Nern Ostendorf, Queen City Bike
Nern Earnest Ostendorf
Executive Director, Queen City Bike
What do you do?
I work with community leaders, city officials, and local organizations and businesses to increase the visibility, safety, and accessibility of bicycling in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Queen City Bike's mission is to demonstrate for our community how bicycling can add so much our quality of life. Bicycling is a valuable and joyful way of getting yourself where you need to be, and it is accessible to people of all ages, incomes, and abilities. Try to say that about a driving a car!
Why do you do it?
I consider bicycling a powerful and transformative experience. For the simple fact that when you ride you are literally converting your own energy into your own mobility; what an empowering experience. Consider the impact this can have on youth or on folks with limited incomes. So often in my work I hear of how scared people are of riding on city streets, but once you learn how to safely share the road and to recognize your rights as a vehicle, biking is such a joyful experience and so therapeutic. When I ride I'm getting blood pumping in my veins, fresh air in my lungs, saving money, and getting some quality time with my thoughts.
I grew up in Cincinnati. By the time I was 18 years old I was counting down the days until I could leave this city. I found it boring and small-minded here. I traveled around for the next six years, living mainly in Chicago and Northern New Mexico. The farther away I moved away from the Ohio Valley, however, the closer my allegiance to it grew. This city certainly has ample room for improvement, but it is my home, and I feel called to share the experience I have gained over the past several years and give back to my community. I love it here.
What do you love about the city?
I love this city's inconsistencies. I lived in Chicago for five years. There were rules for everything! There's more freedom here. I feel there is little pressure to conform to anyone else's standards. Love it or hate it, but what you see here is what you get. I've always thought of Cincinnati as having a bizarre collective identity with so many strong interweaving influences: Appalachian, southern, industrial, Midwestern agricultural, racial and ethnic legacies. Maybe that has something to do with it?
What are you trying to change about the city?
I want Cincinnati to be a bicycle haven. I think for this city to prosper we need to transition out of our dependence on cars and develop our public transit infrastructure in tandem with increasing our resources for cyclists and pedestrians. We need to not be so afraid of change.
Queen City Bike is working tirelessly this year to get Cincinnati recognized by the League of American Cyclists as a Bike Friendly City. I want to see us realize that. Some of my strongest goals for Greater Cincinnati are some of the hardest to measure. I am hoping that in five years we will have changed the culture here: where bicycling is considered a safe and enjoyable way to travel for all of us, not dismissed as a niche fad.