As part of the city of Groningen’s goal of being emission-free by 2025, the Student en Stad political faction is calling for the creation of a new political position: bike mayor.
Even though around 60% of all journeys in Groningen are completed by bike and the city is upheld as an example of how to effectively integrate cycling lanes into its infrastructure, the bike mayor’s task would be to stimulate even more people to travel by bike in the city.
“The bike mayor would be a link between various parties in order to help the city centre to become an emissions-free zone”, Student en Stad member Kevin Schilder told RTV Noord. Schilder says that similar initiatives are already happening in Amsterdam and New York City. The political party, whose name translates as “Student and City”, has existed since 1993 and focuses on local issues in the city with a special emphasis on topics that impact students.
Emissions-free city centre
One of the priorities of the party is seeing to it that the city centre of Groningen is an emissions-free zone by the year 2025, which would mean a complete ban on vehicles which create emissions. The city centre already has very limited access for motorized vehicles: buses and taxis are permitted around the Grote Markt, but there are plans to phase them out in the years to come, and lorries and private vehicles are only allowed in most streets within the canal ring between 5 a.m. and noon.
But the flip side of the issue is that the city is already struggling with bikes overwhelming many sidewalks across town. Although there are parking garages for bikes scattered throughout the city, it is not uncommon to encounter cycles piled up unceremoniously outside of designated racks. Schilder says that the bike mayor, which would be a largely ceremonial role, would not be expected to solve that particular issue.
In addition to the traditional position of mayor, a title which will go to Koen Schuiling as of the 1stof October, Groningen already has two other alternative mayors: night mayor Merlijn Poolman, and children’s mayor Jouayria Ouarraoui, who was appointed in September 2018. The night mayor position functions as an intermediary between local politicians and the city’s nightlife scene, and the children’s mayor, which is a title that has existed since 2017, often attends cultural events and ceremonies that are especially relevant to children.