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Canada  
 
 
 
 
 
 

Eric Léonard

Project Manager - Active transportation and mobility

 
 

There's no doubt about it, the diversity of my projects is what I most enjoy.

One day I'm working on a standard traffic impact study, the next I'm focused on a multidisciplinary project with various departments. I go from helping a developer with a project at the office to exploring the potential development of park trails on my bike. My work gives me an opportunity to get involved in a variety of activities in a rapidly expanding market.

The challenge lies in dissecting transportation.

Adding in the (unpredictable) human element to the world of transportation, in which patterns are highly predictable and vector-based, is a complex task. The challenge lies in dissecting transportation into a series of human interactions in which gaining an understanding of the users themselves is more important than the vehicles they use.

I have a keen interest in human beings and our relationship with the environment.

But I don't like hearing the same arguments and viewpoints repeated over and over again. In line with this subject, ‘Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us)’ by Tom Vanderbilt is a book I enjoyed reading recently. In his book, Vanderbilt addresses various topics (social, environmental and economic), applying them to the transportation sector and comparing them with other issues. You get a better understanding of the brain mechanics of transportation and the psychological impact on users and those around them.

Having a positive impact, that’s what makes me proud at the end of the day.

In 2010, when a conservation group was lobbying to ban mountain bikes from Mont Bellevue in Sherbrooke, Quebec, the municipality contacted WSP and asked us to speak with the group. As a result, we got the chance to refurbish the municipal network of bike trails in the heart of the city. Last December, when I was meeting with the district manager and discussing the development of Fatbike, a special winter bike trail, he confirmed that our professionalism in the areas of environmental protection and trail development had "saved the mountain bikes" and that today "no one can say that the mountain bikers are ruining the mountain." The project was finalized during the 2013 Canada Games on a dream course designed by WSP and its partners. Not only did the athletes adore it, but hundreds of people continue to use the enhanced network of trails every day.

Out of WSP’s five corporate values, ‘Innovative’ is the one I identify with the most.

I believe that it's essential to rethink and reconsider our work methods along with certain assumptions that we often regard as facts. I recently saw a poster that said "The most dangerous words in our vocabulary are: We've always done it like that." If we want to develop our cities on a human scale and ensure the well-being of future generations, we have to break the mold sometimes… especially if it was created 50 years ago! We have to stay attuned to new trends and we always have to be willing to experiment!