Amsterdam is arguably the biking capital of the world.Spend even just a day there and you’ll see firsthand the massive volume of Dutch bicyclists that constantly cover Amsterdam’s streets. Stay there long enough, and you might notice how happy the Dutch seem to be. (A quick google search of the World Happiness Report puts the Netherlands at the 6th happiest country and the U.S. at 18th). I think a key to their happiness is that the Dutch are presented with abundant mobility options. Yes,they can drive, but there is public transit, the cities are walkable, and the emphasis on bicycling and bike infrastructure is unparalleled. The Dutch don’t spend over an hour each commute night sitting in frustrating traffic, because they have other feasible transportation options. The urban planners in the Netherlands successfully connected networks of bike paths and public transit, created narrow streets to slower drivers, and wide, attractive sidewalks to encourage pedestrians.
In the U.S., public transit use and bicycle networks are far from the high Dutch standard. Instead, the average American relies on personal vehicles and sits in ridiculous amounts of traffic. When Americans arrive home after their daily commute, they tend not to decrease the time that they spend watching TV. Time at the gym, with family, and sleep all decrease, and so does happiness. Having better options besides cars- transit that allows for reading time, or walking and biking which provide exercise, are factors that contributes to happiness. Aside from needing urban planners to help make other transportation options a reality, the U.S. needs urban planning leaders. There is no right answer or way to improve multimodal choices and contribute to American happiness. The best leaders understand that, so they lead with curiosity and passion. Leaders also focus on professional growth, which includes networking. This combination can put urban planning leaders in touch with others that have experience with reducing car-centric transportation and assist with creativity and new ideas. Collaboration between leaders is an important step that will manifest as urban planning leaders make their way in the field. Urban planners must work together to improve cities by providing multimodal transportation options to everyone, and simultaneously increasing our happiness.
-Written by Marissa Brown