Job title: Transportation Mobility Consultant
Year graduated from Carolina Planning: 2016
Specialization at Carolina Planning: Transportation Planning
So I hear you have been working in the Netherlands for the last year, please tell me more.
As I neared graduation from Carolina Planning in the spring of 2016, I made plans to work in the Netherlands for 1 year. I always had a strong passion for bicycle mobility and knew the Netherlands was the best place for me to go and learn. I have been here for 11 months in total and have spent my time doing a mixture of public, non-profit, and private transportation mobility related work. I’ve had a fantastic time but the highlight was when I was worked for the Municipality of The Hague and performed a peer-analysis of Dutch bicycle mobility policies. Even though most Dutch cities have between twenty to fifty percent bicycle mode share, they are always seeking to improve their current systems. For the analysis I interviewed the bicycle policy advisors at ten Dutch cities to understand their greatest challenges and solutions to improving the bike-ability of their cities. I incorporated those findings into short and long-term recommendations which I provided to the Municipality of The Hague. Some of the recommendations are actually being incorporated into their bicycle mobility plan.
Video of presentation:
Can you describe your work at your current position?
I am currently working for Goudappel Coffeng, a private Dutch transportation mobility firm. They created a program called Excellent Cities, which is focused on exporting Dutch transportation expertise internationally. I’m helping to assess the feasibility of the program into the USA. In October 2017, I will travel with a colleague to Seattle, Washington to conduct a few workshop activities and network with transportation professionals in the area. Hopefully the visit will evolve into more long-term collaborative opportunities with Seattle.
What insights have you gained from your experience in the Netherlands?
The Dutch truly have the most bike-able country in the world, but this didn’t appear out of thin air. In the 1970s and 1980s most Dutch cities were very car-centric. The Dutch also thought the car was the future, but as car usage began to increase, the quality of life of urban life deteriorated due to high traffic fatality rates, poor air quality, and the loss of public space – the car simply consumed too much land. People protested for change and the government responded by re-valuing the public space. Over the last forty years there has been a direct focus on utilizing sustainable modes of transportation in conjunction with improving the public space for people.
Dutch cities are very space constrained, which necessitates a very prudent approach to planning. Cities in the USA are quite the opposite, there is so much land, but everything has its limits and we have exceeded ours. Thus my lessons learned and message to future planners is to be prudent in the choices you make for the places you plan and understand how they impact the public space. It took the Dutch over forty years of change to have the sustainable transportation system that they have today, so there is still much hope for cities in the USA!
What advice would you offer to those considering planning school?
I truly believe that planning school and the profession itself is a powerful way to pursue a career that has a direct influence on the built and natural environment.
As for Carolina Planning, I really felt at home in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area and with the students, staff, and faculty of the department. There was always a positive energy for me in that place and it was a great starting point for me.
What advice would you offer to those on the market for a career in planning?
There are so many different aspects to planning. Whether its housing, transportation, land-use or environmental planning, it’s all about creating beautiful places while preserving those few remaining places of natural beauty. I can’t think of a more amazing profession. Find an angle that you’re passionate about and pursue it. The passion will fuel your growth and you will have a rewarding career.
I will be heading back to the states in late October and will look for work shortly after. I am not exactly sure where I will end up, but I will definitely continue my career in bicycle mobility. In the long-term, I will focus on helping disadvantaged communities realize more sustainable transportation systems. I am tired of seeing those communities lack sidewalks and bike paths. I also aspire to take this effort a step further and help those communities overcome the many barriers that impede them from utilizing the bicycle as a form of transportation. Obviously infrastructure is a barrier, but there are many other known and unknown obstacles that also need to be addressed.
What’s the best way to get in touch with you for further questions?
If anything in this article caught your interest please reach out to me to chat further. I prefer being contacted via LinkedIn, but email is fine too. GO HEELS!