Amsterdam’s bicycle mayor is on a roll

“The bicycle is the wheel that keeps my life turning.”

4 Jul 2019 19:00 | Communication

Amsterdam appointed a new Junior Bicycle Mayor today – 10-year-old Armin Taheri. This initiative was devised by Katelijne Boerma, lecturer and programme manager at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS). Boerma lives and breathes an active lifestyle. Alongside her day job at the Faculty of Sports and Nutrition she’s a familiar face in the global cycling community. When she’s not on campus, she’s on a mission as the Bicycle Mayor of Amsterdam: promoting cycling in the city, mentoring the next generation of cyclists and sharing her expertise with a growing network of bike mayors around the world.

What’s a bicycle mayor?

Amsterdam is a city renowned for cycling, so it’s no surprise that it was the first city in the world to appoint a bicycle mayor. This initiative was kick-started in 2016 by BYCS, a social enterprise based in Amsterdam that works internationally with non-profits, businesses and governments on cycling innovation.

BYCS aims to get more people cycling in cities, specifically 50by30: for half of all city trips to be via bicycle by 2030. The organisation reached a milestone last week when it appointed its 50th mayor – a voluntary role that entails being a local ambassador for urban cycling.

Fitness-focused: a career devoted to sports

Boerma is the second person to hold the title of Amsterdam Bicycle Mayor, a role she took on in 2017. According to her, it’s a natural extension of her work at the AUAS, where she is employed as the degree programme manager, and lecturer, for the AUAS’ Sport Management & Business programme, which is offered in both Dutch and an international English variant.

“There is much overlap between these two roles, which both have active lifestyles at their core. For example, we’ve integrated the bicycle mayor programme into our Minor in Sport Development. Our students are researching barriers to cycling in cities around the world, such as San Paolo and Bangalore. Their work shows that sports, like cycling, can be a tool for community development, a means of bringing people together and fostering active lifestyles and health,” says Boerma.

While the AUAS currently offers its employees who cycle to work an attractive bicycle reimbursement scheme, Katelijne is also campaigning for better employee reimbursements for commuting via electric bicycles. She sees an opportunity to stimulate this as an alternative transportation option for employees who commute by car.

Originally educated as a physical education teacher (ALO), Katelijne says that cycling continues to inspire her daily, both in and outside of the office. “The bicycle is the wheel that keeps my life turning.”

Amsterdam's new junior bicycle mayor, Armin Taheri

Junior bicycle mayor to promote bike safety for kids

As Amsterdam’s two-wheeled mayor, Katelijne has three key objectives:

Encouraging Amsterdammers to cycle more often; raising awareness of cycling etiquette; and making cycling in Amsterdam safer for children.

In regard to the third aim, giving young cyclists a say in this is vital to making effective changes.

Under Katelijne’s leadership, young Amsterdammer Lotta Crok (10) was named the world’s first Junior Bicycle Mayor, representing the voices of some 125,000 children in Amsterdam (14 and younger). Katelijne and Lotta have been working closely together on various projects to boost cycling uptake and safety among children, campaigning for public transportation bike rentals (OV fiets) for children for example.

Lotta passed the torch to the new junior mayor on 4 July, during the ‘Bicycle Heroes’ event at NEMO Science Centre. This competition saw over 150 Amsterdam children, aged 8-11, submit their creative ideas for making cycling better – and safer – for all kids in the city.

A jury named Armin as the 2nd Junior Bicycle Mayor of Amsterdam. He will work closely with Katelijne to make cycling in Amsterdam safer for everyone – children especially.

Armin was named the new junior mayor during the ‘Bicycle Heroes’ event at NEMO Science Centre.

Katelijne is one of many professionals at the AUAS devoted to encouraging Amsterdammers to adopt healthy lifestyles. Want to know more about this expertise area? Visit our Dutch site to read about AUAS research on Active Lifestyles in the City.

Read the HvanA interview with Katelijne Boerma (in Dutch)

One of Katelijne's goals is to make cycling in Amsterdam safer for children by involving them in this process.