Via small places:
It’s been said that the Netherlands is both a dense country and a sprawling city, but neither is quite right. Large cities quickly give way to countryside, and a constellation of dozens of cities sit in a sweet spot around 100,000 people – where every trip is a comfortable cycling distance and frequent rail service to every other city is close at hand.
Old enough to have a historic centre, large enough for it to be vibrant, yet small enough to make that centre mostly car-free. The suburbs of these cities grew up in the decades where protected bike lanes were standard on all streets, avoiding the awkward middle ring of cities like Amsterdam and The Hague.
Delft is an increasingly popular bicycle-urbanist pilgrimage. It’s a pragmatic choice, being a quick train ride from both The Hague and Rotterdam, with a world-renowned university that encourages multiple annual student trips from North America. So to is it home to Mobycon, a Dutch smart mobility consultancy making inroads through its office in Ottawa. Despite all this, it’s relatively unknown on social media.
Subtlety and patience make for a city better experienced in person than Instagram. It’s city squares are hidden waypoints in a grid of a maze that’s disarmingly and disorientingly familiar. Eindhoven’s Hovenring may be more striking, but it’s exhausting and inconvenient compared to Delft’s understated underpass between campus and central station.
The city is built with some of the first examples of woonerven, fietsstraten, and turborotondes. For more than two decades, Delft has been stitching its downtown back together, somehow combining the ubiquitous Dutch bike paths, trams, canals, and roundabouts in unique ways. Little can be found on on the rail project behind all this: it’s simply underground.
You’re likely to start hearing a lot more about Delft, particularly back home in Vancouver. Whether it’s their videos, their book Building the Cycling City, or through their work at Modacity, Chris and Melissa Bruntlett are on the rise and on the move. They too have chosen Delft, and we’re sure they’ll help explain why.
We’re back from a sabbatical in the Netherlands and excited to share experiences through a series of videos. Thank you to Mobycon for making Brian’s exchange possible.