Adding the human touch to new mobility


Mobility expert Martin Guit worked for the city of Rotterdam for 28 years. Now, he’s brought his extensive experience to Rebel. He tells us why he decided to transfer and talks about his vision for a new mobility. Martin believes we need to rethink and redesign the role of infrastructure in area development by taking more of a user perspective. In other words, by shifting the way we view it, from a problem to be solved to benefits to be gained.

Martin, you started at Rebel on 5 January. What has your new start been like?

Martin Guit: ‘I received a very warm welcome, and I’ve had great conversations with fellow Rebels who are also working on mobility and urban development. For example, one is working on parking related to shared mobility, and another on making business parks greener. I’ve noticed an instant connection there. Right now, I’m looking at the interaction between various topics and mobility, so see what the possibilities are within Rebel’s various ventures.’

Previously, you worked for the city of Rotterdam. Can you tell us something about your expertise and experience?

‘At the municipality, I had the official title of “mobility expert”, but that always seemed a bit pretentious to me. My role enabled me to see the bigger picture, connecting mobility with other disciplines and issues such as urban planning, the energy transition and natural surroundings.

‘My work centred on designing mobility and infrastructure in relation to urban development. A lot of it came down to making choices about the way people moved around in the growing inner city.

‘Over the past couple of decades, I worked on several projects at city, regional and national level, together with stakeholders and other public departments. One of the best projects was Rotterdam Central Station.’

You worked for the city for 28 years. What made you switch to Rebel after all this time?

‘I really wanted to develop my independent view of mobility and urban development. Rebel is a team of people that have been doing just that since they got started. I wanted to be a part of that group, to expand my vision and contribute to a new way of looking at how mobility can help create a better society. In the past I worked a lot with the people from Rebel, and I was always struck by their different perspective on various urban issues and mobility. I really enjoyed their way of thinking, and when I decided to leave the municipality, it was clear to me that only Rebel could be my new employer.’

What projects are you going to work on?

‘I’m starting by exploring the various mobility and urban development topics that Rebel is working on. My focus within mobility is the connection between public space and urban

development. Rebel works in accordance with the STOMP principle (stappen, trappen, OV, MaaS, personenwagens, or walking, cycling, public transport, MaaS and private cars), and I can definitely contribute my experience and help to put this principle into practice.

‘In cities, the priority is naturally to strengthen public transport, make way for pedestrians and bicycles, and decrease the presence of cars. Outside metropolitan areas, however, there are different needs.

‘At the moment, one of my first projects involves the Breda-Tilburg region. This region needs to urbanise and also wants to undergo a mobility transition in order to avoid local infrastructure getting clogged by car traffic. Our goal is to create a combined strategic package of mobility measures that contributes to the development of urbanisation with the approval of the different layers of government. Because I spent 28 years working for the “other side”, I understand what the different layers of government need with respect to this project.’

You are focusing on the mobility transition and urban development. What are some of the primary challenges at the moment?

The greatest challenge at the moment is developing the locations needed for housing before 2030. Within this topic, one of the main questions is about how we are to implement the mobility agreements at the city and regional levels. We need to rethink how we use highways around the development areas and existing cities. Using them only for cars is no longer sufficient or possible. So we need to rethink our strategy by redesigning and strengthening the alternatives. Walking and cycling need to be a greater priority in existing and new development areas.

‘The biggest challenge at this strategic level of thinking is getting the several layers of government (national, regional and local), the stakeholders and the developers to start working together on mobility issues. The major obstacle is how we are to diminish the increase in car traffic, while public transport continues to be scaled back. If we keep moving in that direction, there’s no way we can develop a better society and cities to live in, and the mobility transition only exist on paper.’

What’s the most important mobility lesson you’ve learned?

‘That we have to look at mobility issues from a human point of view. Too often, we see them as nothing more than a problem. For example, we tackle the issue of overcrowding on public transport during rush hour by redistributing commuters. That just moves the problem somewhere else.

‘Let’s turn things around. We’ve designed public spaces for people to work in, play sports, for recreation. If people want to participate in society, they have to be able to get there. In the current housing crisis, it would be interesting to see cities and regions put mobility first. Instead of just asking where people are going to live, we should ask: how are they going to get around?

‘The Erasmus MC in Rotterdam provides a good example. We asked whether it was desirable to have all these hospital employees coming to work by car, since there were a lot

of public transport options available. When we polled employees on the issue, it turned out that most of them were very willing to take alternative transport, as long as their employer was prepared to compensate them somehow.

‘The point is to create awareness. Don’t just expect people to leave their cars at home when commuting. Offer them an alternative.’

Lastly, what do you like to do when you’re not working?

‘I’m married with three kids (aged 21, 18 and 15), and a dog and a cat. Our youngest still lives at home and plays for football club Sparta. I also like to keep active myself with cycling, tennis, and running. And I follow most professional sports, from the Grand Slam tennis tournaments to the Tour de France, and soccer (Feyenoord), of course. Apart from that, I like to watch TV series, read and play games. It sometimes seems like there’s just not enough time!’

Interviewed and written by Tim Igor Snijders