Photo: Maarten Hartman

Bicycle Innovation Lab: Esther van Garderen

‘Actually, more room should be made for all bicycles’

The Bicycle Innovation Lab is looking for innovative solutions to improve safety on bicycle paths. A five-member jury will assess all entries. What is their role in stimulating bicycle use, and what will they be paying attention to when assessing the ideas? Esther van Garderen, director of the Dutch Cyclists' Union and chairman of the jury, shares her thoughts.

Bicycle paths in Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands are getting increasingly crowded. A welcome development, but how do you keep it safe? Anyone with an innovative solution to improve bicycle safety on paths with bicycles with varying speeds can submit it to the Bicycle Innovation Lab until 24 February. And have a chance to win 2,000 euros, and a budget up to 45,000 euros to implement the idea.

What is your professional involvement with bicycles?

I am director of the Dutch Cyclists' Union. The name says it all: we advocate ‘bicycle freedom’ for everybody living in the Netherlands.

E-bike: blessing or curse, or a bit of both?

A blessing. It is one of the solutions for decreasing car traffic, for healthy and green cities of the future: people cycle more often, longer distances and lets older people cycle longer. However, it does lead to speed differences. But to therefore call e-bikes a curse is not doing them justice. More room should actually be made for all bicycles: cargo, e-bike, pedelec and the YOP-bike (Your Own Power).

Fietsinnovatielab_Esther van Garderen_foto Maarten Hartman.jpg Esther van Garderen. Photo: Maarten Hartman.

What kind of bicycle do you ride?

A heavy Cortina bike with bicycle bags and a rack for groceries, a Cannondale sports bicycle for touring and going to the train station, a mountain bike and a gravel bike for recreation and a speed pedelec for going to the office, when that is allowed again.

What will the bicycle landscape in Amsterdam and the Netherlands look like in ten years? And worldwide?

With new bicycle bridges across the IJ and to the new Sluis neighbourhood in Amsterdam, no cars within the ‘small ringroad’ of Amsterdam except for residents. With networks for fast bicycles and for vulnerable cyclists, including ‘bicycle streets’ (where bicycles prevail and cars are guests). The rise of the bicycle worldwide can’t be stopped. Paris, Barcelona and Milan have already started.

What will you be paying specific attention to when assessing the entries?

Playfulness, freshness, and lateral thinking. Rather than the classically schooled traffic engineering solution, but I will also be watching if it is a solution to the problem.


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