Helen Akpabio - Active Travel Manager

Helen Akpabio's profile picture

Questions and answers

As of April this year, I’ve been working for ECC for 20 years! I can’t believe it’s been that long, especially as I originally joined as a temp for a few months. I currently lead a team of Sustainable Travel Officers, Cycle Training Officers, and Walking & Cycling Officers. Before that I had a range of different jobs, including a hair stylist, working in the hospitality sector, and Public Relations.

It’s not something I had set out to do, but when the opportunity arose it really interested me, and I felt I had the right skills for the role. I’ve always had a passion for being physically active and enjoy walking and cycling for both leisure and the commute, as well as now taking part in regular functional fitness training. The role has changed significantly since I first joined the team with the benefits and importance of active travel now given much higher priority, which is very pleasing to see.

The fact it keeps evolving and the remit keeps growing, particularly now as we see electric bikes, and scooters coming into the mix. Active travel has never been so high on the agenda and with growing concerns around mental health & wellbeing and the environment, this is something we can all do to make a difference. Encouraging people to change their behaviour through little nudges can be very rewarding – and it’s interesting to see how people are motivated by different things. The effects of Covid 19 have also played a massive part in changing the way we do things; from the way we travel and the time of day we do it.

I also have a brilliant team who are truly passionate about what they do – it gives me great pleasure in seeing them work collectively towards our objectives.

An exciting project for me now is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) funded Air Quality Bid (2022-2024). A joint project between ECC and Essex Highways – comprising of a theatre performance in schools on the effects of bad air quality and what pupils can do to improve it, monitoring around schools within Air Quality Management Area’s (AQMA) and un upgrade to the current Essex Air website.

I’ve also been working alongside our Communications Manager to commission and deliver a safer, greener, healthier photoshoot. We are creating a library of images which displays “real” people of Essex walking and cycling to work, leisure or school. These images will be used online, in social media posts and in relevant printed documents, with the aim to “normalise” active travel modes for everyday journeys.

There is not one person, but I feel I’ve taken both positive and negative influences from many people who I have crossed paths with throughout my life and used them to shape the person I am today.

I love to people watch – I like to understand what makes people tick…

Power Absorption – the ability to absorb other people’s powers. It could be a lot of fun, but also very risky!

I don’t have a favourite, as I really love food! But anything my husband cooks always goes down well – he’s much better at it than I am!

There is not one job which stands out more than any others – there are always good days and bad days with any job – if I’ve learnt something from that experience then that’s a positive outcome for me.

I am very proud that we have been shortlisted for two Modeshift National Sustainable Travel Awards this year – ‘Team of the Year’ and ‘Partnership of the Year’ (e-scooter pilot with SPIN/TIER), so hopefully we’ll be celebrating at the forthcoming awards ceremony on 3rd November in Leicester!

In my personal life, a couple of weeks later, I will be competing at the HYROX UK event in Excel, London.