Disruptive project

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.

a person fixing up a bicycle

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.


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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.