Tessa Leferink

About me

I’m an active and enthusiastic person, currently based in the lively Randstad area. After obtaining degrees in urban planning and mobility engineering, I have been working as a sustainable mobility consultant since 2017. I have worked on a variety of projects, ranging from detailed cycle street design to regional mobility strategies. I love city life and watching people pass by: observing how we move and trying to understand why people live the way they do. In my free time I enjoy sitting on a bench to draw places and buildings, meeting friends for a stroll, pop-up choir practice or picnic. Besides the hustle and bustle of city life I enjoy being active in nature. To cycle on my tandem with a friend, run along the Maas river or hike in the mountains after an overnight train.

Personal Motivation

The natural freedom you get from getting around by one’s own power has been a great source of joy my whole life. I moved to Barcelona for half a year as a student in 2011 and – being Dutch – bought a bicycle on day one. I quickly learned that whilst being a confident cyclist, the streets of Spain are (typically) not designed for people on two wheels. Cycling was the exception. Ever since, I’ve been captured by the concept of active travel. It led me to research a shared bicycle scheme in England in 2015 and graduate on the bicycle-rail combination in Scotland in 2017 for my MSc in Transport, Infrastructure and Logistics at TU Delft. Parallel to this journey that spanned a decade, the climate crisis caught my attention. Dutch summers were getting hotter and drier. Storms and flash flooding were tangible in the cities I lived. Friends from Scandinavia told me their winters were getting longer and darker, as the white, bright snow was arriving later. In a class on climate ethics, using philosophical thought experiments, the realization came that what we cause ‘here’ can be felt ‘there’. This sense of injustice was an extra driver to not just work on active modes for attractive and accessible cities but sustainable mobility in general for a healthier planet and future generations. Yet I found that changing my own behaviour to more sustainable choices only slowly caught up with my convictions. It wasn’t until I actively engaged with some hands-on workshops based on behavioural sciences that my own carbon footprint decreased. Since, I try to always keep the end-user in mind when designing sustainable mobility concepts and designs. We need to understand personal drivers to change – like enjoying the freedom of cycling, having access to great public transport or being triggered by a story of a friend – to really shift. Interdisciplinary science like the NEON program takes that into account. With my PhD project I aim to build a bridge between science and practitioners in urban and transport planning to help people shift to more sustainable travel choices. Not just because we have to, but also because they make for more fun, safe, social and attractive cities.

New home, new travel habits

My main research question is: how can the built environment and mobility policy of urban neighbourhoods be improved to seize the opportunity of residential relocation for more sustainable travel behaviour and lower car ownership?

In my research I get to combine two fascinating trends: urbanization and innovations in mobility, and combine them with behaviour change. Dutch people typically move homes 7 times in their lives (‘residential relocation’). Moving homes is a so-called ‘life change event’, a phase of flexibility when we tend to be more open (or are forced) to try new routines. Including routines of travel.

More homes are being built. These are often planned in urbanized areas where mixed use and transit oriented development (TOD) are the norm: places where we typically find higher use of the bicycle and public transport, as well as lower car ownership. Yet we don’t know very well to what extend the new inhabitants of these neighbourhoods travel differently than before and what the reason for (not) changing was. With empirical research my study will focus on finding factors of success and failure of more sustainable travel behaviour upon residential relocation.

Link to other neon research

My work on urban mobility transitions closely aligns with research of Sophie Buchel on mobility justice, Pim Labee on multi-day travel choices and Milan Tamis on mobility neighbourhood hubs. Other NEON colleagues are studying autonomous and electric driving and city logistics – which on a more general level describe future neighbourhoods. The output of my work can be linked to the agent-based NEON model on energy and mobility transition. Kees Maat and Floor Alkemade are my promotors.