One year (we think) in business. Wahoo!

Sidewalks make good sites for engagement, we think. 

I follow some entrepreneurs that have big celebrations on their one year anniversary. But the truth for me is I don’t know the exact date I started this business.

I had planned to launch this business before the pandemic hit — in March 2020 (LOL!). And then I found myself with no childcare due to cancelled school and so I put it off for a while. 

Then in the late fall, around December, is when I would say I really started. The first thing we did was plan and host the Moving Ohio Forward Conference, a statewide sustainable transportation conference, which was held online in Mid-January. 

I wasn’t tremendously confident at the beginning that my idea for starting a consultancy would work. And then when the pandemic upended everything, my confidence was even a little more fragile.

But as I look back at the first year, I feel really proud and grateful — and lucky. There were so many times when things slowed down a little and I started to worry, and then something perfect it seemed would always fall right into place. 

After the conference, which was our big launch event, we were very lucky and honored to partner with some national organizations like Vision Zero Network and Families for Safe Streets to work on the ongoing #ZeroTrafficDeaths campaign, calling for the Biden Administration to commit to a national goal of zero traffic deaths by 2050. (This is something more progressive states like California have already committed to and I believe an eminently reasonable goal, which I wrote about in Planetizen if you’d like to learn more about why.) 

Unfortunately, the Biden Administration still has not agreed to that goal. But the campaign continues and that group now has compiled 51 sponsors in the House and Senate for resolutions that would establish that goal federally. 

One of my earliest and steadiest clients has been America Walks. Over the year I provided policy and communications consulting for that group on a very part time basis related to specific campaigns, including the call to overhaul the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a little known but hugely influential engineering manual that contributes to the U.S. poor traffic safety record. In that campaign we were teamed up with groups across the spectrum on sustainable transportation, from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, The League of American Bicyclists, Smart Growth America, and even private planning firms. 

Although we haven’t seen the final result of that campaign yet, it was very successful at raising awareness about the problem. An absolutely massive and unheard-of 25,000 official comments were submitted to USDOT about the book’s (in process) update. 

So that is a long way of saying I got to work with some heroes that are fighting to save people’s lives and reduce the horrifying rise in traffic deaths we have seen in recent years, including Amy Cohen, one of the real-life heroes from my book. 

During the whole year I was doing A LOT of speaking about my book. I don’t know how many talks I did. At one point I was keeping track but I did talks for crowds that were larger than 1,000 (our largest) and as small as 2 people (?). I did most of them at home with very spotty access to childcare, and a four and six year old at home (something that was very very stressful and I am glad is behind me). But the fees I charged for these (most of which were just a few hundred dollars) helped me sustain the business and connect with people all over the country. (Thanks, Zoom — I mean that). One of the highlights was presenting for the Caltrans Board of Directors and also doing an in-person keynote at the Colorado Sustainable Transportation Conference in Denver. 

I’m not going to list every client we had this year. There were a lot. Largely because of the large number of small paid speaking events I did related to my book, but we also completed a few smaller jobs as well. 

The highlight of the year was a project we did for the Michigan Department of Transportation. We won a contract to do pedestrian safety studies for two northern Michigan tourist destinations — Charlevoix and Gaylord — that have state and federal highways going right through their downtowns. We got to visit these beautiful little towns right at the height of tourism season and talk to people who live there, and tourists (we gave away fudge!) and also business owners and political leaders. They were beautiful little towns and it was very fun to get to visit and learn about them. (I even got to visit the Earl Young mushroom houses, which is a long-time architecture geek dream of mine.)

Next year we have a project we’ll be leading a small mobility planning project with Ohio City Inc., a neighborhood based community development corporation, in Cleveland.