Auke sitting at the river Maas with the Erasmusbrug.
Auke van Andel is the founder of Bicycle world – a Facebook group about cycling and all kind of cycles, from city bikes to handcycles and from penny farthings (high bikes) to recumbents. Auke lived in the Netherlands his whole life and has never owned a car. Walking, cycling and using public transportation is what he does to get around and he rather takes a train for a holiday than an aircraft.
For World Environment Day, Auke shares his story on why he started Bicycle world and what it means for the Environment and Cycling Advocacy.
A Cycling Family:
When I was a kid my parents did not own a car. Cycling was our means of transport from the beginning. We cycled to school and the sport clubs and in the weekend to the dunes near Alkmaar. I remember we sang a song that we did not make way for anyone except for a horse and carriage. I always loved that lifestyle and felt proud to not need a car.
Last weekend I visited my dad and his wife and we went for a bike ride in that same dunes together.
Bicycle world a group on Facebook:
For a long time, I was not interested in Facebook but in 2017 I became a member because of a class for web-developers that I took part in. Although I did not finish that program, I soon started posting about cycling and found that people liked my posts. Within a month I had 1000 friends. That gave me the idea to start a group about cycling. I wanted my group to share both the fun side of bicycles as well as the benefits that cycling has on the world and the environment. What struck me was that existing groups about cycling all focused on a particular audience based on a type of bicycle, a location or some other criteria. My group should address all cyclists everywhere, Bicycle world.
To prevent Bicycle world from becoming as trivial as the other none specific groups, I came up with regular themes to provide an incentive for both me and the members to post and respond. That formula worked well and the involvement in the group started to grow quite fast. Some early and active members like Daniel Gatadero and Malcolm Brown are now helping to administrate the group.
At first, I chose the themes mostly based on events like Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Those type of themes will keep coming around but I also find inspiration by the things around me, like when I saw cranes building Rotterdam that made me think of the changing scenery or something I read in the news or a book that made me think of the roads we use. The most important thing is that a theme should be universal, challenging and inspiring and it must have a lot of ways to interpret it.
I designed the groups logo as it is now in September 2018. I made it so I was able to create variants of the group logo to describe themes. So, themes should be simple to express in a picture. Finding a way to make a logo that supports the theme is usually a matter of keeping it basic.
Themes are one of the reasons Bicycle world is a success because they keep people interested. But it would not work without quality posts and articles that people like to share.
Bike Parking and OV-fiets at Rotterdam Central Station:
Since last year I work at the Central Station for ‘Fiets & Service’. For someone that loves cycling and Rotterdam it is a great place to work. You meet many cyclists that visits the city and most of them are excited to arrive and happy when they depart. I am also a member of the ‘Hospitality Heroes’ team of the Central Station, we work on improving the customers experience by highlighting and stimulating the power and skills of hospitality to our colleagues. I love to be involved in that.
Cycling in Rotterdam:
Rotterdam is a good city for a bicycle ride but there is room for improvement. Bicycle paths and lanes are busy and need attention to become safe for children and other vulnerable people. The city is still too much ‘car minded’ and most of all the air is not clean enough. I would like to become the Bicycle Mayor of Rotterdam to help work on a city that is friendlier and safer for children to cycle in and were commuters on bikes get more space and green lights to keep them going.
The local government will present a new cycling vision for the city at the end of this month. There is a lot of reconstruction going on in the center of the city right now and traffic is rerouted a lot because of that. Organizing cyclist is not an easy thing to do here. For that reason, there is not yet a master plan, but the momentum is certainly growing and I am going to be there for sure.
Environment and Cycling Advocacy:
For me the most important thing that makes cycling advocacy effective is to avoid the negative. Keep focusing on all the positive sides of cycling. To get things done and to open minds to accept cycling as a good contribution to better, safer and happier cities, it is no use to say cars are bad. Emplacing how cycling adds to more health, safety and happiness is the key to success. That is why Bicycle world is a mix of fun items, sports and urban mobility news. Another reason why this mix works well on social media is that the fun items get shared and like a lot. That makes way for more serious news to show up in the feeds of those that are not looking for that kind of posts, but do read and like them as they come along.
Besides the love of cycling for the happiness that it brings, the environment and climate have a big influence on me and on my posts in Bicycle world. For World Environment Day 2019 the theme is “Air Pollution”. Approximately 7 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution, with about 4 million of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific. Cycling instead of Driving is a very powerful way to cut back on the air pollution you produce over the course of your day. Inclusiveness is something that I find important too. Cycling should be safe for everybody, children and elderly people, fit or a handicap, thin or heavier. Road safety and clean air are essential to get people cycling and when all people feel safe on the road on any kind of cycle, then happy cities with clean air will become a reality.
Author: Auke van Andel, Rotterdam
Photos by Auke van Andel – Bicycle world