It was an incredible—and surprising—honor to be included in the “100 Most Influential Urbanists” list by Planetizen this month. As many of you know, I started my foray into the world of urbanism in my neighborhood of Oak Cliff in-between working a day job as an IT consultant. In the evenings, I would study the works of several legends on the list including Jane Jacobs, William Whyte, and Jaime Lerner. The projects I helped steward—streetcar initiatives, rogue bike infrastructure, and ultimately Better Block projects—all stemmed from trying to apply their ideas. At the time, I worried that being a novice to city planning would make it impossible to be legitimized among professionals. The amazing thing I learned was that cities are very intuitive and understandable, but we’ve allowed ourselves to break common principles and practices over time and given the reigns to the perceived “experts.” Dedicating my work life to giving the keys and tools to the “everyman” and “everywoman” to take back their neighborhoods and shape them based on timeless patterns and ideas has been my passion ever since. Being added to the Planetizen list was validation I had never imagined would occur.
Since those first Better Block projects in 2008, I’ve had the rare privilege to leave the IT career I assumed I’d always be in, and devote my time to working on cities. In that time, I’ve had the honor to present and work alongside several of the people on the top 100 Urbanists list including Jan Gehl, Carol Coletta, Gil Penalosa, Jeff Speck, Fred Kent, Charles Marohn, Joseph Minicozzi, and Mike Lydon. They’ve not only been inspiring mentors, but have become some of my closest friends.
Coming full circle, the real honor for this list goes to the incredible community that helped me pull together all the initiatives we started. They believed in some of these crazy ideas to just take back our streets, and define them the way we’d like. Many of my earliest champions didn’t know a bike lane from a bus lane, but they were willing to study and learn alongside me, and carry the paint bucket or print out the laws we’d break to make a better place. There are countless names to thank here, and I’d be afraid of missing so many, but none of it would have been possible without them, without you. To all of you, I’m eternally grateful.