During the Grand Depart, thousands of journalists stay at Dutch hotels. Many of them find a 'Bedtime Story' on their pillow. In chapter 1 we introduce you to cycling city Utrecht.
You know you’ve discovered Utrecht when
you can count more bikes than man.
Ever seen a city of the like?
Where even the mayor rides a bike.
You found me.
I’ve been awaiting your arrival. Please do not be confused, we have not met before. At this point I might still be a random brochure, or merely something the previous occupant left behind. And you could still be anybody, in need of a place to spend the night. But then again, neither of us are here by accident.
We had to find each other. You see, I am a narrator; I only exist when you listen. While you lay your eyes upon these words, I come to be. In return, I am here to tell you a story. Each night, when the sun meets the horizon, I’ll offer you a brand new chapter. During your stay, you will encounter four of them. Just like you found this one.
Every story needs a protagonist. This is where you step in; you are the main character. I’ll guide you along the way, wherever you’re needed to complete the storyline. Together, we’ll travel through vibrant Utrecht to unravel what might be its key to success. Make use of the map and visit the locations I’m going to tell you about. Or stay in this room, and instead let my words paint a picture inside your head. The choice is yours to make.
This story is about Utrecht. In the year 2013, this city was voted one of the happiest places in the world by the BBC. In 2012, Lonely Planet proclaimed it to be one of the world’s ten unsung places. And according to the European Commission, Utrecht is the current most competitive region in Europe. Although I am inside your head, I can’t read your every thought. But I’m sure you must wonder; what does Utrecht owe its success to? Being the all-knowing narrator, I have some answers, of course. But it wouldn’t be much of a story if I were to gave away the ending.
In Utrecht, inhabitants make more kilometers by bike than in any other city in The Netherlands. More than 43% of all traveling (for a distance of 7.5 kilometers or less) is done by bike. Utrecht has roughly 330,000 residents. However, it has even a greater number of bikes.
Perhaps a brand new day will tell us. Tomorrow, the Grand Départ takes place here in Utrecht. During this festive start of the most famous bicycle race known to mankind, numerous cyclists battle their way through these ancient streets. The bike has always been important to Utrecht. In many ways, it has shaped how its inhabitants live, work and pass through the world surrounding them. New contributions are made daily. For example, Utrecht currently builds the world’s largest indoor bicycle parking facility, which can accommodate 12,500 bicycles. And only last month, Utrecht put a new kind of dynamic parking guidance system to use. Not cars, but cyclists are guided to their parking facilities, which is a world’s first.
These large-scale innovations pave the way in becoming the world’s Bike Capital. However, there’s much more to this story. It’s rather the scale in which everyone within this city is involved and committed to solving its main challenges. Innovation seems to sprout where even the smallest ideas are given a chance to grow and evolve. In this story, you’ll meet several characters behind these ideas. Together with them, we’ll unravel the true story of the bike as Utrecht’s key to success.
Recent studies have shown that on average the Dutch live half a year longer because of their biking habits. This research by the Healthy Urban Living program (Utrecht University) was published last june in The American Journal of Public Health.
I’ll show you. Imagine a bike, parked outside this hotel. It will take you across town. Not just for the seeing of sights, but rather to provoke a profound change, one that occurs when you dare to explore new ideas. Go on. Grab the handlebars, hold tight, and take off.
Once upon a time, in one of the world’s happiest places to live…