Susan Stokhof has long been a cycling advocate, and now has a new title to carry her messages forward.
Stokhof was appointed the first Bicycle Mayor of Victoria – and the first in Canada – by BYCS (pronounced “bikes”), an international cycling advocacy group based in Amsterdam. The appointment took a long application process, including interviews, references and a video submission. As the first bicycle mayor, Stokhof will hold the position for two years before holding an election.
“Now that I’ve been appointed, I’m going to continue doing what I”m doing, but maybe at a higher level,” Stokhof said. “It’s the normalization of biking that I want to focus on. Dressing for your day in cycling, not just for sport.”
Stokhof owns an online bike accessory boutique, Le Velo, and recently studied bike-focused urban planning in Amsterdam. From her studies, Stokhof said the city needs to re-examine how they brand cycling.
“Even when we see Bike to Work Week, we’re always seeing people in Spandex,” she said. ” My goal has always been out get out riding in style.”
Stokhof also hopes to use her new profile as a way to further encourage safer riding environments in the city, and to get more people on their bikes. The BYCS goal collectively is 50/30: to get 50 per cent of residents riding by 2030. The BYCS network, which includes 26 bicycle mayors globally, shares a collection of resources to propel this goal.
“I want to get more people riding, and understand why it’s so important to have proper infrastructure,” Stokhof said, citing her experiences cycling in Amsterdam. “What I discovered there is the streets were built for people.”
In her studies, Stokhof found that the separation of cyclists and cars made everyone feel safer, and actually improved traffic conditions.
“There are so many cyclists in Amsterdam, but Amsterdam still has the happiest drivers in Europe.”
The City of Victoria, though not active in appointing Stokhof, is still keen on including her in its initiatives. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is set to make an official announcement about Stokhof’s appointment on the first day of the 25th annual Bike to Work Week launch on May 27.
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