Canadian promotes the blueprint of Dutch cycling culture
If you don't use the car all that much, you might as well get rid of it. That was Canadian Melissa Bruntlett’s reasoning when she lived in Vancouver. It was a decision that inadvertently led to a successful career as an urban mobility activist and cycling advocate. After an introduction to the Dutch cycling culture, she decided to move to Delft with her family.
Bring yourself, Melissa will do the same
Melissa Bruntlett relocated with her family from Vancouver, Canada, to Delft. She is co-founder of Modacity, a creative agency promoting sustainable urban infrastructure. Together with her husband, Melissa wrote two books about Dutch and international cycling culture and infrastructure and hopes to inspire other cities to follow the Dutch blueprint for a safe, healthy cycling culture.
Blueprint of a cycling nation
Cycling in the Netherlands could inspire just about anyone to become a cycling advocate. Just ask the Bruntlett family. When on a tour through the Netherlands in 2016, they thoroughly explored the Dutch cycling culture and visited Groningen, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Utrecht ‘and of course Amsterdam’. It led to their first book Building the Cycling City, in which she and her husband describe the blueprint of the Netherlands as a cycling nation.
That tour left them wanting more. In 2019, Melissa and her family moved to Delft, a city they didn’t know. ‘It was February. We walked out of the station and immediately noticed how many people were still cycling.’ Since moving to Delft, Melissa has witnessed many changes. ‘Delft is already very beautiful and they’re making it even more so.’
According to Melissa, the city is doing this by making the old city centre car-free wherever possible and by constructing hypermodern, intelligent cycle paths on the TU Delft Campus, which can predict traffic flows using data from underground sensors.
‘When a new school year starts in Delft, the bike paths fill up with 30,000 students and employees of the university.’
From picturesque to high-tech
Melissa is now so used to the Dutch cycling culture that she has even acquired some pet peeves. ‘When a new school year starts in Delft, the bike paths fill up with 30,000 students and employees of the university and there is this short adjustment period. Space can sometimes be a little tight. But even if it is annoying now and then, it is still much safer and more convenient than cycling in many other countries.’ The luxury of having such a pet peeve is something she could have only dreamed about in Canada.
Although many Canadian cities invest heavily in cycling infrastructure, a bicycle traffic jam is a problem that Melissa would have envied in Canada. She says there is one place in particular that she would really like to see get a 'Touch of Dutch': a busy intersection near her parents’ home in Canada. They made room for cyclists and pedestrians between four car lanes, but it's uncomfortable.
'This is possible anywhere'
Melissa: ‘At that intersection, I think of my parents, who are getting on a bit. I would love to show how well the Dutch blueprint could work at such an intersection.’ This can be done with the Cycling Lifestyle AI tool, which uses artificial intelligence to transform an image of any street into a Dutch-style, bicycle-friendly public space.
As an advocate of Dutch cycling culture abroad, Melissa often hears that the Dutch streetscape is not possible elsewhere. And she admits that it can be hard to imagine sometimes. ‘But I think this AI tool makes it clear that it is actually possible anywhere.’