I bike ABC
Over a year ago Joni and I sat in the train to visit our friend and former Cycle Chic member Milou in Berlin. About two weeks later I would leave for Buenos Aires and we were talking about the Netherlands Institute Buenos Aires (NIBA), with whose initiator, Silvia Rottenberg, I just got in touch. The institute was planning some projects with which to take part in the tandem Amsterdam Buenos Aires 2013, initiated by the Dutch Embassy. This tandem was organized to stimulate scientific and cultural exchange between the two countries – exactly the mission of the NIBA. Joni and I immediately came up with the brilliant plan to do a project on cycling. How much more Dutch can it get? It’s the Dutch ‘export-product’ and as Buenos Aires was developing to become a bicycle friendly city, this field of Dutch expertise could really contribute. And besides, this would be the way for Cycle Chic to conquer the world.
Silvia and the NIBA were just as excited and so we set it up. It started out with the plan of an exhibition with photographs of Amsterdam Cycle Chic and slowly grew out to be a much more large-scaled project. Also by examining the status of the bicycle culture in Buenos Aires, we realised a project with an emphasis on the sharing of expertise between the countries could be very interesting. We talked with almost anyone who has anything to do with cycling and became close with the City of Buenos Aires and the department of transport and mobility.
Ultimate Dutch/Argentine interchange: Maxima on wheels
The status of cycling in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is in the midst of a bicycle revolution. Since about ten years the use of the bicycle has increased, but obviously in a city dominated by motorized vehicles the car is still king of the road. Before, the bicycle was mainly used for delivery service, but it’s now a more common means of transport. Nonetheless many people only take out their bicycles on Sunday to cycle rounds in the park (wearing helmets and other protection gear..). But the City and many bicycle fans are trying to change this, and are proactively stimulating the use of bicycles as a daily means of transport. The City set up a very successful bicycle sharing program, offers discount on bicycles and organizes bicycle festivals to promote cycling. Besides that they are working hard on improving the infrastructure for cyclists, and by the end of this year Buenos Aires will have about 100 kms of bicycle lanes. Nonetheless the bicycle lanes are in very bad condition, there is no parking space, the bicycles are of bad quality and many other road users don’t respect cyclists. So there’s a lot to be done, and with this project we wanted to hitch into these urgent issues. We decided to set up expert meetings and put together Dutch and Argentine experts to talk about the different subjects.
The project continues
In the meanwhile Denmark joined us; the Danish Embassy also wanted to do a project on cycling and the Danes are obviously experts on the subject as well. This meant more knowledge, more fun and an even bigger project. So to the Dutch photos and experts the Danes added their own, and then the project as it is currently known came into existence: I bike ABC (Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen).
Though the Dutch and Danish Embassy supported the project, and many others like the City of Buenos Aires contributed in crucial ways, finances weren’t covered by far and we’ve been hunting for sponsors for months on end. We had to postpone the project several times. But in the end we found the international company Shimano willing to support the project, and now finally, after more than a year, the project has its kick off this weekend.
I bike ABC
The project consists of several parts. This weekend I bike ABC will have a stand at Shimano Fest, with information available about cycling in the Netherlands and Denmark, and with the ambassadors of both countries participating in a bicycle tour. Both will be interviewed on cycling on the main stage, which will be broadcast on television.
At the end of October the Dutch and Danish experts will arrive. During three days they will take part in intensive result driven expert meetings, which are shaped around several subjects. They will discuss, together with Argentine experts, issues of infrastructure, parking space, bicycle design, bicycle culture, etc. And it will not only be talking; the City of Buenos Aires has given a couple of case studies on which the experts will focus. The idea is to enter into a long-lasting collaboration between the experts and cities, and really focus on solutions and results.
In the same weekend the expert meetings take place, on the 1st of November, the Cycle Chic exhibition will open in Museo de la Ciudad, in the City Museum of Buenos Aires. Forty pictures of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Amsterdam Cycle Chic will be arranged in different themes, and several bicycles, like a real Dutch Vanmoof bicycle will be shown. Besides an inside exhibition the Cycle Chic photos, and archival photos of both cities (like the famous picture below of Ed van der Elsken), will be shown on large format in different parks in the city. A lot of visibility! With these pictures we hope to show how normal and daily cycling is, and want to amaze passers-by with the beautiful Cycle Chic photos.
That is not the Vanmoof bicycle by the way, it’s a very old one found in the City Museum of Buenos Aires.. You can follow the project on the Facebook page of I bike ABC, and pictures of the inside and outside exhibition will follow soon!