Polder Politics

In recent years, you can hardly discuss any kind of urban planning topic without running into articles about The Netherlands. Their bike-friendly built environment is the world's current poster child for how to do things right and thereby reverse car dependency for a world that desperately needs viable solutions.

It is the poster child not simply because of the current state of things but because it wasn't always so. The Netherlands is not a country that was always pedestrian- and bike-friendly. It was once much more like the US in terms of car dependence, more so than most European countries from what I gather.

Most people are fascinated with what they have built in The Netherlands. I am much more interested in how that came about.

What is the "magic" that allowed the Dutch people to transform their landscape from a car-centered hellscape that was killing kids to the current bike paradise that the world looks to as a ray of hope in the current gloom?

Most likely it is the fact that this transformation of the landscape is small potatoes for these people:
The Dutch have a saying: "God made the Earth, but the Dutch made Holland." ...Without the existing dikes 65 percent of the country would be flooded daily.
The flat lands carved out of the sea by dikes are called polders. The polders not only shape the physical landscape, they shape the social and political landscape of the Dutch people:
...different societies living in the same polder have been forced to cooperate because (otherwise)... the polders would have flooded... Crucially, even when different cities in the same polder were at war, they still had to cooperate in this respect. This is thought to have taught the Dutch to set aside differences for a greater purpose.
The world is very much in need of more of that ability to set aside differences for a greater purpose because "A storm is coming." Nay, it is already here.

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