Melissa and Chris Bruntlett talk about their new book, “Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality.”


By Irene Rozendaal
Public Diplomacy, Press and Culture, Royal Netherlands Embassy
@NLintheUSA

When Melissa and Chris Bruntlett decided to live a carless life eight years ago, they had no idea they would find inspiration across the Atlantic Ocean.

But they found it in the 22,000 miles of bike paths that stretch throughout the Netherlands.

“There is so much we can learn from the Netherlands in terms of making cycling just the normal part of people’s life,” said Chris Bruntlett.

Melissa and Chris have collected their inspiration and ideas in a book, “Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality,” about the Dutch cycling culture with an eye on how North American cities can adopt this cycling culture.

They presented their book at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. on September 8.

The beginning

Melissa and Chris Bruntlett sold their car in 2010 and started biking, walking, and taking public transportation with their two kids. They also started blogging about their experiences living a carless life at www.modacitylife.com.

Through their blogging, they learned how other countries handled their transportation options, and found the Netherlands fascinating because it is the only country where bicycles outnumber people.

They decided to visit five Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Groningen, Rotterdam, and Utrecht) in five weeks to see what cycling in the Netherlands is about.

They describe in their book and blog their experiences riding bicycles, the cycling infrastructure, and integrating bike into everyday life.

Children and their bikes

Melissa said she wants to keep an important aspect of the Dutch cycling culture in mind. After five weeks in the Netherlands, she found that Dutch children can easily ride bikes without much risk.

The reason? The Netherlands builds cycling infrastructure with safety as a top priority. For example, curbs often separate bicycle lanes and car lanes. 

 “It is really cool to see it in action,” Melissa said. “To see little 5-year-olds biking themselves to kindergarten is pretty awesome.”

Different city, different approach

Chris is convinced that cities throughout North American can become more bicycle friendly, even if they take different approaches from the five Dutch cities he and Melissa visited.

“I think each city (in the Netherlands) takes a different approach to how to get people on bikes, but most of them succeeded,” he said. “Just their journeys were a bit different.”