In May 2023, Mobycon’s international team welcomed Elke Schimmel. She tells us a little more about her experiences on two continents.
I recently joined Mobycon as a Senior Advisor, and I am thrilled to collaborate with this highly motivated and experienced team that brings together individuals from various backgrounds, whether professional, national, or linguistic. With Mobycon, my goal is to assist both private and public stakeholders in maintaining high ambitions and achieving exceptional results in promoting sustainable mobility.
They were provocative, the statements I was confronted with statements at the beginning of my studies in spatial planning and development at the Vienna University of Technology (AT). “A normal person would describe our current living environment as utterly chaotic: we willingly retreat into houses with soundproof windows while leaving the outdoors to the noise, dust, and exhaust fumes of cars. Given the conditions we have created, driving a car is clearly the most enjoyable means of transportation.” Viennese professor Hermann Knoflacher has tirelessly advocated for a humane and healthy city for decades. He sent us students on a journey to contemplate how we can make the world less dependent on cars. This sparked my interest— and thus began my path towards promoting sustainable forms of mobility.
Driven by an interest in the Global South, I also pursued a degree in anthropology at the University of Vienna (AT). Although motorization levels in the Global South are still relatively low, this region is expected to experience significant population growth in the coming decades accompanied by increased prosperity, particularly in highly urbanized areas. In these regions, buses often play a prominent role as a mode of transportation. Therefore, it is crucial to initiate decarbonization strategies in these areas and ensure the provision of well-designed pedestrian and bicycle infrastructures to make the last mile enjoyable.
I feel comfortable in both Europe and Latin America, having worked in planning offices and development cooperation projects. In Europe, my favorite projects involved developing spatial and mobility concepts for cities, establishing cycling networks in urban and rural regions, defining criteria for car-free housing developments, and conducting an ex-ante evaluation of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in the world. In Latin America (where I worked for GIZ, among others), I worked on a study on identifying the mobility needs of slum dwellers and explored how cycling networks in countries with high crime rates should be designed to ensure people feel socially secure while biking. Don’t these questions sound fascinating?
I am also engaged with a Swiss association that advocates for greater gender sensitivity in urban planning and mobility, and I teach on this subject at the University of Liechtenstein. Since the 1970s, researchers, planners, and academics have been concerned with addressing whose needs are considered in (mobility) planning. There is now a substantial body of data and studies demonstrating the significance of considering gender in urban planning and mobility.
Across the globe, I observe a trend towards creating appealing alternatives to cars, and each country has its own share of failures and successes in this regard. If we want to shift mobility patterns, we must share our knowledge, establish interdisciplinary networks, and embrace openness and expertise. Additionally, we should remember that there are human beings behind every mobility decision and build connections with disciplines that tackle the intricacies of human behavior, such as psychology, behavioral science, sociology, and others.
Mobycon collaborates with clients and partners worldwide to support and foster innovation using Dutch-inspired approaches. The team at Mobycon is diverse, comprising communication experts, urban and transport planners, traffic engineers, and social scientists. This breadth of expertise is necessary to achieve the desired impact. I am eagerly looking forward to being part of this highly skilled and motivated team!
If you would like to learn how best to combine Mobycon’s expertise and the challenges you face, please contact me HERE. My new colleagues and I are happy to help!
A fairer distribution of space and the deconstruction of the car-oriented city increase the quality of urban life: our surroundings become more attractive and healthier, safer, and less noisy. All over the world, cities are building momentum for the transition to more sustainable forms of mobility. What an exciting time to be involved in shaping this transformation!