Romee Nicolai is inaugurated as the new Bicycle Mayor of Amsterdam

Published: 8 March 2024

By Michela Grasso

What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than inaugurate Romee Nicolai as Bicycle Mayor of Amsterdam. Romee is a born-and-raised Amsterdammer, and a brilliant Urban and Regional Planning masters student at the University of Amsterdam. For the past year, she has been tirelessly working on the UvA Bike Kitchen – a community space for learning about bike-repair. She starts her two-year term today and we got to sit down with Romee for a cozy chat about her role and her aspirations for the future.

Bicycle Mayor of Amsterdam - Romee Nicolai
Romee Nicolai | The new Bicycle Mayor of Amsterdam
Source: BYCS

Michela: What is the role of the bicycle mayor?

Romee: The bicycle mayor is a public position that supports cyclists in the city.  It’s about collaborating with different actors within the city, supporting them, and promoting a multitude of initiatives. For my two-year term, I have three specific goals. First, to raise awareness on the value of bikes by stimulating ownership and autonomy. Second, to encourage interactions and encounters through street experiments or projects such as the bike kitchen. Third, to promote a “slow city”, where the bike is not solely a form of transportation but also a means of self-expression and freedom. 

Michela: What made you decide to become bicycle mayor? 

Romee: I saw it as a big opportunity – through this position I can get involved in an international network of bicycle mayors, which means being able to get experience and knowledge from outside my bubble. I am interested in getting in touch with other perspectives and understanding how cycling impacts cities in different ways. In addition, this role allows me to be involved with the city (Amsterdam) not only at the institutional level but also at a more practical level, by cooperating directly with the municipality.

Michela: Do you have political ambitions for the future?

Romee: I’m open to that! To be honest, I don’t see myself working for institutions, but I have a strong passion and desire to improve my city. In a way, I feel responsible for Amsterdam and I want to bring people together. I know that once you are in politics, you represent your role and not your personality, and this is something that I would have to get used to. Most importantly, I want to represent what I stand for. 

Michela: What are the main challenges for cycling in Amsterdam? 

Romee: One of the biggest challenges that I see is an extreme focus on speed and efficiency in our infrastructure. Before, the problem was scooters, then e-bikes, then fat bikes, and so on… The infrastructure is not bad, but it is solely used as a transportation mode. When you stop at a traffic light, nobody talks to each other, people do not even look at who is next to them, and everyone is in their bubble. How do we bring back human connection? This is a big challenge in society. In addition, I want to encourage children to cycle to school by themselves. I think it is sad for children to not be independent on a bike, in a city that prides itself in being innovative, young, and transformative. This is something I would like to tackle during my term as Bicycle Mayor.

Michela: In 2023, you opened the Bike Kitchen, a space where students and staff can learn about bike maintenance and repair. How is this project going?

Romee: It’s going very well, we are fully booked every day. Next Monday will be a big day because, for the first time, the bike kitchen will be completely community-driven during opening hours – there will be no official mechanics, but just people who have learned to repair bikes and want to share their expertise with others. This was my vision since the beginning and I am so excited to finally see it happening. This project has never been only about cycling, it was to create a common space on campus for people to get to know each other, and to start conversations in a different way, and I see it happening continuously.

Bike Kitchen at University of Amsterdam
The Bike Kitchen at UvA, Roeterseiland campus, Amsterdam
Source: ZDF Media

Michela: Where does your passion for repairing bicycles come from?

Romee: I grew up with my bike, and I learned quite young to fix it as well. My parents always encouraged me to be responsible for my belongings. I remember one King’s Day when I was ten years old; I was standing on the canals selling some of my things as Dutch children do, and with the money I made I decided to buy my bike. That felt like a monumental achievement and a realization that triggered something in me about the value of things. Then in 2020, I found an old Bianchi bike frame in the trash and started repairing it with my dad. I was so enthusiastic when it was finished and I could ride it around, and go to university with it, it made me aware of this feeling of accomplishment that I felt, of being responsible for my possessions. I believe that when you fix something you feel a sense of pride, which makes you care even more about the specific object and you treat it better. At the Bike Kitchen, we wonder what would happen if everyone knew how to repair their bike – can it transform society?

Thank you for your time and we can’t wait to follow your achievements! 

Romee joins more than 200 Bicycle Mayors all over the world, including PhD Fellow & Tehran Bicycle Mayor Mohammad Nazarpoor, who is studying Tehran’s bicycle culture. The Bicycle Mayor Program and Network was established by BYCS in 2016.

Scroll to Top