New London Architecture

Urbanist Platform x NLA: Interview with Transport Planner Zim Obi

Thursday 15 October 2020

CJ Obi

CJ Obi

Founding Partner, Urbanist Platform

We’re really pleased to bring you the thoughts of Transport Planner, Zim Obi, as he sat down with Urbanist Platform Founder, CJ Obi.

Zim explains why he feels it’s important to see Black Directors in the Built Environment and how he wants to leave a legacy in the borough that he grew up in.

CJ: What is the best advice you've ever been given?

Zim:      1) "Time heals all wounds" - so no matter what setbacks you face, your situation will get better with time. This has always worked for me; it applies to everything.
 
2) "Think about what you want out of life rather than an occupation"
 

CJ:
What do you love most about being a transport planner?

Zim: I love connecting things, and I love being able to see the impact my changes have made on a particular area (virtually and of course in person)

CJ:
Can you give any examples of an outstanding transport system in any city?

Zim: The TFL tube... probably goes under the radar in terms of its magnitude because as Londoners we use it daily and take it for granted. But it's one of the largest metro systems in the world, and the oldest, yet it's still expanding.
 
Honourable mention to the metro system in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They have one of the cleanest, smoothest metro systems I've seen, (not in person)

CJ:
Does being Black and within the "minority" in this sector, bother you or inspire you?

Zim: It inspires me to lead a new wave of Black people within the sector. I do wish there were more senior members within the industry who came from a similar background as me so that I could more easily envisage what a future in the industry would look like.

CJ:
What can be done to attract more Black people into transport planning?

Zim: Definitely seeing other Black people at networking events or even online. I think if more industry talks were hosted by Black people then it would allow other Black people who may have been unsure about the sector, to then picture themselves in the role of the host.

CJ:
Where's the best place you've travelled to and why?

Zim: Hard to say one place since I love travelling. But an ethos I live by is "you have to get lost to find yourself", so Rome will be my number one on that basis because it was the first solo and independent trip I went on, plus it was beautiful.
 
I also think who you travel with is so important and so travelling to the Algarve in Portugal for a music festival with my best friends was the most enjoyable trip I've ever had.
 
Honourable mentions to Peru and Thailand as I travelled there solo but met wonderful people along the way and this was subconsciously inspired by a book/film called the Art of Travel, written by Alain de Botton. "Journeys are the midwives of thought".

CJ:
What changes do you think we will see in some of UK's major cities, in regards to transport?

Zim: There will be a shift in the real estate permitted for cars. The aim for long term transport is that we have less cars on the road, more shared ownership, more active travel. It's very inefficient for one vehicle with 5 seats to only be used by one person.
 
There will be more "Mini-Hollands" and places where vehicles and pedestrians have a shared space

CJ:
What long-term goals do you have in this industry?

Zim: I want to have influence in the sign off for projects in areas which I have an affinity with, whether that be the borough I grew up in or using skills I’ve gained to have a positive impact in my homeland, Nigeria


CJ Obi

CJ Obi

Founding Partner, Urbanist Platform


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