Volts
Volts
The many social and psychological benefits of low-car cities
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The many social and psychological benefits of low-car cities
A podcast discussion with Melissa and Chris Bruntlett about living in Delft, Netherlands.
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When Melissa and Chris Bruntlett moved to the small city of Delft in the Netherlands, they were blown away by the myriad social and health benefits of their new home’s low-car urban infrastructure. In this episode, they discuss their book Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in Our Lives.

(PDF transcript)

(Active transcript)

Text transcript:

David Roberts

In 2010, Chris and Melissa Bruntlett sold their cars and began transporting their family of four around Vancouver, BC, by bike. They noticed that bicyclists’ stories were not being told, so they started blogging about their carless lifestyle at the website of what would become their creative agency, Modacity.

Through cycling circles, they heard stories and saw pictures of cycling in Dutch cities, so they went to the Netherlands to check it out, visiting five cities to study cycling infrastructure, talk with local leaders, and share pictures, videos, and articles.

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They ended up gathering enough material for a book, which was released in August 2018: Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality. (I interviewed them about the book for Vox.)

 Melissa and Chris Bruntlett.
Melissa and Chris Bruntlett.

The success of the book led to a global speaking tour. That tour led to job offers for both of them — for him, at the Dutch Cycling Embassy; for her, at a consultancy called Mobycon — both with offices located in Delft, a small city in the southwest of the Netherlands.

So in 2019, they uprooted from Vancouver yet again, to move to Delft. Their experiences there over the following months were so intense and eye-opening that they launched into another book, this one an attempt to explain why low-car cities like Delft produce such a wide range of social and health benefits.

Why did they find it so much easier to meet their neighbors? Why did their kids enjoy so much more autonomy and safety? Why did they feel so much more connected and calm?

In their new book, Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in Our Lives, they walk through each of these feelings and experiences in turn, explaining why low-car cities facilitate them, and how other cities can reform their streets to capture some of these benefits. They review the research on why low-car cities are so much better for women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and ultimately, everyone else.

Reading the book was a joy for me, since it gathered research in support of theories that I have had about cars and human behavior for ages. I'm excited to talk to Melissa and Chris about how to design streets for people, the connection between urban infrastructure and social trust, the flourishing that Dutch children enjoy, and the myriad evils of cars.

Alright. With no further ado, Melissa and Chris Bruntlett. Welcome to Volts. Thanks for coming.

Melissa Bruntlett

Thanks for having us, David.

David Roberts

I interviewed you two, I think it was two years ago? Four years ago?

Chris Bruntlett

Four years ago.

David Roberts

Could have been five, could have been 100. Could have been five minutes ago. Yeah, about your last book, about Dutch cycling culture, which I really enjoyed. So I was excited to read this book, and if you'll indulge me, just before we jump in, I want to just fanboy out about it for two seconds and talk about two reasons I really liked it. Big picture reasons. One is, the whole book reads as though someone set out to take all my pet theories about cars, and land use, and how they affect people's behavior and their wellbeing, and went out and researched them, and found academic backing for all of them.

The whole thing is like a research brief to confirm my priors. Just absolutely delightful. I was reading it and I kept being like, "I knew it, I knew it, I knew it." I wanted to go grab my family and be like, "see you guys, it's not just me yelling in the car about all this stuff. It's real."

Melissa Bruntlett

We're happy to oblige, I guess.

David Roberts

Yeah, exactly. I wish every book was like this. Secondly, perhaps slightly more sober reason, I find that lots of work on these subjects, on land use, and traffic, and cars, approaches it from a variety of technocratic lenses. You compare sort of greenhouse gas intensity of a person who lives here versus here, the throughput of this kind of road versus that kind of road, or the tax revenue of this kind of area versus that kind of area.

What I really liked about your book is it starts with a feeling. It starts with the experience of being there. The whole book sort of starts with you going to Delft, to this place, and having this series of experiences, and feelings, and sort of the whole book is kind of an exploration of, "why does this kind of place make us feel this kind of way?" And I just think that's the core of all this, that's like the ore in the mind at the bottom of all these discussions, is, "what is it like to be there?" And I'm going to return to that subject later, but the whole book reads like sort of like an exploration of an experience, and I appreciated it that way, too. So alright, enough fanboying out.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah. Thanks for that, David. But I think I would just say that that was, I think, the whole point of it is that we were we were walking around, we were cycling around and had all these feelings and it's like, well, "how do we communicate that?" So I'm glad that it came through in the book.

David Roberts

Yeah, that's the, it's the human part of all this, and it gets lost sometimes. So let's start with a story, I'm sure you've told hundreds of times at this point, but just for our listeners here who might not be familiar. Tell the story of your personal experience, and how you ended up in Delft writing this book. It's a pretty interesting series of events that sort of pull one into the next, and it's an interesting story. So, Chris, why don't you tell us the capsule version of the story?

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah, it's still surreal to us, actually, to live and work in such a place. And the journey that's brought us here is an unlikely one and almost a series of fortunate accidents. And it starts with Melissa and I working as cycling promotion, marketing, communication engagement specialist in Vancouver, Canada, for many years, as that city was evolving as a cycling city, brought us to the Netherlands in 2016 to write a series of blog posts for local publication. Those blog posts snowballed into the book, "Building the Cycling City" and kind of turned us into inadvertent ambassadors for the Netherlands, a cycling nation, a global speaking tour, all kinds of media, including the interview with yourself for Vox, which was almost four years ago to the day, by the way.

David Roberts

Oh, my God.

Chris Bruntlett

And then, yeah, caught the attention of two specific Dutch organizations, the Dutch Cycling Embassy, where I'm now employed, and Mobycon for Melissa. So we made the leap to move our family from Vancouver to Delft. Delft just happened to be where these two organizations were located. And for the past three and a half years, yeah, we've had the immense privilege of exporting the knowledge and expertise that exists in this country, but also living as residents. And that's really what we wanted to capture in this second book. This follow up book is communicating to the world, you know, why the quality of life is better here in the Netherlands for virtually everybody, but also how it is transferable, replicable, translatable to cities around the world. And, yeah, now, that's what we do for jobs.

David Roberts

It really was luck then. You didn't really choose Delft. It just was the place these organizations were. So you just kind of lucked out into it.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah, very much.

Chris Bruntlett

Yes and no, I mean.

Melissa Bruntlett

So Chris says yes and no. I say very much, but why Chris would say yes and no is we knew in Vancouver that we had reached a point in our lives where we wanted to sort of downsize, in terms of the cities we were living in. We wanted to find a place that had that similar quality of life that we had enjoyed. And unfortunately, we were having a hard time finding that in Canada. And so when this move presented itself, we knew that we didn't want to live in Amsterdam or Rotterdam. We wanted to live somewhere smaller. And we looked at a few different cities. Leiden was one of them. And then, yeah, the fact that Delft was where the offices were, and we wanted to be close to the kids as they were getting settled, it just made the most logical sense for us.

Chris Bruntlett

The reason I say that it's perhaps not an accident is Delft is actually a little bit of a mobility hub. There's these probably a dozen or so organizations that work in this field internationally, and it's largely unbeknownst to us at the time because it was at the heart of innovation and experimentation in the 1970s. And really, as we discovered, as we started delving into the history, and the archival footage, and speaking to people that worked here during that time, it was at the cutting edge of traffic policy and and infrastructure that pushed the rest of the Netherlands in this direction. And so Delft was in part an accident, but also, well, what drew us there is the fact that it is the heart of where these traffic innovations took place 50 years ago.

David Roberts

While we're at it, then, just tell us a little bit about Delft, sort of like how big it is, and where it's located. I found, somehow, I didn't know this about the Netherlands, this sort of large area where there's 40 or so cities. So to help an American or Canadian sort of envision what is Delft's relationship to the places around it?

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah, so Delft is located pretty much equidistance between the major cities of Rotterdam and The Hague, but that's all within the Randstad region. So the Randstad being ring city, essentially, that encompasses Rotterdam and The Hague, as I mentioned, but also Amsterdam, and sort of is this hub of cities where you've got business centers, you've got the Port, you've got the Houses of Parliament here, not just for the country, but also the International Law Courts and The Hague. And so it's sort of like this hub of activity on the North Sea, and we find ourselves situated right between two major centers. So keeps us very well connected, I mean, for those that are familiar with the Netherlands, or for those that are not, very well connected by rail. So we are ten minutes away from both The Hague and Rudder Dam, quite easily by train, 40 minutes to Amsterdam. Quite a nice place to be situated in terms of having access to those cities. But it still remains small. So it's 100,000 people living here, 30,000 of which are students at the local university, the Technical University of Delft. It's small and compact, but in a way that doesn't feel disconnected and rural, in the way that some other small cities might in the North American context.

David Roberts

Right. The model that seems like it would make the most sense to a North American is a suburb, but it's, like, distance wise from a major city. It's like a suburb, but it's not like a North American suburb is self-contained in a way that lots of suburbs are just residential, and number two, so connected, like, I don't even know what the analogy would be like on the East Coast to have a self-contained town that is so connected to so many others. I don't know if there's even an analogy you could draw with a US or Canadian city.

Melissa Bruntlett

Well, I think, Chris, in the past and presentations, you've connected it quite well to sort of like the Bay Area, in terms of having these sort of central hubs of employment and industry, but then having these communities nearby. But yeah, that connection is really important. So it's not that we feel like a suburb because that's something that we didn't want to live in, having grown up in suburbs ourselves. It is very much, as you say, self-contained. We have all the amenities we need for day-to-day life within walking and cycling distance. But then if we want to go to the theater or to any big events, we're so close by that it doesn't feel like we're completely disconnected, and, therefore, dependent on a car, for example, to get us to where we need to be, to feel a little more in the thick of it.

David Roberts

Right. All without a car. So let's jump into some of the subjects of the book then. The book is divided up into chapters through these various lenses through which a city of land use can be viewed. And all of them are fascinating. But the number one on my list, and it's a long time obsession of mine, it's something I've written about before. I think on Vox, I think on Volts as well, which is social trust. I've read like social science reviews about social trust, and, basically, the conclusion is, it's what makes everything else possible. Nothing else is possible without it.

You can't have a high-functioning society without it, but it's very difficult to create, easy to lose, and of course, sort of legendarily declining in the US and the UK. Trust in institutions and politicians, each other. That's sort of the backdrop here. But the really fascinating part I found was the sort of intimate connection you draw between land use choices and trust. So maybe start like Chris, this is your experience. I found really interesting the account of this intersection you go through that is unmarked, in a way that, like, an American would recognize. No lights, no signs, but it's just a sort of dance. So talk a little bit about how those experiences in a city affect social trust.

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah, this chapter really came out of our initial experiences moving to Delft and moving around Delft. Coming from Vancouver, where there was a stop sign and/or a traffic light at virtually every single intersection. We traveled to a place that had very few roadmarking, stop signs, or traffic lights. There's not a single stop sign in Delft, maybe a dozen traffic lights. And so, the entire city is this one experimentation in social trust and cooperation. Insofar as every time you get out on the streets on foot, or bicycle, or even on car, because the streets are traffic calmed at such a slow speed, there's no need for these car-based engineering interventions.

This stop start model that we're used to in other places because we can navigate, and negotiate, and cooperate with each other, and figure out who's going to yield to who every time we get to an intersection. And so the junction that we refer to in the book at the Abtswoudsebrug in Delft, to the main route between the train station and the campus, is 21,000 people pass through this intersection on bike every day, and there's not a single intervention from the municipality. It's completely unmarked. It's this free-flowing intersection, where people are coming from all four directions. And in just that moment, through body language, through eye contact, through subtle little cues, through the social code that's developed this language, they can trust one another and work with one another to keep things flowing.

And it's obviously in contrast to a car-based transportation system, where at high speeds in metal boxes and glass, that trust to that ability to cooperate and work with one another is completely removed and dictated by algorithms, computer programs, traffic lights, and a very strict code of conduct that people have to follow. And so that got us thinking, how does these thousands of interactions that we make every day, the eye contact and the reliance on one another, lead into the larger trust? And it was one thing we heard constantly was that the Dutch are a very trusting society.

So we tried to do some research and put it into context at a time where Britain was going through Brexit, you were dealing with Trump. And we couldn't help but think that those populist movements, that distrust in institutions of government, while not solely dictated by the street culture, and the way people move around the city, it certainly has an impact in the way people relate to one another and to their governments.

David Roberts

You think about your big suburban house, and you get in your big truck and drive on two or four lane roads to your destinations, and then drive back home to your suburban house. In that whole thing, every other person you see as you're traveling is basically a competitor for space, right? About whose intentions you know nothing, and thus you cannot assume any ... You can't make eye contact at those high speeds. You have no way of signaling your intentions. So it's just an incredibly low-trust atmosphere. I don't feel like people who grow up in it, and are used to it, have trouble thinking of it that way because they don't know what it means to do anything otherwise. But it's incredible what a sort of feral, competitive experience it is, getting around a car-dependent place.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah. And you talk about being competitors. And I think that anyone who spent any time moving around in a car, and some sort of motor vehicle, has that experience of being so absurdly angry as a person in front of you for not doing exactly what you wanted them to do in that moment. But they have no clue that you're angry, and you don't know what is influencing their decision to do what they are not doing or what they're supposed to do.

David Roberts

Right.

Melissa Bruntlett

But yeah, that face-to-face contact and that forced environment that we find ourselves in now, you make acknowledgment of that person in front of you, and it's hard to be, like, instantly rageful because you can see they're a mom moving with a child, and so they're moving a little bit slower, or an older person that maybe is not as nimble. There's all sorts of externalities we don't experience when we're moving around in metal boxes.

David Roberts

And as you say, especially on those upright, Dutch bikes, your whole body is visible. You have sort of your posture and body language. Your whole face is visible, your hands are visible. There's a million different ways of subtly communicating that are not available to. And I just was so struck by the point that as you move through the city every day, you're making these thousands of cooperative decisions with people, as you're walking or biking. And every time you sort of trust someone to behave in a predictable way, according to that sort of unspoken code, and they do it, it's like a little micro reinforcement, right, of social trust. It's like a little proof of social trust, one after the other, after the other. And you just have to sort of experience that, I think, to really appreciate how deep it is.

Melissa Bruntlett

Absolutely.

Chris Bruntlett

The beauty of it is that the vast majority of people who live here don't pay any attention to it, realize it, or think about it, reflect on it, right? Again, as proverbial outsiders, we've discovered it and shine a light on it. But most people here just use a bike to get from A to B because it's easy, and not because they feel a part of something, or want to make their society more cohesive, or trusting.

David Roberts

These forces operate in the background. So, Melissa, one of the other chapters I was really taken with, another long-standing obsession of mine, is about just connection, about personal connection to other people and the many ways that land use can either facilitate it or prevent it. I've written about this, too, on Vox. It was an article that really struck a chord and took off because I think it's a common experience. It's just the way we live in North America makes it very difficult to connect with people as an adult. It makes it difficult to make new friends as an adult.

And consequently, we have this epidemic that we hardly ever talk about in North America of loneliness, of lonely people, who have very few friends, confidants, who don't know their neighbors, who don't have interactions with other people around them hardly at all. So you talk about the sort of contrast between where you lived in Vancouver. You had this sort of cooperative living space, but once you went out on the street, connection became difficult in a way that was very different on your street in Delft. So just talk about the way land use facilitates that kind of connection.

Melissa Bruntlett

It's sort of twofold, in terms of the differences we've experienced here. So as you mentioned in Vancouver, we were fortunate enough to live in cooperative housing, which means we were very much forced to know our neighbors because we all had to cooperate together for the function of the building.

But, yeah, as soon as you stepped out of the gates, I mean, we lived on a residential street. There was probably 50 or so other houses along the little stretch that we were on. But we didn't know anyone else on the street because of the way that they were moving. If they had a car, they'd park it on the street, or they'd be in the back of the house. So they'd step out of their home, into their car, and on with their day. And we didn't have sort of this forced social interaction. It's not that people don't have cars in our neighborhood now, but when you step out on the street, there's this traffic-calmed environment where you have more opportunities to slow down and see your neighbors — going back to talking about social trust. People are moving around on bicycles. So you see people unlocking their bikes, and you get to know them.

But even just that slower nature of the street, when you step out, sort of forces interactions with people, which I think is something that we weren't prepared for, having grown up in North America. You know, some of your neighbors as kids, but as adults, as you said, it gets a bit trickier. But the Dutch are also very social people, even though if you talk to the average expat, they'll say it's hard to make friends with Dutch people. It is, and it is. And I think we all come with our own experiences. And that's a whole other topic for a whole other book.

But it is very unlikely that we would step outside and someone passing by wouldn't say hello. Or if we're eating out on our front bench, they'll say, "have a good meal" as they're passing by. But it's just sort of these slower environments force people to want to engage. And so we got to know — when we first moved here as complete outsiders, not understanding the language — got to know our neighbors immediately next door to us and across the street from us.

We talk later in the book about Peter, who we still bump into, even though we've moved a little bit further away, who very frequently we were walking back from the grocery store, and he happened to be outside, and he'd come and talk and ask how we're settling in. And he became part of, sort of, I wouldn't say necessarily our friend network, but definitely our acquaintance network. As someone who genuinely wanted to communicate with us, where if we were living in an environment where cars were moving very fast in front of our homes, or the noise was such that it was just an unpleasant environment, we probably wouldn't have had those opportunities for accidental interactions. And I think that we don't talk about that enough.

And it's something that the Appleyard study, that we quote in that chapter, really refers to as this idea of when your street is not social, you retreat to your houses, often to the back of your houses. So the life of the city moves away from the street and into more private spaces. And we lose something as a society when we don't have that social environment, to see our neighbors, to be around people that are different from us, from different backgrounds or different ages, and we become very insular.

And as you said, it's leading to this loneliness epidemic that was exacerbated by the pandemic, where suddenly we're all very alone. And to have a social space where you can feel comfortable outside, even at a physical distance, has really helped us, anyways, to be able to not feel quite so lonely, over the last two years. But also force us to meet people, put us in uncomfortable situations. But that ultimately led to feeling more connected to a place where we don't have the same cultural background in history as our neighbors, but we don't feel as much as outsiders. Despite still stumbling through Dutch after three and a half years, but it really helps that.

David Roberts

When I wrote that article for Vox, I did a little bit of research on just friendship, like what social scientists say about friendship. And one of the things that pops out is the number one indicator of who you end up being friends with is not any kind of sort of ethnicity, or particular experience, or all the things you might think of, it is propinquity, i.e. bumping into them. Literally, you make friends with the people you see, spontaneously, on a day-to-day level, even people very different from you. That is how friendships are formed.

And I was thinking again about the suburban trip to Starbucks. It's not just that you're on the streets in Denmark, you're having these interactions. It's a particular kind of interaction. It's non-instrumental. You're not getting something from that. You're not interacting as, like, customer and salesperson,or whatever. You're just interacting as equals, spontaneously, purely socially. And those interactions are what a) friendship is made of and b) like our psychological well being is made of. But like the suburban trip to Starbucks, you don't really see anyone. You don't bump into anyone, you don't have unplanned interactions with anyone. You interact with your family in your house, and then the Starbucks clerk, and then back in your car. And to lose that completely out of a life, just seems crazy to me. It's crazy that we don't talk about it more.

Melissa Bruntlett

And we come back to that theme in a few chapters. We talk about it in the chapter where we're talking about childhood happiness, this sort of social connection. But also we're talking about as we age, and this idea of the importance of face-to-face contact, even if it's not with a friend, but just the people you regularly bump into on the street. It releases oxytocin, which makes us feel happier. It makes us feel less alone, which is so important when you're speaking about as we age, or people that live on their own, or widows, or widowers, or whatever, people living on their own. These social interactions, even if they're just fleeting, are so important for everyday mental health. And we don't talk about it enough. You're absolutely right.

When we're moving around by car, we might have that accidental bump into somebody at the Starbucks, or at the grocery store, but they're so rare. Whereas when we create a street where walking is easy, where cycling is easy, you remove the shield that we move around in, and you basically provoke more of that face-to-face contact. Not just so that we can feel a little more energized and have more physical activity, but very much so we can have those mental health boosts, even just when someone smiles at you as you're passing by. We don't talk enough about how much healthier that makes us at a mental health level, but also at a physical level.

David Roberts

Yeah. And it's not just that the interactions are non-instrumental, it is the spaces in which they take place, that are non-instrumental. They're public space, right? It's not a space for something. It's just a place for being.

Melissa Bruntlett

Exactly.

David Roberts

For hanging out. And I would just, like, challenge my listeners in North America and Canada, wherever you live, to think of a place close by you within walking distance that you would want to go and just hang out, because there will just be a bunch of people there hanging out. It's so rare in North America. And then you visit one of these European cities, and you go to a plaza, just any plaza, and there's kids playing, there's people getting coffee, there's people bustling through, and you're just like, "holy shit, there's not a single place like this anywhere near me."

And again, we just accept that that's normal, that's a way to live. It's wild to me. You mentioned kids. Let's talk about kids. That's the first chapter in the book. And I got to say, I know it was not intended this way, and it's not your fault, but at several points, reading your book, I just felt kind of sad because the places we've lived have been more or less car-dependent. There's just not anywhere to go. If you walk out the front door for a kid, there's not other kids around the streets playing. There's not safe parks nearby. It's not safe to bike around most places in Seattle. So they just have been indoor kids to a lamentable degree, much more than I was. I wish I had up and moved to Delft back when I was young and vigorous, when the kids were young, and they could have had different, but talk a little bit about — we'll start at a personal level. You moved with, were they ten and twelve, your kids, when you moved, or something like that?

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah, about that.

David Roberts

And that's a sensitive age. Not necessarily an age which most parents would like to uproot a kid and move them somewhere. It seems like it would be somewhat traumatic. But just talk about sort of your surprise at how easy entry is and why they had such an easy time of it.

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah. So I guess the genesis of this chapter really started in 2016, during our first visit to the Netherlands on holiday. At the time, our kids were eight and ten, and they got their first taste of freedom living in Amsterdam, for a couple of weeks. We experimented with giving them the ability to walk to the park in the corner store for the very first time. And this was something that we wanted to do in Vancouver. But virtually every direction on our house meant crossing a six or an eight lane street that moved 30,000 cars a day.

Amsterdam, you know, is a really walkable city, traffic-calm city, where they're not crossing more than one lane of traffic. And so they really thrived in that environment. And that first taste of freedom, kind of ruined them in a lot of ways. Like us, when they got back to Vancouver, they were sad, they were angry, they were frustrated that they and their friends weren't able to move around their city freely and independently in the same way. And so when the opportunity to move to the Netherlands came, you know, we we often say that we knew it was going to be hard for our children.

Melissa and I made a similar move, long distance move, at the ages of around ten ourselves. We know how hard, knew firsthand how hard it was socially to move to a new place at such a vulnerable age, especially not knowing the language and being on a different continent. But we ultimately knew that they would thrive in the ability to move around autonomously. It's exactly what we saw, and I think we were even shocked by how quickly it happened. Within a week or two, our son was cycling two or three kilometers to school, by himself. Our daughter, at the time, was traveling to The Hague to some visit friends.

She even took a 200 kilometer train ride to the north of the country to meet with somebody. I mean, they were what Americans call free-range kids — what the Dutch just call children not under the washful gaze of their parents, not having to be chaperoned and supervised, and not moving around their built environment in the backseat of a car. And I think this is something that, well, it pushed us to start doing this research.

We came across the work of Dr. Lia Karsten, an academic at the University of Amsterdam, who had coined this term "the backseat generation", the "achterbank generatie" in Dutch. And it's this really depressing, sad state of affairs where most children, nowadays, experience the world in the backseat of a car. They don't know their neighbors. They don't know their neighborhood. They're not getting the physical, mental, social activity that young children should be getting. And perhaps most importantly, they're not learning to be resilient, to bounce back from mistakes that they make. They're not learning life lessons because they're constantly under the gaze of their parents and being supervised by their parents. And so there's a lot to be said for resurrecting this idea of free-range children. We would argue it starts with the redesign of our streets and the reprioritization of our traffic and transportation systems. But if we do really care about the safety and well-being of our children, we do have to start prioritizing and designing for them, instead of just making it easy for cars to move around our cities.

David Roberts

Yeah, and there's a bunch of benefits to children from this kind of freedom. But what I thought was interesting, and it relates to this backseat thing, is you talk about how, to a backseat child, their home, their city becomes this sort of archipelago, this series of islands. So you just sort of leave your home, and then like, blah-blah-blah, something happens, and then you're at this new place, but you don't know what the blah-blah-blah is. You don't know how those two places relate in physical space. And just something about navigating the details, getting lost, figuring out what you did wrong, figuring out how things relate to each other, that's almost completely lost as well.

Melissa Bruntlett

I think it's something that the three of us might say, "okay, well, when I grew up, I walked to school or I walked to friends houses, and I knew this landmark and that landmark, and you might not remember all the street names, but go back to that place," and we just did it. We were just visiting family in Canada, and I can remember, "okay, I go this way to get to where I need to get to, and I turn on this street street, and this is the landmark that tells me to do that." But when you're moving around in a car, or someone else is moving you around in a car, all you see is the walk from the front door to the car and from the car to the school or to the community center. And you don't know what's happening in between. And it's just funny. We talk about it in the book, how our eldest, historically, was not very directionally gifted and would get lost on a regular basis.

David Roberts

I share that difficulty, so I have nothing but sympathy.

Melissa Bruntlett

But moving here and being forced to move around on their bicycle or on foot, there's still places around the city where I'll say, "oh, this is where it's located. It's at XYZ Corner." And they look at me with this blank stare. You have no idea what you're talking about. But you set them on their way. And they're like, "oh, okay, yeah, I know. I turn at the coffee shop here, and then I cross this bridge, and then I'll get me to where need to get to, and I know where I'm going." And we now have that trust that both our kids can easily navigate the city if we just give them a few landmarks along the way, and send them off. Obviously, Google Maps helps them get to where they need to get to nowadays, but to have those visual cues, and to understand how their home connects to the route, and then connects to their final destination, it's a really valuable skill that will set them up better to be a little more directionally capable when they visit other cities as well.

David Roberts

Yeah, I mean, and it also helps to have a city with texture. I mean, it's hard enough to know where you're going and how it relates to other places when you're in the backseat of a car. But it also doesn't help where every time you look out the window, you see a four lane road with gas stations and chain restaurants along the side of it. You close your eyes, open them there, and you could be literally any place in North America, much less any place in your city. You know what I mean? Those older cities have such experience, such visual texture. That also helps, I think, in getting around.

Melissa Bruntlett

There's a dynamism in how the land use is, that it's not just this is your residential neighborhood, and this is where the big box stores are, and this is the school. It's homes, shops, schools. Everything sort of intertwined throughout the city, creates a more dynamic experience of the city as well.

David Roberts

And this is something, people have been writing about this with angst in North America for years, how this generation that's driven everywhere, and tended all the time, and has all their time planned for them. Because you can't sort of, by definition, if you can't walk out your front door and walk or bike somewhere under your own power, literally everything you do outside the house is planned and attended by a parent. And so you just don't make your own decisions. You just don't have autonomy. You're not making and owning your own decisions. And you get into a little bit of the research about how valuable that is, not just in these practical ways, but later on in life, the sort of skills it builds just to be an autonomous being.

Melissa Bruntlett

In the book "Free-Range Kids", there's sort of this anecdote about how when you grow up in this environment where someone's always making the decisions for you, and then suddenly you're set out into the world, you have this whole generation of young people, early 20s somethings, that don't know how to function on their own.

David Roberts

They call it adulting now.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah, exactly. But they sort of feel a bit at a loss. And as Chris talked about, it's this resilience that's built up over time, that if you make mistakes and you learn from them, you know how to solve those, not necessarily solve all the problems, but address or attack those problems as you get older. So you have university students that are suddenly on their own, and they don't even know how to register for classes, let alone do their laundry, or cook for themselves, or get to the grocery store. All those little things. It builds up over time.

And it's not to say that our kids don't experience these days where they never leave the home, but the point is that we can say, "okay, that's enough gaming for today. Make sure you get XYZ done." And we can be at the office and know that if we say, "we need you to go to the grocery store and pick up the ingredients for this meal," for example, they will know where they need to go and they know how to do it. And if they have run into any trouble, they can ask somebody in the store, or they can send us a message. But it's never to the point where they're in this anxiety-ridden panic attack, where they don't even know, "how do I even pay for this," for example.

David Roberts

Well, one of the things you talk about is sort of how infrastructure, to return to the theme, how infrastructure and land use can facilitate this. And you talk about sort of soft infrastructure, which makes making mistakes relatively low stakes because that's how people learn, is making mistakes. But if I'm letting my ten year old out to ride a bike on a painted bike lane, on the edge of a four lane road, a mistake could be deadly. So here again, we come back to sort of how land use can facilitate kids because the stakes aren't so high, you know what I mean?

Chris Bruntlett

That's a tremendous point, and it's true of all the topics we've spoken about today. Dutch people would listen to us talking and say, "oh, that's just a cultural thing. It's just the way we operate. We're just different from Americans," completely blind to the fact that it is the infrastructure. It's the bricks and mortar, it's the built environment that impacts that culture and shapes that culture. We bemoan the fact that American kids don't get outside, or parents don't let them out of their gaze, it's for good reason.

David Roberts

Yeah, I don't either. I mean, I whine about it all the time, but I don't either. And I wouldn't.

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah, because the fear is real, and the danger is very potent. And we'll be the first to admit, that this free-range culture that's developed, comes from a place of privilege, because we have separated bike lanes on every single arterial road, we have protected intersections and roundabouts. We have incredibly traffic-calm streets, so that we trust that when we let our ten year old son out to a cycle to school every morning, we trust he's going to get there safely without having to have him check in with us or to stress about his safety along the route.

David Roberts

Right. You talked about at the beginning of the book, he had a bike accident and broke his arm. Which is funny, once he got to the safest cycling city of the world, practically, he broke his arm. But that sort of makes the point, right? Like breaking your arm, that's about as bad as it gets if you bump into somebody else or just fall on your bike, you know what I mean? Whereas car crash is just the number of kids that get killed, or maimed, or lose family members in car accidents. Again, it's another thing that's just crazy we don't talk about more.

So at this point, your kids are ten and twelve. So the twelve year old, would you say that, at this point, you would allow her to travel anywhere in the Netherlands on her own?

Melissa Bruntlett

Well, the twelve year old is now turning 16 in less than 30 days.

David Roberts

Oh my God.

Melissa Bruntlett

I know.

David Roberts

Time.

Melissa Bruntlett

I know. And I would say, yeah, I think there's very few places we would say, "no, you can't go there on your own." So right now, their very closest friend lives about a 20 minutes bus ride from here. And they make that journey in the summertime very regularly. They could cycle it, but I mean, myth broken. Our children don't like cycling unless it's for a purpose. They don't do it for fun like the parents do. This is what happens when you raise your kids on bikes. If this is how they rebel from us, we're totally fine with that as long as it's not a car for now.

David Roberts

Right.

Melissa Bruntlett

But yeah, they've made friends in Eindhoven, which is two hours away by train, and we'd be happy to put them on a train and get them there. We're confident that they can figure out the system, what trains they need to take when. And yeah, moving around by bike, we have no concerns, whatsoever. I struggled to think of the last time I was worried about them moving around on their own. And I think that's a testament to being comfortable, so comfortable in this place, that we no longer have to have that stress. Much like my parents didn't worry about me when I was the same age, and taking a bus for half an hour to visit friends.

David Roberts

My parents let me free-range, too. Although in retrospect, I think perhaps their level of worry was lower than, empirically, it should have been. It was not safe infrastructure around my house.

Melissa Bruntlett

And it's not to say we don't worry about either of them still when they're moving around, we're still parents. We still want them to check in. And I, admittedly, have the Find My Friends app active, so I know where they are. But it's something that I don't think either children would have had the opportunity to experience as young as they have, had we not made this move, which, as you said, moving at the age, is that they were ten and twelve. It wasn't easy, and there's still some adjustment. And it is a bit traumatic for the kids, or it was a bit traumatic for them. But I think the benefits have far outweighed, and we check in with them all the time. "Do you hate us? Will you hate us forever because we did this?"

David Roberts

My God, they're living the coolest experience. They're going to have the coolest stories to tell relative to like, "oh, I grew up in a suburb, I used to go to the movie theater."

Melissa Bruntlett

Or the mall.

David Roberts

Right.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah, I think they'll be okay. I mean, they're still teenagers, and they still hate us from one day to the next.

David Roberts

Yes. Life is life. Well, this is a good segue, actually, to another chapter, which I thought also really well-addressed aspect of all this that is too often overlooked, which is the sort of effect on women, and so, of good city design versus bad city design, and the sort of venn diagram overlap of cities designed so they work well for women and cities that are designed well full stop. And so, Melissa, one of the points you make, and it gets back to the kids being able to go do their stuff on their own, traditionally, still today women take on more of that sort of household role of driving people around, planning stuff, cooking meals, et cetera, et cetera. So you found in your personal experience that it was liberating to you as a mom, as a woman. So talk a little bit about that experience as the facets of that and how, again, how city design plays into it.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah, it's interesting. I think a lot more recently there's been talk of how do we make our cities more gender equitable? How do we make it so that we can better share the care work — so that's unpaid work that women still predominantly do — as you said, how do we better distribute that? And how our cities are designed, has a very big effect on that because, in my case, moving here with two pre-teens and having the ability to set them out on their own, the task of chaperoning them from school, to activities, to friends houses.

David Roberts

You don't have to be a soccer mom.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah. It's all but removed. They can do it themselves because the environment is safe enough for them to do it. But also, just like those small trips that we overlook in the day. So going to pick up food from the grocery store, or going to pick up medication, or visiting with your own friends, or having these social interactions, going out for dinner and such. We don't think about it enough in terms of how we are making it harder for women, but people in general to move around, to be able to do those trips easily without having to default to the car, in a lot of places like North America.

David Roberts

Well, you make such a good point, that so much city planning is about the residence, and the commute, and the 9-5 workplace, which is mostly the dad, right? And that's what they get designed around.

Melissa Bruntlett

Exactly. And that's in part a result of like a century of planning, male-dominated planning. And I am, I'm always careful to caveat that it's not this like, mission of men for the last hundred years to hold women back, but we design based on our experiences. So if the people making the decisions around how our cities are planned are predominantly making the commute, predominantly men who are just looking at how do I get from home to work and back again as efficiently, we don't think about how our cities connect to the opportunities for care work.

Whereas what I've experienced moving here, and it's not necessarily by purposeful design, but by creating spaces where you have cycle infrastructure on virtually every street, almost every neighborhood street is traffic-calm, to a speed of 30 km an hour or less, you sort of make it much easier for someone to say, "okay, wait a second, I'm on my way home from work, but I need to stop at the store. I'm going to make this very easy turn to this other traffic-calm street, or this other cycle way, to stop at the grocery store. And it's not going to disrupt my journey in any way, shape or form to make it comfortable and easy." Whereas a similar journey for myself back in Vancouver, although it is a very progressive city for cycling, would require me to go way off of the cycling infrastructure, put myself in traffic, in uncomfortable situations, just to go pick up some milk, to make sure we had something for cereal in the morning.

And those little touches over time build up to create a much more networked approach, a much more easily accessible city that makes it easier for women, and also makes it easier for men. So we see a lot more sharing of duties here. You see a lot more dads doing the drop-off at school, you see equal sets of men and women going to the grocery store to do those kind of care trips. And it's, in part, made easier because the streets are easily navigated not just by car. Well, I would argue here it's a little bit harder to navigate by car, but much easier to navigate on a bicycle or on foot, which makes it easy for women, but it also frees up time for both partners in a relationship. And it allows kids to be free, so that you don't have to do the soccer mom or soccer dad journey. You can spend your time with each other being happy, as opposed to miserable and commuting kids around cities.

David Roberts

Right. And you talk about how so many times in Vancouver which, as we keep saying, is relative to the rest of North America ahead of the curb on this stuff, but that you are just one of the very few women out, and you're out on your Dutch bike in your normal clothes surrounded by I forget what the acronym is.

Melissa Bruntlett

Middle aged men in lycra.

David Roberts

Yes. Middle aged men in lycra. The Seattle biking culture. And just having more women around, alone, is such an effect.

Melissa Bruntlett

Exactly. Yeah. I think I refer to it in the book as, like, no longer feeling alone, or no longer feeling like getting on my bike is some sort of act of political.

David Roberts

A statement.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah, exactly. It's more just — exactly like our kids don't want to cycle recreationally. Getting on my bike now is just a purposeful trip to get me where I need to get to, and to be around so many other women, is really comforting to know that I'm around people that are like me, and I feel safer. I feel more comfortable. And although I'm still obviously making a political statement in my day-to-day work, it's nice to just feel like one of the crowd, for my trip to the store and otherwise.

David Roberts

Right, so we're running out of time. But Chris, I wanted to talk about one other thing. There's a bunch of other chapters in here that I'd love to get into, but I don't want to make you guys reprieve your whole book. Like, there's a great chapter on noise, with a lot of interesting stuff in it. The benefits of quieter cities. There's a chapter on accessibility for people with disabilities, et cetera, et cetera. But before we go, I want to touch on one which is increasingly personally relevant. Let's say, i.e. aging. Why is such a nightmare to age in car-centric cities?

Chris Bruntlett

Well, we've heard it referred to as silver tsunami. There's this impending wave of baby boomers that are about to retire, and we've come to the realization. And I think people are coming to the realization, that our cities are not ready for this silver tsunami that's coming. Because there's this assumption that we'll be able to drive a car forever. Because that's the way our cities are designed, and that's the way that people maintain their freedom and their independence. The fact of the matter is, we won't be able to drive forever. The American Automobile Association, themselves, says we outlive our ability to drive safely by seven to ten years because of reduced reaction times, reduced eyesight, et cetera.

And the question becomes, what do we do for those seven to ten years? Are we housebound? Are we dependent on others for our transportation needs? Are we institutionalized? We suddenly have our wings clipped, if we're in that environment where the car is the only way to get from A to B. And we've seen this firsthand. My grandfather lost his driver's license in his 80s and spiraled into a type of depression because he could no longer participate in society on his own terms.

David Roberts

We were talking about the importance of autonomy, and it's not just for kids either, right? Like a sense of autonomy, and ability to control your own affairs, is just constitutive of human psychological well-being at any age.

Melissa Bruntlett

Absolutely.

Chris Bruntlett

Exactly. Yeah. And so it's fascinating to us that the 65-75 demographic in the Netherlands cycles more than any other adult age group. It's 30% to 35% of all journeys by that age group are on a bicycle. Because cycling is more than just a means of transportation to them. It's a means of participating in society, of social inclusion, of getting to the community center, the sports club, the grocery store, the friends houses, and everywhere in between. In building cities around the car, we created this environment where people are losing their ability to participate in society as soon as that driver's license gets taken away.

So, yeah, we tried to make the case that we should be, instead of using elderly people as a reason not to change the status quo, because there is this assumption that they reliance on their cars. And any restriction in car freedom is exclusionary to people with disabilities and people with less mobility. The fact of the matter is they're not going to be able to drive forever. And the more we can do to build choice, to build options into our streets and our infrastructure, the aging population is one that's going to benefit, and they will be able to grow old gracefully on the streets where they grew up instead.

David Roberts

Right, aging in place. That's what I wanted to touch on that, too, because I think anybody understands the appeal of aging in place, of having familiar things around you, of having a community around you that knows you and checks in on you, et cetera.

And it's sort of sad and ironic, I guess, in a way, that a lot of the housing crisis in the US is sort of driven by these boomer nimbys who really just want to age in place. They don't want to let go of their homes, right? They don't want to sell their homes or allow their neighborhoods to change. And in that case, it's kind of having nightmarish effects. But the desire to age in place is very human. Talk about these brothers who live on your street. I love this. It's such an interesting little sort of vista, this street you describe in these families on it.

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah, Peter has been mentioned once already in this discussion and really came into our lives by accident. Melissa locked herself out of the house one morning and found herself standing in Peter's front room, when he volunteered to help, and proceeded over coffee to tell his life story. He was born on that street, has lived there his 75+ years.

David Roberts

That is so wild. I mean, I guess it wasn't that long ago in human history that that kind of thing was very common, or even the norm. But it is so wild to think about now. A little street, the same little street for 75 years.

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah. And it's not just Peter. It's his brother Chris, who is his next door neighbor, and also two other brothers live on the street or around the corner. And it's kind of nice for us to see this and see this family being able to be so close together. But I think what's really poignant, we talk about it a little bit in the book, is Peter's brother Chris suffers from Alzheimer's, and we bump into Peter every once in a while. And Chris is not getting better. It's very rare that someone gets better from having Alzheimer's, but he's allowed to stay in that home because his brother's right next door, because he has this community around him that comes and visits him regularly.

David Roberts

Right.

Melissa Bruntlett

And Chris mentioned being institutionalized earlier. I would think in a North American context, he would already be living in a home under regular care and removed from that social environment that allows him, even though he might not realize it, to remain connected with his community as this disease progresses for him.

David Roberts

When you're aging, it's more important than ever. Those spontaneous encounters we were talking about, like, when you're old, it's like grim to say, but there's not a ton of people who are going to make special plans to drive and see you.

Chris Bruntlett

Exactly. And Peter worked at an elementary school. He was a teacher for many, many years, so he shared that he often bumps into former students and parents of former students. Delft is his home, and he knows a significant portion of the population here, and bumps into them on a regular basis because he moves around the city. He's never had a driver's license, never owned a car, and because he moves around the city on foot or bicycle, has those high, high moments where he bumps into people, and it brightens up his day, gives him that shot of oxytocin and improves his mental and physical health. And shouldn't that be something that we're all striving for, in terms of creating cities that work in that manner?

David Roberts

I mean, this is what any doctor will tell you is good for older people. Get out, get moving, have social interactions. Those make every other health problem better. But if you live, I keep returning to a subject, but if you live out in some suburb, and you're old, a couple of square miles around you, are nothing at best but sidewalks and single family homes, like, where you don't see many people out in the street. I'm speaking from experience now, like, walking my dogs all over suburbs, all around Seattle, and there's just not a lot of people out. You just don't see a lot of people, and there's not a lot of visual interest. There's not a lot of spontaneous social contact. It doesn't pull you out.

Melissa Bruntlett

I mean, it's a recurring theme throughout the book. And we realized that as we were probably, like, halfway through, this constant recurrence is this idea of autonomy and social interaction. And if we can have a balance of being in control of how we move around, no matter what age, or what background, or what ability, but then also having those opportunities to see other people. Cities that enable that, are the ones that are the healthiest for people, that allow them to live at their most healthy. It's something that I think North American cities are struggling with. How do we enable that, now, after decades of car-based transportation and design?How do we shift?

And it's a slow process, but from what we've experienced in this most recent trip to Canada and what we watch and see on social media, there are a lot of people working to get us there. But yeah, we say the whole time, we're very fortunate, and we understand the privilege that we have to have been able to make this move. So that we don't have to wait decades for our city to look like that. We now get to live like that every day.

David Roberts

Is your current plan to dig in in Delft and stay for the long haul?

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah. We often joke that they will have to drag us out of the Netherlands, kicking and screaming, at this point. We've purchased a home where the kids have settled, found their tribes, their social circles. Melissa and I couldn't be happier, personally, professionally. Things are pretty splendid right now. And the Netherlands is the long-term plan. We do see ourselves growing old here. And barring any kind of seismic change in politics or global events, it is home for the foreseeable future.

David Roberts

I'm so jealous. Your book and this guy who makes videos, Not Just Bikes. I'm sure you're probably familiar with these videos he makes.

Melissa Bruntlett

We're friends.

David Roberts

Oh, yeah, right. He moved to the Netherlands too. And I was just, like, just rubbing it in, all these videos. It's cute kid trains, traveling to school.

So as a final question, a slight bit of ramble and then a probably unanswerable question will be great to go out with. We discussed at the beginning how this book sort of originated an experience. And I think about this a lot when talking about urban issues and urban planning, which is like there are some public policy issues where I feel like, at least to some extent, you can persuade other people with sort of facts, and evidence, and research, and empirical data, and all this kind of thing. There's a strong intellectual component to it, like, sort of what kind of healthcare system works, or something like that.

But I find, talking about these issues, that it's just experiential at its core. You have to experience the feeling of being in public spaces that are calm, and nice, and sociable, and walkable, and connected, and really feel what it means for your own autonomy, your own health, and everything else, to understand this stuff, to know what is lacking in most North American cities. But just trying to explain it with words to people who live in North America or have lived in North America all their lives.

You devoted your life basically to preaching the benefits of this stuff. What do you find works? Do you feel like if you want to persuade people? Like, I've often thought if I was rich, I would just start a program where I just sort of shuttle like 10-12 kids at a time over, to live in the Netherlands for two weeks, three weeks, whatever. I honestly think that would create such an immense change, if you could just give all of them a taste. But now that you're out in the persuasion business, what do you find works? And do you also find that there's a certain experiential core to it that you just kind of can't talk around?

Melissa Bruntlett

Yeah, I think part of the success that Chris and I have been able to enjoy, in terms of the work that we do, is very much this idea of showing rather than telling. Although, obviously, all of our pictures come with words associated with them, but very much showing people what is possible and providing that visual inspiration for individuals. But it does come down to — we are so focused on sharing how it makes us feel. We are, as a society, much less focused, general society, not technicians or those kinds of people working in the field, but the average person wants to know how a proposed change is going to make them feel. And so it's really important for us that we try to evoke those feelings and the images that we choose, and the words that we choose, to just help them understand.

But I think part of our day-to-day jobs are very much sharing the experience, with the technicians, with the politicians that travel to the Netherlands, to help them understand how different it feels to move around a city where you prioritize moving at a human scale, be it walking, rolling in a wheelchair or otherwise, or rolling with a bicycle. And that experience is really important. And I think what you see in a lot of cities that are moving towards that, or are starting to carve back space for walking and cycling in North America or in other European or other cities around the world, is once people experience that change, it's very hard to move back to what it was before. People are less prone to accept it.

David Roberts

It's such a red pill. I don't know, whatever the analogy the kids use, such a red pill situation. I found that ... I went and spent three weeks in Barcelona, and I felt like it just completely poisoned me. Like I walk around in Seattle now all the time, or drive around in Seattle all the time, looking around, just going like you could fit a whole community right there in that parking lot. I just can't enjoy North American land use anymore. I almost wish I could go back and just not know sometimes.

Final question, because you touched on it, and it occurred to me to wonder, Chris, you're in this sort of evangelical organization now about Dutch bikes, and biking land use, and all this kind of stuff. My default position, my default attitude toward American cities is that they're kind of hopeless on the score, that the mistakes are so extensive and long-lived that it's just reversing, seems unfathomably difficult, and long, and, like, I'm not going to see it in my lifetime. Have you seen anything from traveling around and talking about this stuff in North American cities that would contradict that? Do you see signs of hope?

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah, absolutely. And I think this is, well, something that we experience all the time, as once you start mentioning the Netherlands, definitely to an American audience, the initial reaction is always, "well, that's irrelevant because it's different context, a different culture, a different built environment." But the fact of the matter is, these principles that we summarize in our books, and now export internationally, are really universal. When you talk about things like network design, like intersection design, like combining cycling and public transportation, car traffic-calming and traffic circulation, they can be applied virtually anywhere, including Rotterdam, which is a very car-orientated city, or at least it was for a long period of time after the Second World War until it was retrofit.

And we do now have these rather inspiring examples of cities that have moved fairly quickly, not just in Europe, but in America. Austin, Texas, always comes to mind as a place where the Dutch Cycling Embassy, specifically, has worked for ten years now, through workshops, through study visits, through knowledge exchanges, applying these Dutch principles to what are probably some of the more car-oriented streets in the world, in the heart of Texas. But they're in the process right now. They're ten years into building out a 20 year, 650 kilometer network of cycle lanes that have been regularly put on the ballot, and funded overwhelmingly, and supported by the population there, because they've been so carefully thought out using best practice from the Netherlands and translated to a place like Austin.

So if Austin can do it, virtually anywhere can. I'm actually visiting there this October to do another workshop and pick up this process. It is, of course, yeah, two decades long haul, so nothing's going to happen overnight. But with the right strategy, the right plans, the right approach, and an open mind to learn from a country that has figured out what works and what doesn't work, instead of going out on your own, and making those mistakes, and stubbornly ignoring what the Netherlands has achieved and what it has to offer.

David Roberts

Trying to solve your problems with car tunnels or pneumatic car tunnel tubes.

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah, well, that's a whole other topic for another podcast, perhaps. There's a new book, actually, "Rode to Nowhere", about the impact Silicon Valley is having, the negative impact that the Silicon Valley has having on transportation, and they are off ... Paris Marx I would recommend you speak to, if you have an opportunity.

David Roberts

Yes, I wish they would get right on this issue. It's bad that they're so bad on this.

Chris Bruntlett

Yeah, but at the end of the day, and you've said this yourself, coming to the Netherlands isn't possible for absolutely everybody. But one of the immense privileges we have at the Dutch Cycling Embassy is bringing study visits, targeted study visits to Dutch cities and showing them what's possible. City councilors, mayors, heads of departments of transport come to cities such as Rotterdam. And you see this light bulb moment, this twinkle in their eye, where they suddenly realize, my city could be like this. And I think it's a very important and accessible tool that we can use to bring the decision makers on board.

Because I would argue largely the population understands this. They get this. They're in support of this. They, of course, want their children to be safe, and they want to be able to age in place. It just requires that political leadership, that political capital, the understanding that it may seem controversial, but it's not only the right thing to do, it is the popular thing to do.

David Roberts

Right, well, on that hopeful note, we'll wrap it up. Thank you all so much. I'm jealous of you, but I appreciate you summarizing these experiences so well. This is a book I'm going to be nagging people to read, so thanks for coming on.

Chris Bruntlett

Really appreciate it.

Melissa Bruntlett

Thanks so much for having us. It's been fun.

David Roberts

Thank you for listening to the Volts podcast. It is ad-free, powered entirely by listeners like you. If you value conversations like this, please consider becoming a paid Volts subscriber at volts.wtf. Yes, that's volts.wtf, so that I can continue doing this work. Thank you so much, and I'll see you next time.

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Volts

Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)