As a Dutch person, it can be somewhat easy to take our everyday city design for granted. But after accidentally stumbling onto a random video on Youtube (one of many I later learned) praising the way Dutch cities are designed, it kind of makes you wonder why not more places are designed like this.
I am talking about the concept of walkable cities. Whether you need some groceries, run some small errands, pick up some medicine, or whatever, you don’t need to hop in the car to drive to the nearest shopping mall, you can probably find whatever you need in a 10, 15-minute radius, either on foot or with the bike.
Even though walkable cities are not exclusively Dutch, the commitment to casual transportation through cities (thorough biking infrastructure) and an increasing commitment to keep cars out of city centers, make it a country with some of the most comfortable and flexible ways of transportation in the world. Importantly, in contrast with countries like America, people in the Netherlands are generally not bound by a car for their everyday commutes and shopping.
And it’s not just convenient. Research shows that walkable cities also help people socialize, promoting community and decreasing loneliness. And it has a range of benefits in the areas of liveability, sustainability and health. For example, providing people with casual daily exercise, improved air quality, and generally more pleasant neighborhoods to live in.
In a world that is slowly becoming aware of the enormous effect of urban development on our communities, (mental) health, and a general feeling of happiness, cities made for humans (instead of cars) might just become the Netherlands’ best export product. A bunch of urban design geeks on Youtube certainly seem to think so and we might agree!
If you want to dive into the same youtube rabbit hole as I did (or just stroke your Dutch ego), start with the channel ‘Not Just Bikes’. This guy has a lot of videos comparing Dutch cities to cities all over the world, explaining what exactly makes them so great.