Meet the team
John Emslie - Senior Director
What has changed for the better in transport planning in the past 10 years?
I’d like to think that transport planning’s image has improved from where we were, seen as a staid and obstructive to now being more progressive and creative, making a meaningful contribution to positive wider change. The old attitudes and behaviours are still out there, but overall we’ve opened-up and become more relevant.
Which topic in transport planning do you wish had more airtime?
How walking or cycling, or a change of home or work location can take some of the mundane daily stresses away. Cars have their place, but can be a massive pain to own and run. Arranging life to be non-car reliant can make a huge difference to everyday happiness and wellbeing. Yes, it’s about the planet, but why not make life a little easier too?
What’s one thing that surprised you about 10 years of Urban Flow?
Quite how welcome Urban Flow’s ‘offer’ was to clients and co-consultants, that is, being a bridge between the creatives and engineers. I’d often found a real communication barrier between those wielding Sharpies and those quoting design standards. Helping to bridge that gap has been immensely satisfying.
If you didn’t work in transport planning, what other career would you have?
The stage! I had a few goes at university and loved it. but, like all things, you have to be really driven. More realistically, psychology. I would have pursued my interest in people and human behaviour. I’m fascinated by the choices we make and the things we do and say.
Interesting fact about you that surprises people when you tell them?
That I’ve played electric guitar all my life I have around 30 guitars too - I lost count years ago! I’ve always played in gigging bands with no sign of stopping. Basically, I’m obsessed with guitars and guitar playing.
Lorna Sewell - Streets & Places Director
What is the biggest misconception people have about transport planning?
That it is just about transport and it is boring! Transport planning is about people in the first instance. We want to help people move around safely, efficiently and healthily, whether it be by foot, bike, bus or by car and create places that people really want to live and work in and enjoy. Transport planning is so important to everyday life so it is very exciting!
What are the current challenges in transport planning?
Obviously, the climate emergency is clearly a big challenge, but for me this doesn’t really resonate with everyday people, this is all to evident through the recent removal of a lot of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. So for me, the challenge is how we better collaborate with local communities and start from the ground up in supporting more sustainable choices.
Biggest career influence?
Probably my secondary school geography teachers, Mr Corbett and Mr Cope, without their passion and great teaching I probably wouldn’t have got very far in education or found my career.
How do you prefer to start and end your working day?
Normally starts with a coffee and some Headspace meditation. At the end of the day I will either hit the running track or go for an Ealing Eagles club run with my friends, then it will be a hot bath, some yummy food and an early night.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Scarlett Johansson or Cameron Diaz because they are amazing actresses! Comedian Miranda Hart would also have be a contender too, I can be a bit of a plonker sometimes - haha!
Simon Adams - Spatial Planning Director
What is your favourite project you’ve worked on to date?
Mount Street public realm improvements in Mayfair. It was an ambitious public realm scheme delivered by an engaged, forward-thinking client that has proved to be very successful and something of a template for many other projects across London and beyond. A real highlight was successfully removing a large traffic island and replacing it with a fantastic art installation.
Do you think London will be able to achieve its target of net zero carbon by 2030?
Sadly no as I think the scale and pace of change required is just too large and there’s not (yet) the groundswell of public support required to achieve it. Collectively we all need to ensure that as much change can be made as quickly as possible. Whilst decarbonsing transport through the increased use of electric vehicles is exceptionally important, we mustn’t lose sight of the imperative to reduce car use, be able to access services/facilities locally, and walk and cycle as much as possible.
What energises you at work?
Making a positive difference and working with a wide variety of fascinating professional disciplines, particularly when we are involved at early stages of projects and can shape projects/schemes rather than being an afterthought.
What's one hobby you'd love to get into?
I’m really looking forward to getting back into travelling again and enjoying the journey as much as the destination. My children still fondly remember a train trip from the south of France and putting a freshly-cooked pizza through the Gard du Nord x-ray machines…
‘What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions’ – clever and interesting science delivered in a wonderfully light-hearted way. It also really highlights the value of simple diagrams to explain often difficult concepts – something that resonates with trying to make our work as visual as possible.