James Thoem

Urban Planner
Copenhagenize Design Co.

We are excited to announce that James Thoem, Partner & Urban Planner at Copenhagenize Design Co. is joining #PIACongress18 as one of our Keynote Speakers. James will also be hosting an engaging, interactive Bicycle Urbanism Masterclass.

Trained as an Urban Planner in Canada and Sweden, James brings with him an academic and professional background to managing projects at Copenhagenize Design Co.

We had a chat with James to gather some insight into what Planners can expect from the Masterclass.

What sparked your passion for bicycle urbanism?
One of the main things that strike people when they visit or come and live in Copenhagen is how much easier and more accessible the city becomes when the bicycle is accommodated as an everyday mode of transportation.

I know when I leave my house at 8:30 in the morning, that I will be here in the office at 8:55, no matter whether it is raining or there’s a traffic jam, my bike will get me there in a predictable way. You can’t say the same about public transport or private automobiles. That’s one of the things that serve as an eye opener to show how functional and efficient the bicycle can be as an everyday mode of transportation.

With my Urban Planning background, it didn’t take much of a stretch to understand that what we have in Copenhagen can easily fit into other cities, it’s not particularly a societal thing, it is just a tool, the bicycle is a tool to get around our urban landscapes. I started working from there with Copenhagenize to help other cities realise the potential of the bicycle.

Tell us a little bit about what Planners can expect from the Masterclass.
It’s a one-day event, kicking off the morning with an introduction to bicycle urbanism and what’s happening in terms of best practice for bicycle infrastructure around the world and then slip into a discussion around the actual on the ground infrastructure, including bike lines, cycle networks and all the other small details – what they actually look like first hand.

Will planners have a chance to engage in the Masterclass?
We are aiming for the Workshop to be highly engaging and we want to take people out into the field and have them look at real life cycling and infrastructure, critically looking at the intersection between the two.

Cyclist’s behaviour is often based on the infrastructure that they have available to them and it will be good to see what conclusions the planners in the workshop can draw from that within the brief observational workshop.

What are the 3 key take homes from the Masterclass?
The primary take home would be that the bicycle is a legitimate mode of transportation and can be accommodated as such, secondly there is best practice infrastructure out there that is working and planners shouldn’t feel that they need to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel.

The third take home would be that the bicycle should be talked about in a constructive way that paints it as a mode of transportation, rather than a recreational tool for children or a weekend ride for middle class guys in lycra. It’s just the simple bicycle that works for people of all stripes.

What’s the importance of data collection for planning more cycle friendly cities?
In the words of former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg when he famously said to his staff, ‘In God we trust. Everyone else, bring data.’ That is the important part to achieving change on the urban landscape, whether it’s public transport investment, land use planning, automobile planning and of course it’s important for cycling also.

What are you looking forward to most about Congress 2018?
I am really looking forward to the discussions with Planners from all around Australia and working in different contexts, sharing similar aspirations for what is possible for our cities and bringing a bicycle urbanism focus to that discussion.

Hopefully I will be able to open people’s eyes and engaging discussions around the bicycle as a main mode of transportation.

What advice do you have for young planners who are thinking of attending Congress?
These types of events are incredible networking opportunities, but at the same time you also get an idea of what’s happening in the field professionally. You also get to experience discussions around what you’ve been working on and can really impact your career by speaking to the right people.

Have you travelled to Perth before?
I have never been to Australia before, so really looking forward to it. In particular, I’m really looking forward to getting some sun. Is that really touristy? Perth really intrigues me as a City and also as a Canadian too, we have a lot of space and our cities are really spread out, so I’m interested to see what parallels I can see between Perth and the other cities that I’ve travelled to in the past.