Fieldlab #2: Embracing the (maintenance of the) bicycle
Against the trend of subscription based commodities an interesting alternative has been launched: the bike kitchen. With the idea to empower people and take matter back in their own hands.
The bicycle has always been a strong symbolic marker. It played a role in many revolutions. Think for instance why John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in bed with a white, rickety, single speed, Dutch bike during their protest for World Peace in 1969. Increasingly, cycling is also targeted by a host of innovations, with a notable increase in the idea of bike-sharing, and cycling as a service. A current poster child is Swapfiets: a service where you rent a bicycle with included service and repair. Flat tire, notify the app and your bicycle will be swapped. A service that fits in a lifestyle of less ownership and more subscription based commodities and services. But also one that further strengthens the notion of the homo economicus that optimizes away the disutility of repairing the bicycle yourself.
Bike Kitchens offer a very interesting alternative to this. The bicycle as a convivial tool can “enable citizens to reconquer practical knowledge for autonomy and creativity rather than being confined to commercial relations”. In a Bike Kitchen you can find all the necessary tools, support from skilled professionals and a community of citizens that can help each other. The idea is to offer a safe space to develop the skills of maintenance, to empower people to take more matters back in their own hands and to connect people in non-capitalist relations.
The Laboratory of Thought is setting up and testing this out in two Bike Kitchens in Amsterdam. Together with the University of Amsterdam, the municipality of Amsterdam, de Groene Hub and a number of other communities, we are opening a Bike Kitchen at the university campus (targeting mainly the students and employees) and one in Amsterdam South-East (connected to a youth initiative around #Bikelife). This is also part of the Amsterdam initiative to develop a Doughnut Economy.
More to explore
The lab of thought recommends
- Follow and engage with social media accounts that question the language we use to talk about streets, such as those of Tom Flood (who is also flipping the script on road violence), Strong Towns, Jan Kamensky. Follow Marco te Brömmelstroet as Cycling Professor on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tiktok, Reddit.
- Share information on the website roaddanger.org by adding news items on crashes and other traffic accidents that you come across in the media. By doing so, you can help raise awareness of how people write and talk about such events — often in a dehumanised way, despite the long-term, deep, and wide-ranging impact they have.
- More inspiring accounts: Playing Out, Modacity, Monkey Wrench Gang and The War on Cars.
- Read Marco te Brömmelstroet's free e-book, which forms the academic basis for The Movement.
- Take a look at the Groningen Guideline for Public Space, which refers to nine other dimensions in addition to that of mobility: accessibility, safety, human perception, health, social interaction, ecology, climate adaptation, economy, and cultural history. Learn to identify these various dimensions and to look at them as a whole.
- Read Metaphors We Live By (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson), Thinking in Systems (Donella H. Meadows), Fighting Traffic: the dawn of the motor age in the American city and Autonorama: the illusory promise of high-tech driving (Peter Norton), and New Power: how power works in our hyper-connected world (Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms).
- Watch the Ted Talk How language shapes the way we think (Lera Boroditsky).
- Follow one or more of the MOOCs offered by the University of Amsterdam: Unravelling the Cycling City, Alternative Mobility Narratives, and Reclaiming the Street for Liveable Urban Spaces or Getting Smart about Cycling Futures.
BECOME A THINKER OF TOMORROW
There is an urgent need to rethink our thinking about mobility. The current expectations on mobility innovations are often rooted in the advances in digital technology and are generally greeted with eager optimism. Unfortunately what is often overlooked are the unmet needs of humans and our planet. The Lab of Thought attempts to explain mobility from this standpoint, so we as individuals and as societies lessen our impact on the planet, now and in the future.