I have always been drawn to working internationally. I grew up in the Netherlands, but for the past 7 years I have lived in Helsingborg, in southern Sweden. During my studies I did an internship in New York City and Kampala, Uganda, two different but also very inspiring places. In the Netherlands, I worked for the Municipality of Leiden and worked on many participation projects as part of the amazing Singelpark initiative. When I was given the chance to work as a traffic planner for IKEA I jumped on it, even though it meant that I had to move to Sweden. Luckily, my wife (then girlfriend) decided to move with me. I ended up in a diverse international team working on IKEA projects all over the world. In my role I had the privilege to travel to various countries and work together with local people on the ground.
Helsingborg proved to be a great place to live. My wife and I enjoyed exploring the city and the surrounding countryside, like the Kullaberg peninsula. We frequently took the ferry across to Helsingør to explore Denmark, and Copenhagen was also just a short train ride away. Most of all, we loved trying out the Swedish fika culture (having coffee with some cake) in one of the many cafes nearby. We made many friends over the years, most of them internationals. Living abroad and talking to people from different backgrounds gave us a more open perspective of life and other cultures, which has been extremely rewarding.
After a few years, I decided I wanted to contribute more to sustainable mobility and liveable places. I started working for Ramboll, a large Danish consultancy. Given my background, I quickly gravitated towards projects that focused on walking and cycling. Together with colleagues from various countries I worked on projects across Scandinavia, as well as Germany and Ireland. I quickly noticed that I am skilled at bringing ideas from one place to another. I often use this to inspire people, to show what streets could look like if we would design them differently. My experience helps me to visualize and explain best practices from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and other places. I can combine ideas from different contexts and, together with local partners, create tailor-made solutions that fit the local environment.
At the start of this year my son was born. This made me even more aware of mobility in our cities and how car-oriented streets can really limit people in their freedom. As a young family, we frequently walk with our son in a stroller. Despite living in a relatively walkable place, it is still a struggle sometimes. Especially when cars, parked legally or illegally, frequently block your way. While it is an inconvenience for us, it can be a large barrier for people that rely on a rollator or wheelchair to get around. I also envision what it will be like for my son when he gets a little bit older. It would be great if he could walk or cycle to school and visit his friends, but the urban environment is often not inviting or safe to children. I hope to change this so that he and other children will have more freedom to move independently and safely.
Now that I have joined Mobycon, I will continue to work internationally, helping cities become more walkable, cycleable, and liveable. I am excited to do this alongside a group of highly skilled and motivated colleagues. The new position has meant leaving our home in Sweden and moving back to the Netherlands, and we will miss the Swedish fikas, but we are looking forward to some Dutch poffertjes.
If you are looking to make mobility in your city more sustainable and liveable but could use some support, feel free to reach out. My new colleagues and I would be happy to help!