My specialty is experiential learning and empowering local leaders to take bold actions for better places. Since 2009, I’ve led more than 600 U.S. civic and community influencers — mayors, city councilors, civil servants, business leaders, non-profit executives, academics, journalists and YouTubers — on perspective-shifting study tours to the Netherlands and Denmark to experience world-class urbanism up close while interrogating the how, what, and why of urban transformation. Curated events like these are rocket fuel for a city’s ambition and also laboratories for self-reflection on how change happens at home. I can’t wait to get to work with my new Mobycon colleagues to help more community leaders convert big ideas from the Netherlands into practical actions.
For me, places that prioritize health and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change are personal. The twin crises of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have exposed the vulnerabilities of how our communities are built. Just days after I accepted the offer to work with Mobycon, hurricane-like winds fueled a fast-moving wildfire that torched drought-stricken grasslands and spread into nearby suburban communities, destroying entire neighborhoods near where I live in Boulder, Colorado, USA. The previously unimaginable impacts of climate changes are now just another average day. We need cities and towns that prioritize human life and de-prioritize carbon emissions more urgently than ever.
Yet the crises of the day are motivating cities worldwide to be more nimble and creative. Changing the way streets work is not easy. It takes courage, vision, shrewd tactics and committed leadership. Fortunately, the Dutch experience is available to inspire and inform us. It took the Netherlands 50 years of bold choices, successes, missteps and lucky timing to become the world’s most appreciated (and replicable) model for human-scaled urban design. The project of adapting North America’s streets to meet the mobility challenges of the 21st century is already well underway, and I’m genuinely optimistic that we can transform our communities, in our own way, in much less time.
Just about every project or plan could benefit from a little bit of Dutch inspiration. Let’s work together to make it happen.