Bicycle Innovation Lab: Esther van Garderen

"The bicycle-friendly city is the city with a human touch."

The Bicycle Innovation Lab asks for ideas to improve the social safety of cyclists. A jury consisting of five professionals evaluates the entries. Esther van Garderen, director of the Fietsersbond (Dutch Cyclists Union), is one of these jury members. What does she think of this years theme 'social safety', and what elements does she find important when assessing the ideas? In this article, we briefly introduce Esther.

What is your affinity with the bicycle?

"I am director of the Fietsersbond. The name of our organization says it all: we stand up for cyclists freedom in the Netherlands. I mainly use the bicycle functionally myself, but I sometimes also use the bike recreationally. I like to see that many people take the shortest and fastest route on their way to work, but often choose the nicest and most fun route on the way back. I like to encourage people to have that fun in cycling."

What do you think is important about the theme of 'social safety'?

"I really like that ABC chose this theme! With the Fietsersbond, we have also been involved in the subject of social safety for a while. We recently published an article about a study we did into cycling in the dark. What turned out? Almost 9 out of 10 people sometimes feel unsafe in the dark, so social safety remains an important theme!"

Do you ever feel unsafe on a bicycle?

"Not really. I'm not easily scared, and I don't avoid parks and remote bike paths at night, but I know many others do.

Remote places often cause problems. My son has been pulled off his bicycle at a remote tunnel. He was only 11 years old at the time. I think that this type of problem mainly requires urban solutions. For example, think about where you place bicycle routes. Bicycle routes don't belong along the backyards of houses, but along the front, or along highways. People already feel so much safer when they know they are in plain sight of others."

What will you look for when judging the submissions?

"The one thing I like best about cycling is the human aspect of it. When I still lived in Amsterdam, for example, I loved cycling through the Vondelpark, because you often meet people there who greet you or smile at you. That human contact makes cycling fun. With this contest, I hope that people pay attention to the human aspect of cycling, for example by designing social experiments that can stimulate encounters between cyclists.

There are already some good examples in practice. The Fietsersbond has organized a cycle-along hotline for a while. In that experiment, people could call a helpline (hands-free with earphones of course) when they felt unsafe while cycling. And in Almere, they have devised a meeting point so that people can gather in the evening and at night and cycle back home together."

Esther van Garderen Directeur Fietsersbond (1).png Foto: Elizabeth Wattimena Fotografie

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