Streetfilms Q&A: Karyn Williams – Enlightening Youth About Transportation

Karyn Williams co-founded Velo-City in 2010 along with Samelys Lopez and Naomi Doerner. Karyn tells us how Velo-City allows them to share their passion about urban planning with young people and motivate them towards a career in the field.  And how Streetfilms plays a small role in that.

SF: What are the main goals of programming at Velo-City?

KW:  We wanted to share our passion with young people because we wish we could’ve been exposed to urban planning as a career option at an earlier age. There was also the desire to see more diversity in our professions.  Urban Planning and Design professions seriously lag behind others both in terms of gender and ethnic diversity and this is something that the three of us know personally.  I’m interested in the issue of diversity not simply for the sake of diversity or wanting to see more people that look like me in the office, but from the standpoint of the very relevance of our professions.  I think we stand to benefit from new ideas and solutions which will inevitably happen when planners and designers from diverse backgrounds are able to bring their personal experiences to the work that they do in the realm of policy, physical planning and design.

The goal of our organization is to provide opportunities for young people from underserved communities to explore the city on bicycles and to provide career training and leadership opportunities for students in the planning and design world.  I don’t expect that every student that gets on a bike and rides with us will then go on to be an architect or an urban planner, but I do expect that every student that participates in our programs will go on to be a more active citizen.

SF: Do you ever use Streetfilms in any of your work?

KW: Yes! I've used Streetfilms as a research tool when developing curricula.   Many of the films have been great for me to keep up with what’s going on in both transportation and the use of public space - not only in New York City but around the world.  I've also used Streetfilms in the classroom because they are an easy way for young people to learn about Bus Rapid Transit or bicycle infrastructure in a fun and engaging way.

SF: Got any fun stories to share?

KW: Recently, I went to a middle school in the South Bronx for career day.  I was really apprehensive about how I would talk about what I do for fifty minutes to a group of 6th graders and keep them engaged and interested.  So, I began by introducing myself with the promise that I’d show a film at the end that helps explain some of the things that I do.   That’s when I knew I had them.  I showed them Street Transformations- Upper West Side and they were so delighted by how the current street configurations were transformed into a complete street with bike lanes and benches that they asked me to replay the video again.  That Streetfilm saved me that day.

Karyn was featured in our Streetfilm Women in Motion: New Lady Riders Reflect on NYC Cycling by Dahlia Lopez Ramsay back in the summer of 2010: