In May 2022, our North American team welcome Emily Thomason to Mobycon. Emily is already actively working on projects throughout Canada and the USA, and shares a little more about her experience and passion for sustainable mobility.
I’m so excited to join the Mobycon team! I’m passionate about Dutch urbanism and all the lessons it offers for shaping North American mobility design. I get excited about cycling design that is centered around the experience of users with a variety of needs and abilities. Good design should feel comfortable for everyone; parents biking along with wobbly kids, people recovering from surgery, our seniors, etc. I love creating designs that make cycling easy, seamless and comfortable.
But I didn’t start out dreaming about multi-level bike parking and protected intersections.
I grew up in a rural area in the USA, which was lovely – with my thousand closest neighbors were trees. But living remotely offered limited mobility for a child, making getting in a car necessary to get anywhere. I learned how to cycle as a kid, but my adventures were limited to parks and parking lots. I was surrounded by the message that when I grew up, I’d “upgrade” from a bike to a car. So, at 16, I got my driver’s license and spent the next few years driving everywhere – to work, to see friends, even to class sometimes when it was cold or rainy.
So, when I met my future-husband and found out he’d never owned a car, my North American mental training kicked in and I quietly wondered what was wrong with him. It didn’t stop me from marrying him, but I always found it eccentric that he chose to bike so many places. Until I traveled to the Netherlands.
On a whim, we rented bikes and suddenly I understood why people of all ages and abilities around me were cycling. I felt total freedom while cycling – the wind on my face, with the canals and narrow houses of Amsterdam slowly rolling by. Cycling is the perfect speed to absorb the sights and sounds of a new place. I was able to observe the many ways Amsterdam was oriented around people, rather than cars, witnessing firsthand the difference that made for my experience as a user. I felt relaxed, safe, and free. Even when it was hot or raining, I was happy to cycle.
When I returned to North America, I was instantly reminded why it had never occurred to me to cycle to work, friends, or the grocery store. The built environment screamed “don’t cycle here!” with wide roads, high vehicle speeds, dangerous crossings, limited sidewalks, and very few dedicated spaces to cycle. That was when I jumped into local active transportation advocacy to make my surroundings better for cycling. But I also wanted to shape the transportation environment professionally, so I got a Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning.
Since then, I’ve worked on cycle, pedestrian and transit planning for clients across North America and Europe. I’ve also traveled all over Europe (on bikes, trains, trams and boats), absorbing examples of creative, people-centered design. I’ve done on-the-ground studies of cycling facilities in Denmark and the Netherlands, with particular focus on protected intersections and roundabouts. I’ve discovered a passion for leading interactive workshops that teach through letting people see and understand for themselves.
I’m so excited to jump into this exciting work as part of the Mobycon team. If you have a good story about how you got interested in creating more people-focused places to walk, bike and live, or would like to chat about how we can work together to make your community better for cycling, send me an email.
‘When I first discovered safe, comfortable urban cycling in the Netherlands, I knew I wanted to help bring that kind of high-quality, people-focused infrastructure to North America. I’m excited to be able to do that as a member of the Mobycon team!’