In December 2015, after several years of writing about North America’s emerging bike cultures – including our hometown of Vancouver – we walked into the office of our editor at Daily Hive with an ambitious proposal: A five week, five city tour of the Netherlands during the summer of 2016, in order to share their inspiring cycling stories through words, photography, and film. To his credit, he immediately said “yes”, and with the help of some additional corporate sponsors and a modest crowdsourcing campaign, we set off with our two children on the trip of a lifetime.
Those five weeks were nothing short of life changing, as we pedaled along Rotterdam’s pragmatic Erasmus Bridge and Maas Tunnel, Eindhoven’s awesome Hovenring and Van Gogh Path, Amsterdam’s bustling Vondelpark and Rijksmuseum, Utrecht’s vibrant Vredenburg and Biltstraat, and Groningen’s impressive “smart routes” and car-free city centre. We also had the immense privilege of sitting down with many local experts, such as Copenhagenize Consultant Meredith Glaser, Bicycle Dutch blogger Mark Wagenbuur, “Cycling Cities” co-author Ruth Oldenziel, and the University of Amsterdam’s own “Fietsprofessor” Marco te Brömmelstroet.
Upon our return to Vancouver, we wrote a series of feature-length articles about each city we visited; an exercise that was equal parts rewarding and frustrating. The frustration came from being forced to reduce seven jam-packed days of amazing experiences, several hundred years of socioeconomic history, and the many fascinating characters we met along the way into just 1,500 words. A tremendous amount of material we initially hoped to cover was left on the “cutting room floor”.
So after completing the final story in September 2016, we resolved to assemble a book pitch, which – through the generous help of Active Town’s John Simmerman – landed on the desk of Island Press Vice President Heather Boyer in Washington DC.
We spent the next four months working closely with Heather to expand and refine our proposal, which became about clearly and concisely communicating planning and cultural lessons from the Dutch for aspiring cycling cities. It was finally approved by Island Press’ editorial board in January 2017, and will be published in autumn 2018, giving us about eight months to research and write its ten chapters.
Lucky for us, the prestigious Velo-city conference – which we were fortunate enough to host in Vancouver in 2012 – is holding its 2017 iteration in Nijmegen-Arnhem. This provided us with a perfectly timed opportunity to gather material, research topics in more depth, and interview subjects for the book, while giving us a perfectly valid excuse to return to the Netherlands for two weeks in the summer!
We immediately reached out to the Velo-city planning team, who were excited to partner with us on a number of initiatives that will show off the best that the conference has to offer, while assisting us in the planning and writing of our book.
During the build up to the conference, we’ll be highlighting – on both the Modacity and Velo-city blogs – the many speakers, sessions, workshops, and other cool events that thrill us. We’ll be sharing additional content during the conference – including photographs and video – on both Modacity and Velo-city’s social media channels, and completing a series of post-conference articles for Velo-city’s official magazine and newsletter.
We couldn’t be more excited about rediscovering the freedom of cycling in the Netherlands a second time around, and reconnecting with the many friendly faces that generously gave their time to explain what makes riding a bike so special (and so very normal) there. We hope you’ll join us in Nijmegen-Arnhem this coming June.