherlands, including in my city. That is why Bicycle Mayors in the Netherlands launched a Manifesto and created an international program called Bicycle Heroes. In Amsterdam, they have helped shape the new 10-year plan on safety, for example. Next to that, some Bicycle Mayors also have a Youth Bicycle Mayor, as I do in Amsterdam with Lucas Boer.
When was the last time you felt that your position had a positive impact on your city’s inhabitants?
I have often organised a walk-in hour and received many responses, mostly from people who are worried or people who want to change something. I have heard of Bicycle Mayors receiving very aggressive feedback because they weren’t wearing helmets, for example, which leads to fruitful discussions that also need to happen. Overall, this network is an awesome global community, and is well connected to many local communities.
If you had a magic wand, what could significantly improve the way you do your job?
In my case, it is not a job, I work as a volunteer. I think that it would be a great opportunity if BYCS could secure funds to collect insights from the Bicycle Mayors in the network, talk about their own impact, and collaborate on developing worldwide initiatives and campaigns to tackle emerging challenges on a local scale.
I believe a significant opportunity lies in securing funding for BYCS to collect insights from the Bicycle Mayors within the network, articulate their influence, and collaborate on developing worldwide initiatives and campaigns. This collective effort would effectively address new challenges, enabling us to implement solutions for local communities.
Pitch your job to other local, regional, national or European governments
I think it is very important that the Bicycle Mayor Network is and stays an independent network, representing communities and citizens. At the same time, it would be super interesting if we could find better ways to collaborate via the networks and with BYCS and their many partners. Because governments can never do this without people.
This interview is part of ‘Urban Pioneers,’ a Eurocities series published twice a month, spotlighting innovative and original job positions in municipalities across Europe. Each article in this series highlights a job position aimed at improving wellbeing, health conditions, society and the environment in cities. From tackling the urban heat island effect to countering gender imbalances, to encouraging sustainable mobility, ‘Urban Pioneers’ showcases how cities are leading by example and breaking new ground in enhancing people’s quality of life. ‘Urban Pioneers’ jobs can inspire national, regional and EU authorities to create similar positions in their own structures, multiplying across Europe’s regions and nations the positive impact that started in cities.
Click on the links below to read previous articles in the ‘Urban Pioneers’ series: