Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode / Rotterdam Image Bank.


By Jan Top and Linda van Rooij
Consulate General of the Netherlands in San Francisco
@NLinSF

When you think Dutch, you think cycling. The Netherlands is known for its biking culture: Amsterdam has more bikes than people, and even the Dutch Prime Minister is known to bike to work.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus and the subsequent shelter-in-place restrictions, travel patterns have changed drastically around the globe, and biking has become more important than ever.

As part of its new webinar series, the Netherlands Consulate General in San Francisco invited four professionals working in the field of transportation from both the Netherlands and California as panelists in the webinar “Urban Planning and Transportation: Best Practices in California and the Netherlands.” They gave their virtual take on the relationship between public space and transportation and shared what this might look like in a post-pandemic world.

Partners in transport

As an expert on cycling and other means of public transportation, the Netherlands knows a thing or two about innovative green infrastructure. Mobility and transport, however, are also relevant and timely topics in the US, especially California.

“The Netherlands is a leader in the field of urban planning and smart mobility,” said Gerbert Kunst, Dutch Consul General in San Francisco. “However, California is there right alongside us.”

Both the Netherlands and California are known for their original and sustainable mobility designs. Where California excels in the development of electric vehicles, the Netherlands has perfected the design and implementation of multimodal transportation systems.

This makes them the perfect partners in the consulate’s virtual trade mission on smart and e-mobility, which will center on the new normal.

“COVID-19 has impacted communities around the world, significantly changing travel and commute patterns. This has brought unexpected new insights to the field of urban planning. Noticeable environmental improvements, like better air quality, are strengthening the already prominent focus on green modes of transportation, preparing mobility for the climate-friendly cities of the future,” said Consul General Kunst.

“As experts in this field, the cooperation between the US West Coast and the Netherlands is therefore more important than ever before. Our virtual trade mission is aimed at this partnership, connecting the best of both worlds. We want to provide both Dutch and American companies with services and tools that ensure they not only survive the current crisis, but are able to grab the opportunities it presents, all while helping solve the world’s most difficult mobility challenges.”

Keep it moving

From the introduction of so-called “in California cities to the popping-up of new bike structures in cities around the globe, it seems like the popularity of the bike is going hand in hand with the pandemic. As people started working from home, their commuting dwindled but they started walking and cycling more to enjoy the outdoors.

In the webinar, transportation experts Allison Arieff, Lucas Harms, Paul Supawanich, and Lucas van der Linde shed their lights on this new normal, and its potential for the future of urban planning.

Lucas Harms – Managing Director of the Dutch Cycling Embassy – sees this pandemic as a chance for a renewed relation between mobility and urban planning, as the empty streets present an opportunity to redefine and design streetscapes around the world.

This unexpected silver lining is emphasized by Harms, but noticed by many other experts in the field. Allison Arieff – Editorial Director of SPUR – is also alluding to this new window of opportunity, adding how this “break” in traditional transport routines can change the way we use public space and infrastructure, particularly with an eye toward cars.

“We now have the opportunity to design cities for people instead of designing cities around cars,” she said.

Bike like the Dutch

Paul Supawanich – Transportation Advisor with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office – sees these opportunities as well, noting the positive and unexpected consequences of the crisis in the city such as improved air quality and dwindling car fatalities.

“There are things that we are seeing today, that we certainly want to keep in the future,” he said. “We need to figure out a way to make sure we keep those benefits, while also supporting an economic recovery.”

In the anticipation of this recovery, the reallocation of public space, in order to go around sanely, is a leading question among experts. Cycling is definitely one of the promising modes that should be more prominent in the post-pandemic world of transportation. And this is where the Dutch come in.

Mobility expert Lucas van der Linde of Mobility Flow brings this Dutch perspective to the table. The Netherlands is “heaven” for cyclists, having infrastructure specifically designed for bikes, allowing cyclists to travel efficiently and safely.

“The Netherlands has already gone into this transition toward more active modes in the past,” said Van der Linde, emphasizing how the Netherlands can function as an example for other cities wanting to make the change from cars to bikes.

Interested in sustainable transportation and cycling? Do not hesitate to reach out to experts at the Dutch Cycling Embassy  or at Mobility Flow or take a closer look at our mission program on smart and e-mobility.

Want to talk transportation, mobility and urban planning? Stay tuned for more! Contact us at sfn-ea@minbuza.nl or jan.top@minbuza.nl if you’re interested in mobility masterclasses by renowned Dutch transportation experts in collaboration with cities in California and Washington State!