How Dutch-inspired urban design inspired Vancouver’s bike boom

Chris Bruntlett in Vancouver. He and his wife Melissa are the authors of the new book Building the Cycling City, which you should read. Photo by Tom Babin.

Over the past decade, Vancouver has undergone a bike renaissance. Separated bike lanes have been installed, a bike-share program has been implemented, and more and more people are riding bikes for transportation. Even a downtown business group that once fought bike infrastructure has become supportive of cycling. 

But these big changes didn’t come from thin air. This kind of bike boom, which is happening in many North American cities, was inspired by the lessons learned in the Netherlands. 

In their new book Building the Cycling City: the Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality, Vancouver residents Chris and Melissa Bruntlett of Modacity examine how Dutch design has made the country the world’s best for everyday cycling, and how ideas honed there are inspiring cities all over the world. 

In this video, Chris Bruntlett takes me around Vancouver for a look at how those Dutch ideas have been implemented, and how they are turning Vancouver into a bike haven. 

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Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 


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  1. If it were entirely up to the importation of Dutch infrastructure and Dutch lifestyle, then the Vancouver suburb of Richmond and parts of the Fraser Valley (which saw lots of Dutch immigration in the 60s and 70s) would have Vancouver beat for cycling infra long ago. We certainly have seen lots of Dutch names in local politicians over the decades.

    I spent the summer of 1982 as an avid cyclist tween living in Vancouver, biking around (West) Berlin by myself, using separated lanes and bike-specific traffic signals and it amazed me that we didn’t have back in Vancouver- it just made sense. I found soon it was the same in other parts of Germany and other Northwestern European places I visited. Even the drivers were more forgiving. Only now are we slowly getting that mentality here in Vancouver and it is really more due to our maturing as a city than anything else.

    While we can still learn a lot from the Netherlands (and man, I looooove cycling there), we not only need to look at what works in other places for ideas to continue building out our infrastructure, but also step up to be a leader in North America and show off what we can do to cities that are just fighting the fight we did ten years ago. Even Seattle and Portland could still teach us a few things about cheap and effective ways of diverting car traffic and preventing rat-running on neighbourhood bikeways that it seems our engineering department is too shy to undertake.

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