Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

A video and a visit from NYC’s DOT Commissioner

Posted by on October 27th, 2008 at 12:22 pm

The city famously known for blaring horns, torrential traffic and crazy cabbies has become a national leader in creating livable streets. Leading that charge is Janette Sadik-Khan, head of the NYC Department of Transportation.

Sadik-Khan is fast-becoming a rock star in transportation circles.

Supported by effective advocacy, Sadik-Khan has begun to establish a new transportation hierarchy in her city where she has “revamped streetscapes designed to encourage carfree movement and foster social activity.” (according to Streetfilms).

For an introduction to Ms. Sadik-Khan and an overview of the projects that are winning her a lot of fans in NYC (and around the country) watch the video interview below put together by Streetfilms:

Ms. Sadik-Khan was in Portland a few weeks ago (at the behest of TriMet). While here, she met with local transportation bigwigs, took tours of our transit system, and shared her insights.

The Oregonian’s Jonathan Nicholas wrote an editorial about her visit and characterized her vision (emphasis mine):

Sadik-Khan’s mantra: A transportation department’s primary responsibility is no longer facilitating the movement of vehicles from point A to point B. Its primary responsibility is making the most of public assets in pursuit of the highest possible quality of urban life.

For far too long, Sadik-Khan thinks, far too much of this “public realm” has been singularly devoted to shepherding automobiles. By hacking off a small percentage of that space and devoting it to other purposes, she’s transforming the urban environment. And becoming the most popular woman in New York

For once, it seems like Portland is the one with something to learn.

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  • todd October 27, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Sadik-Khan for DOT chief under president Barack Hussein Obama! I can hear the wingnut crypto-muslim conspiracy rants already.

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  • Velo Vanguard October 27, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Yep. Portland is mired in the usual bureaucratic difficulties with finishing its bike plan, saddled with small-minded thinking with respect to improvements to facilitate biking and walking, and beset with a police department uninterested in enforcing the laws that protect vulnerable roadway users.

    NYC moves forward because it has bold leadership and political will. Here we have myopic and endlessly self-critical bicyclists, knee-jerk anti-bike reactionaries pandered to by the local media, and hipsters who can’t get past “bike fun.”

    At least NYC will provide an example Portland could follow if it ever decides to get serious about transforming its transportation infrastructure.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 27, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    “a police department uninterested in enforcing the laws that protect vulnerable roadway users.”

    I don’t really agree with that Mr. Vanguard.

    “uninterested”? I think the leadership at the Traffic Division has shown great interest in working with the community and in improving policies and practices regarding bike traffic.

    they aren’t perfect, but I have seen the #1 and #2 guys at Traffic in action and they are sincerely committed to making things better.

    we need reform in Salem that they can use on the streets… but to say that they’re “uninterested” isn’t really accurate.

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  • Velo Vanguard October 27, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Fair enough, Mr. Maus. I am admittedly judging the PPB on its actions and not on its words. Any idea how many citations the PPB has issued for failure to yield to a cyclist in a bike lane over the past year? How many “enforcement missions” at likely right-hook intersections?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 27, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    “I am admittedly judging the PPB on its actions and not on its words.

    so am I.

    they show up and participate candidly at Bike Advisory Committee meetings every month, they have re-started the free bike light program, they have — at the behest of the BTA — begun to focus more on enforcement at dangerous intersections, they have begun to institutionalize the new, lower threshold for bike collision investigations, they have worked on their communication and have elevated Officer Pickett to role of liaison to the community, they have done extensive enforcement of the new bike boxes, they have put together a bike law working group to hammer out a community policing agreement, etc…

    as for the citation numbers you mention above… i don’t that information at this time.

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  • Velo Vanguard October 27, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    So, Change We Can Believe In at the PPB, huh? I hope we can find some way to measure whether these activities you cite actually produce safer streets.

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  • […] just finished watching this video at Bike Portland and was completely blown away with what New York City has accomplished in a very short time under […]

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  • Zaphod October 27, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    This video is worth a watch. Good stuff.

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  • Blair October 27, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Every bike lane is NYC is stuffed with parked Fed Ex trucks, police cars and taxis. Portland is a much easier town to ride in, there’s no question. This woman is doing good work, but she’s only bring NYC up to Portland standards, not surpassing them, at least yet.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 27, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    “This woman is doing good work, but she’s only bring NYC up to Portland standards, not surpassing them, at least yet.”

    I agree Blair.. some of what NYC is doing is because — as Gil Penalosa says — “it’s easy to go from bad to good… but much more difficult to go from good to great.”

    i think in Portland we’re going from good to great in some respects… but I also think we are being way too timid and slow to move forward boldly like Ms. Sadik Khan is doing.

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  • girl-shawn October 27, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Hells yeah, NYC!

    I want more parked-car-separated bike lanes here. Hopefully it’s on the list.

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  • Carlsson October 27, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Love the parked-car-separated bike lanes! Judging from those legs I’d bet Ms. Sadik Khan rides a bike 😉

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  • Kris October 27, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Very inspirational interview and some great footage.

    Jonathan: I dont think that NYC is just going from bad to good. Judging from the various achievements shown in the video (in particular the on-street separated bike lanes and the creation of pedestrian plazas in the middle of busy intersections), they seem very committed to go from bad to great, not unlike what is happening in other major cities like London and Paris. And in some areas (like the closure of all of Park Ave for Summer Streets), they are clearly ahead of the pack. That’s not a critique of our Sunday Parkways. It’s just that they showed us how much higher we can raise the bar for ourselves.

    The best part of the story is that many of these accomplishments were not about spending an incredible amount of money. They are more about thinking outside the box (and sometimes dream a little bigger), combined with a political will to back that vision with action. Something I think Portland can learn a thing or two from.

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  • microzen October 28, 2008 at 9:02 am

    This is very inspiring, tho I noticed one shot that normally would make me happy but didn’t.

    That was of the towing of the SUV out of the bus lane. If you notice, the SUV was very likely parked at a metered spot IN THE BUS LANE.

    Having failed at parking in NYC due to missing one of the restrictions among the many other signs saying parking was doable, I can sympathize with a person who parks their vehicle at parking meter. This smacks more of many cities’ gotcha-style parking enforcement. Yes, you paid to park at that meter, but there is no parking in a bus lane.

    Fortunately not owning a car now will often prevent that happening to me. Nevertheless, cities shouldn’t be luring drivers into apparently safe parking spots only to tow them.

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  • brettoo October 28, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Terrific! OK, let’s have some suggestions for streets in Portland to refurb like the ones shown in the video.

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  • Coyote October 28, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Holy thesaurus Batman, what an iconic video.

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  • TS October 28, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    I’m late on the comments to this story, but great work NYC!

    One thing, however… I was disappointed to see how NYC has laid out the bike lanes right next to some pedestrian thoroughfares or areas of congregation, with no boundary except a little paint. Pedestrians were crossing the bike lane haphazardly at random times, emerging suddenly (from the point of view of an oncoming cyclist) from behind large potted plants.

    To safely navigate that situation, a bicycle would have to ride at 5mph, _maybe_ up to 10mph. That’s not conducive to bicycle commuting. If commuting isn’t the intent through those sections, that’s okay, but I’d want there to be nearby alternatives that were designed to handle a faster flow of bicycle traffic. I wouldn’t want to give up a bicycle lane next to cars that moves at 15-ish mph in order to gain a bicycle lane only poorly separated from meandering pedestrian traffic where I can’t safely ride over 5-ish mph.

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