Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality

Around the world, countries marvel at the Netherland’s impressive cycling culture and infrastructure while an insidious “that would never work here” attitude prevents real change from happening. But the Dutch overcame many of the same challenges as other car-clogged countries, and their story is an important model for moving the rest of the world toward a more human-scale, bike-friendly future.

In Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality, Melissa and Chris Bruntlett share the triumphs and challenges of the Dutch cycling story, show how some of the ideas are already being adopted in global cities, and draw out concrete lessons for other places to follow their lead. Drawing from historical context, interviews with local experts, and their own experiences riding in five Dutch cities, the Bruntletts explore topics ranging from bicycle style and parking to the relationship between cycling and public transit. Special attention is given to less well-known Dutch cities, including Utrecht and Rotterdam.

In each chapter, the book shows how North American cities are already following the Dutch example and transforming themselves to include more public spaces, safer cycling facilities, innovative bike-share schemes, and other, more inclusive mobility options. In some cases, these efforts are bolstered by collaboration with organizations such as the Dutch Cycling Embassy and PeopleForBikes, which are working to translate what has worked for decades in the Netherlands into tangible solutions for the streets of Austin, San Francisco, and countless other cities.

Uplifting stories range from the introduction of cargo bikes in Portland to protected bike lanes born from tactical urbanism in Boston. Other lessons include how beautiful cycling infrastructure—like Calgary’s Peace Bridge—can increase enthusiasm for cycling and pave the path forward for further investment in cycling projects. Interviews with local activists and city officials give depth to the stories and illuminate how people are adapting the Dutch model for their own city’s needs.

The stories prove that city design is not set in stone, and changing cycling culture can be done even where it seems impossible. To affect this change, political courage is needed, and citizen activism is often required. Building the Cycling City will leave readers inspired and ready to adopt and implement approaches to make their own cities better places to live, work, play, and—of course—cycle.


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“In sharing their two-wheeled adventures and the lessons of Europe’s greatest cycle cities, the Bruntletts offer a pragmatic and hopeful vision of the future. Building the Cycling City shows how all cities can follow the Dutch blueprint for health, happiness and mobility freedom.”  Charles Montgomery, Author, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

“Bruntlett and Bruntlett make the definitive case that cycling cities are livable cities. But unless we all demand more, as the Dutch have and continue to do, we’ll compromise our health, the safety of our children, and our pocketbooks. For anyone who cares about how cities transform to become places for people, this book will show you how it is done.”  Jennifer Keesmaat, former Chief Planner, City of Toronto and Chief Executive Officer, Creative Housing Society

“When it comes to understanding how the urban biking revolution is transforming cities and the lives of real people, Melissa and Chris are the real deal. Now they have written a book that is engaging, inspiring and practical. You don’t have to love the Dutch way of building cities to love this book — you just need to love great storytelling, and want YOUR city to be better.”  Brent Toderian, City Planner & Urbanist, TODERIAN UrbanWORKS, and former Chief Planner, City of Vancouver

“Building the Cycling City shows how people worldwide inspire each other to create better cycling cities. The book celebrates local heroes who choose to adapt Dutch ideas to their own demands. The resulting urban transformations often became an inspiration to Dutch city builders themselves. Melissa and Chris Bruntlett offer not only inspiring stories but also concrete plans and effective strategies on cycling cities. This is a must read for both cycling advocates and urbanists.”  Saskia Kluit, CEO, Fietsersbond and President, Dutch Cycling Embassy