What. A. Year.
While by all accounts 2017 was nothing short of a dumpster fire (largely credited to he who shall remain nameless), on a personal level it will go down as one of my most favourite years yet.
Academically, it was an interesting year, completing two experiments that gave me more insights into urban life. I’m excited to continue to shape my dissertation with the hopes the end product is useful to the public in providing an understanding of how our urban built environment impacts our feelings and behaviour. I also took some fascinating courses in urban planning and psychology that challenged me and made me reflect on how we can continue to apply research to real world problems.
Speaking engagements took me across the country to Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina and even across the world to Europe this past April. Travelling to diverse cities has been a blessing in that I’ve been able to explore them with a critical eye and see the great things they are doing when it comes to urbanism. Whenever I travel, I keep my own city (Kitchener) in the back of my mind and I think of ways I can bring some of this inspiration back home.
It is an exciting time for Kitchener. While the conversation on cycling infrastructure and walkability was frustrating (to put it mildly), I think some good came of it. I am hopeful that the City will move forward and make the smart decision to build out a minimum bike lane grid. I think it is essential if we want our city to be vibrant, healthy and safe. Furthermore, if we want to stay relevant in the national conversation on urbanism, we need to be bold and comfortable with ruffling a few feathers. We’re seeing cities across Canada move forward with minimum bike lane grids and I worry that Kitchener will be left behind if it doesn’t move fast in building one. I know we’ve got LRT coming, but we shouldn’t rest on our laurels with that accomplishment. There’s much more work to do in changing our car-centric culture.
This past year saw many debates, locally and nationally, on walkability and bikeability and I’ve done much reflecting on how to best go about initiating change. One of my urbanist resolutions (tweet me yours using #urbanistresolution) for 2018 is to spend more time listening, while fighting for the city that I believe in. I’m excited to see how that goes and to continue to learn from others who are fighting the same fight. On my travels I’ve met so many amazing city builders and advocates and seeing the work you all do to make your cities better is such a source of hope. Thank you.
Twitter (another dumpster fire, thanks to you know who), has continued to be a huge source of inspiration. The online conversations (and the in person ones they’ve lead to…) I’ve had with many of you this past year has changed the way I think about and see cities. I’m deeply grateful for the time and energy you’ve put into engaging with me (and others).
With that, I’ve decided to share my top 10 most popular tweets of 2017. Twitter is a great sounding board for ideas and when I see a tweet get a significant number of retweets or likes, I interpret it as the idea being expressed resonating with people, which is immensely helpful for me as a learning tool. That said, it’s important to be cautious of the urbanist echo chamber we can find ourselves in. I know I’ll be making an effort to hear the opinions of people I don’t agree with.
Anyways, thanks for engaging with me!
Let’s keep the conversation going in 2018.
Happy New Year, friends!