Shifting perspectives and reimagining our streets

"Spend time building connections with a diversity of people and nurture the relationships in your life. I’ve found this commitment makes me happier, keeps me motivated and has opened up many opportunities."

SCARP Student Tracy Rachel Wilkins

Tracy Rachel Wilkins

As a passionate advocate for connected and sustainable cities, both my personal and professional experiences have focused on building healthier and happier individuals and communities. I'm intrigued by the correlation between the movement of people and the utilization of streets, and how it impacts the well-being of both our cities and their inhabitants. Helping shift perspectives as well as finding creative ways to engage people in conversation through programming is the angle I’m exploring these topics from. 

I am currently the School Active Travel Planner for the City of Vancouver, where I develop and manage programs to encourage active travel to and from elementary and high schools. My work experience has also included managing HUB Cycling's engagement programs and supporting Happy Cities as a Junior Planner. 

I was born and raised in Vancouver but lived in Montreal for five years as I completed my undergraduate degree in Sociology and Business at Concordia University. I also spent six months in Lund, Sweden as an exchange student. 

School of Community and Regional Planning

Why did you choose to go into your field of study at UBC? 

My interest in planning began during my work as a bike advocate. Working at HUB Cycling provided an avenue to tackle several topics that were important to me, including the environment, physical and mental health, and community building. My experience living in Montreal and Sweden, as well as my backpacking trip through Europe has also contributed to my passion for planning as I witnessed how much happier, healthier and more equitable cities can be when the car doesn’t dominate.

What keeps me motivated is my endless curiosity about the influence the built form has on our wellbeing, and my passion for encouraging people to reimagine what our streets could be used for.

What have you learned that is most valuable?

I feel as though my degree in planning was really about learning how to be a better person. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend the past two years learning as it provided the space for self-reflection of my values, my biases and my privilege as well as the opportunity to learn from my cohort’s diverse experiences. 

Your advice to an incoming Community and Regional Planning student? 

Get involved in the community - join the Planning Students Association (PSA), organize a dinner with your cohort, get to know your professors, ask people that you are inspired by for coffee. It is such a privilege to go to school and the people around you are worth getting to know. 

Oh and make sure you go to Nitobe Gardens and Wreck Beach at least a few times. I regret not spending more time in these incredible spaces. I guess my advice more generally is to just get outside. 

Planning Students Association

Where do you find your inspiration for using your degree to make an impact on our world? 

I feel so lucky to have had the cohort that I did. They inspired me throughout my program and I can’t wait to see what they all do. 

I also feel very fortunate to have worked with Happy Cities throughout my degree. Happy Cities is known for thinking outside the box when it comes to community engagement and the design of our cities and for deeply centering equity in their work. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk and it was inspiring to work alongside a group of such talented people that are working to improve wellbeing in our cities. 

And finally, I found inspiration in my professors. Once I got to know many of the staff at SCARP, I was confident I’d chosen the right path. Not only because they are kind, passionate, brilliant, well rounded people but I felt that they genuinely had my best interest at heart and that was inspiring to me. Special thanks to James Connolly, Mike Hooper, Larry Beasley, Scot Hein and Maggie Low, to name a few.

What are some contributions you would like to make when it comes to the future of your work?

With nearly 40% of our emissions coming from vehicles in Vancouver, shifting how we move and our reliance on the motor vehicle to get around has an important role to play for the health of our planet. It also has an important role to play in making our cities more livable and happier by creating more spaces to walk, bike, play, and meet strangers. I hope to continue working in this area by helping to shift perspectives of what our streets could be for and helping those who are able to, to get out of their cars.  

In my current role as the City of Vancouver’s School Active Travel Planner I’m working a lot with children. One thing we’re considering right now is the degree to which we take the perspectives of children into consideration when planning and designing the future of our cities. It is critical as planners that we build capacity in our communities and bring new voices to the table. This is one area I’d like to explore more.

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