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What is a Bicycle Mayor (and How Do You Become One)?

What

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In an era marked by the need for sustainable urban transportation, the role of Bicycle Mayors has gained considerable recognition, and rightly so. These dedicated advocates are helping to drive positive change all across the globe.

Encouraging people to cycle is an essential part of almost any design for a sustainable future city, and Bicycle Mayors undoubtedly play an enormous part in that. But what exactly is a Bicycle Mayor, and how do you become one?

In this article we’ll explore the concept of a Bicycle Mayor, from their inception to the impact they’re having on cities across the world. We’ll also look at how to become a cycling mayor, becoming the positive change that you want to see.



What is a Bicycle Mayor?

A Bicycle Mayor is an influential advocate for cycling and sustainable transportation in their city or region. Their main goal is to promote cycling as both a viable and a desirable means of transportation for the general population.

Championing sustainable urban transportation, Bicycle Mayors are usually unofficial but recognised representatives. They aim to equally protect existing measures that are put in place to encourage cycling and promote new ones that make cycling in a city easier, safer and more common.

Part of their role is community engagement. Generally, Bicycle Mayors represent the interests of cyclists by listening to their concerns and raising them to city officials and planners. In this way, they’re essentially representatives for cyclists, ensuring that they have their voice heard in local and regional politics. 


Anna Luten with a bicycle
The world’s first Bicycle Mayor, Anna Luten. Image credit: AnnaLuten.com

Who Was the First Bicycle Mayor?

The first officially recognised Bicycle Mayor was Anna Luten in Amsterdam. She became the Bicycle Mayor of the city in 2016 and played a  significant role in the promotion of cycling as a sustainable and healthy activity. Since then, she’s inspired over 100 cities globally to introduce the position. 

As the world’s first Bicycle Mayor, Luten was a trailblazer. Her passion for inspiring other people to cycle was infectious, and her role in promoting the transformation of car-centric-cities into bicycle-friendly cities was something she took seriously.

In her period as Mayor, she contributed to a subsequent growth of the bicycle network in Amsterdam, helping it to establish the reputation as the cyclists’ utopia that it enjoys today. Perhaps ever more significantly, however, is the impact she’s had globally.

“Riding a bike is something that everyone can do and it’s something that everyone should try at least, because it’s fun and it’s easy and it gives you this sense of freedom.”

Anna Luten, The World’s First Bicycle Mayor

Thanks to her, the concept of a Bicycle Mayor has become enormously popular. Over 100 cities worldwide are embracing the position, resulting in a widespread appreciation for cycling in cities and urban areas. The programme, overseen by BYCS, has grown into a worldwide network, where communities can share and embrace their ideas and passion for cycling.


A bike lane in Amsterdam
A bicycle lane in Amsterdam. Image credit: Canva Pro

What Does a Bicycle Mayor Do?

Bicycle Mayors do a variety of things to promote cycling culture, both within their communities and through a global network. They engage with local residents and collaborate with city officials, working towards improving bike infrastructure, safety measures and policies.

One way in which they do this is advocacy. Via community engagement, they act as representatives for cyclists interests when it comes to policy making. In this way, they act as a bridge, raising the concerns of their local cycling community to those who are in a position to make policy. 

Some such policies might include improvements to cycling infrastructure, such as bike lanes or secure parking facilities, but it could also include promoting measures that enhance bicycle safety, such as awareness programmes for drivers.

Whilst they have other technical roles, their most important role is to act as a figurehead for cycling. They are sources of inspiration and act as role models for current and prospective cyclists, demonstrating that cycling is a great and fun way to travel. 


Bicycles parked in Amsterdam
Bicycles parked in Amsterdam. Image credit: Canva Pro

How Are Bicycle Mayors Chosen?

The process of choosing a Bicycle Mayor varies from city to city. Generally, however, applications are made via an official website (BYCS). These applications are usually endorsed by key stakeholders in a given community, and are subsequently by their panel. 

Bicycle Mayors have a great deal of responsibility, and as such, as the network grows it’s become increasingly important to vet candidates and ensure that applicants are up to the task. 

Whilst there’s no definitive requirements in becoming a cycling mayor, the applicants must be generally respected members of both the cycling and non-cycling communities in their respective constituencies.


SINDILE MAVUNDLA
SINDILE MAVUNDLA, bicycle mayor in Cape Town, South Africa. Image credit: bycs

Can Anyone Become a Bike Mayor?

Yes, anyone can become a Bike Mayor! Whilst there are no official requirements, there are generally some characteristics and skills that are favoured when it comes to choosing one. After all, they’re acting as a representative for a whole city!

Some of the characteristics include being generally charismatic and passionate for cycling, as well as being adaptable and ready to listen and learn.

Whilst experience isn’t essential, candidates who have experience in bicycle advocacy or stakeholder organisation/management will be favoured. 

Ultimately, the needs of each city can vary quite considerably, so what is expected of a Bicycle Mayor can change drastically. There is no one-size-fits-all model for the requirements of a Bicycle Mayor. The only thing that’s absolutely necessary is a passion for cycling and a desire for positive change.


MOHAMMAD NAZARPOOR
MOHAMMAD NAZARPOOR BICYCLE MAYOR IN TEHRAN IRAN. IMAGE CREDIT: BYCS

Are Bicycle Mayors Paid?

Generally, Bicycle Mayors aren’t paid. Whilst they may benefit from their role in a public position both personally and professionally, the role is voluntary. 

However, it isn’t usually a full time job. Bicycle Mayors are expected to provide a minimum of 4-8 hours work a week, meaning that the role is typically something done in a ‘part-time’ capacity. 

Expenses for the position are usually funded by either the Mayors themselves or, if available, by public donations. It’s also possible that funding is sourced from Local or National Government, but this isn’t a given. 


Bicycle Mayor Cristian Sáenz De Viteri
Bicycle Mayor Cristian Sáenz De Viteri. Image credit: BYCS

Which Cities Have Bicycle Mayors?

Over 100 cities worldwide have Bicycle Mayors, from Dublin to Bengaluru, and the number is continually expanding. What started in 2016 in Amsterdam has rapidly become a global network, encouraging cycling worldwide.

Whilst most cities share some similar needs, such as fostering bike-friendly communities and promoting safety, others can vary quite drastically.

In Guayaquil, Ecuador, University Professor and Bicycle Mayor Cristian Sáenz De Viteri has been working hard to revive his local economy post-Covid. Not only has he been promoting road safety, but he’s also been working to provide cargo bikes to women entrepreneurs in his city. This has been done in an effort to relieve some of the financial hardships caused by the pandemic.

“We don’t want to be Amsterdam, we want to be Salta in the 1970s.”

Jimena Perez Marchetta, The Bicycle Mayor of Salta

Any city can have a Bicycle Mayor, all it takes is someone with a passion for cycling and a commitment to make positive change.


Big fix day in new york city.

Do Bike Mayors Actually Have an Impact?

Bicycle Mayors have been shown to have an enormous impact. A major part of their role is in developing positive relations between cyclists and non-cyclists, as well as communities and city officials. They promote sustainability, safety and tackle challenges specific to their cities.

In New York, Courtney Williams organised a ‘Big Fix’ day, where free bicycle repairs were given to those in need. This was part of a greater struggle to provide cycling opportunities for marginalised communities.

Ariel Carreón, on the other hand, not only spearheaded a campaign in Mexico City which aimed to provide key medical workers with bicycles, but also had a great influence in amending the country’s constitution to guarantee a ‘right to mobility’. 

Likewise, in India, Bicycle Mayors have had a huge impact. Cycling there often offers a solution to some of the city’s most complex urban challenges. In Mumbai, Firoza Suresh has appointed councillors across the city to promote cycling as a means of transport. Her hopes to increase ridership are contributing to a success story of cycling in India that’s seemingly unstoppable.


Get a bicycle mayor in your city

How to Become a Bicycle Mayor (5 Steps)

Here’s our guide on how to become a Bicycle Mayor in your city in 5 steps:

  1. Research the Bicycle Mayor movement in order to understand its objectives. This is also a great time to research existing initiatives for some inspiration.
  2. Reach out to Bicycle Mayors and others in the Bicycle Mayor network. You can also ask them some tips for when you make your application, or consider shadowing them whilst they’re working.
  3. Consider the needs for your city. Why is ridership low? How can the city be made safer for cyclists? What are your strategies for promoting cycling, and what are the most appropriate ways to do so? If you have specific ideas, use them to support your application.
  4. Complete the application here. You’ll need at least 3 letters of endorsement from key stakeholders. Your application will be reviewed and you should be informed of the decision within a week.
  5. Once selected, seize the opportunity. Speak to your community, listen to the needs of others, and use your position to get more people onto bikes.

Whether or not you’re successful in your application, we all have a responsibility when it comes to promoting cycling. Becoming a Bicycle Mayor isn’t the only way to do so, you could also become a Bicycle Citizen!

Be the change that you want to see. Connect with other cyclists both locally and internationally and support a growing network of people that want to make their urban environments safer and greener places to be.




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