I’m Robin Scholetzky, an urban planner and southeast Portland resident. This past June I participated in a graduate-level course at the University of Amsterdam on bicycling and urban design called Planning the Cycling City.
One of the organizations I learned about through the course was BYCS. BYCS is an international advocacy organization with a mission to increase the number of trips by bicycle to 50 percent by 2030 worldwide (50by30). This is an ambitious goal and one of the ways they are seeking to gain traction is the development of the international Bicycle Mayors Program.
The Mayor program is designed to provide a platform and resources for individuals to become change agents in major cities across the world. There is one bicycle mayor in the United States in Keene, New Hampshire. Others in North America include Areli Carreón in Mexico City.
Areli was a colleague of mine in the Planning the Cycling City program and when we talked about this program, she explained that “Changing a city is a long-term process that needs team work. The Bike Mayor position helps to build that team spirit and a sense of direction and energy to push and pull for urban changes.” For Areli, the Bicycle Mayor program has, “Been a chance to speak up on behalf of my community so that politicians never forget to design and build the city for us, the people.”
[Video about the Bicycle Mayor program]
The Mayor program has also rolled out a Junior Bicycle Mayor program. The Amsterdam Bicycle Mayor, Katelijne Boerma pitched the idea of a youth mayor when she was campaigning for her election last year. As a result of her efforts, eight-year-old Lotta Crok was elected as the first Junion Bicycle Mayor from a team of Bicycle Heroes (Fietshelden) in Amsterdam.
When I heard about the (all-volunteer) mayor program from BYCS — and specifically the junior mayor program — I thought it would be interesting to BikePortland readers.
Now I want to gauge your interest: Is this a program we should bring to Portland?
Having a young person as the spokesperson for cycling issues in the Portland region could be a real game-changer by shifting the conversation around safe and accessible bicycling. A Portland Metro Youth Mayor program could establish their own agenda on issues affecting youth and their families: Stronger Safe Routes to School programs, better bike parking at schools, direct access to bike-share systems and more opportunities to play in the streets safely.
Youth can capture attention and communicate in ways that adults can’t.
I’m envisioning a committee of folks who might be interested in exploring what a Young Mayor program would look like for Portland or the region. If there are folks who are interested in exploring this more or you know of a young person or adult that would be a great Mayor, I’d like to continue the conversation.
Learn more at BicycleMayor.org
— Robin Scholetzky
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