Try to speak to a cook to get new ideas about mobility

Interview with Jorn Wemmenhove a Lior Steinberg form Happy Mobility/Humankind

You said in your presentation that when you want to analyze and structure a problem in a proper way you have to ask people you would normally never ask. Who are these people in particular?

Lior: So, in practical level, if you plan a playground what normally happens is that you ask parents. Maybe, if you plan a playground for children you should ask the children. In one project that we did we planned that playground with children, physically, we played with a model. Only then we created the playground.

When you said:,,people you would never ask“ first thing on my mind was that it will be people who dislike that idea or are against it from rational point of view.

Jorn: That is another option, but you have invite not too many, because then a mix of people gets too negative. If you want to create creative atmosphere in which new ideas can emerge you need very diverse group, the new voices. That is proven concept how to produce creative ideas. What we see often in departments of municipalities is, that the traffic engineers and there are many of them, sometimes don’t talk anymore to the education department or the health department, which could bring other challenges. If they talk together, that will be already a new fresh connection. In higher conceptual point, imagine a cook. The cook is often a man that is very tough because he has to be one who is running the kitchen, he needs to be responsible for logistics, that everything arrives on time and will be ready for dinner. He has also this creative touch, because he has to make food very nice arranged and tasty. He has very unique mix of qualities that can be very useful to create new ideas in mobility, but he is never invited by urbanists. It is just the idea: bring the cook in that process of forming new mobility concepts and you can get completely new, weird maybe, ideas. But it could be the start of new way looking at something. Jane Jacobs is well known urbanist, but she was a journalist. She was able to look and to investigate things different than typical urbanist. Sometimes you need to bring more journalists to investigate things. Maybe you need to get a job here… (laughter)

I feel like there is no interest to add people from different professions to these conceptual processes.

Jorn: Take philosophers, that is another very important profession to take a part in such decisions. Deputy officer for resilience cities program in Paris, is interesting woman she studied philosophy before and she said: I can’t anything with it. And now she came in the urbanism world and she changed her mind completely and she is saying: now I use most of what I have learned about philosophy and looking at thing in a complex way.

Have you found in Slovakia something to inspire you?

Jorn: It was busy trip I have seen enough, but in overall, I like it. We were surprised by nice areas for pedestrians, which very quite impressive with many green spaces. There was also nice mix of people using public space. I liked typical older architecture quite nice combined with new fresh architecture. And what about you?
Lior: I agree with you with pedestrians areas. They were really impressive compared to what we have in the Netherlands.

In what sense?

For example zone for pedestrians heading to the Presidential palace and that in the Obchodna street. There are hardly any cars, only trams, stay for bicycle share.

How can resolve the interaction between pedestrians and cyclists. There are many shared paths that both groups use, but I think there is not much respect between them. Is that a matter of culture evolving long enough to solve it?

Lior: To share that space is crazy solution, you need to separate it. If you put them to the same place you will create a fight, it is not fair.

Jorn: In general cyclist is just the faster pedestrian. He uses the bike to get faster. You need to give them proper space and there will be no fights. We don’t have many shared space experiments in the Netherlands, but many mixes of separated and shared paths. And actually, it was going quite well because you as the pedestrian and me as cyclist can make eye contact, you know where I will go, I can expect where you go. In car is that much more complicated. But what I see very often, cyclists don’t feel comfortable or safe so they cross to the pavement and tjat is the point where just conflict starts. Pedestrians complain and they have a point. But that is not problem of those two groups, it is the problem that cities give too much space for cars.

Many cities try to attract startup founders nowadays. You said, every city can be attractive for them, if it wants. What should such city do?

Lior: In order to attract startup you need to attract startup people. To do that you need good quality of life and to have various people in the city. Not only different nationalities, immigrants, but every age – older people, as well as children. Startup is a new way of looking at the problem, right? If you think of the great startup cities they all based on diversity of its people. Take development in Berlin, recently.

Bratislava is located on two borders, with Hungary and Austria. Before second world war, many citizens of Bratislava spoke three languages – Hungarian, Slovak and German. It is not case at the moment. Could be that part of the solution?

Lior: If you find the story, that will remained people how it used to be and that will be return to its roots. But in practical way… Is there the fast train via these three cities, or not?

I am not sure, but there visions to try to build the Hyperloop even.

Lior: Maybe that is a solution, to move quickly, from one city to another. And that attractions will be cultural, because three different nationalities could get close enough. You can create metropolitan area gradually and to profit from that.


The interviewer: Juraj Kantorík