For the second episode of the Common Edge Podcast, I talk to two transportation experts who were at the forefront of remaking New York City’s streets over the past ten years. Janette Sadik-Khan was New York’s transportation commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She caused some controversy by moving quickly to redesign streets that hadn’t been changed in fifty years, most notably Times Square. In her book, Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, which is now out in paperback, Janette reflects on the conflicts she encountered along the way, including a “bikelash” in Williamsburg and attacks by then mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.
In the second half of the transportation episode, I talk to Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives. For more than 10 years he has been advocating for bicycle and pedestrian friendly streets, and safety measures such as Vision Zero. He reflects on why people get so worked up about bikes and bike lanes, and what it takes to be an effective advocate as Transportation Alternatives has evolved from “outsider” organization to major player in establishing street designs and safety policies that are being adopted by cities across the country.
Janette and Paul agree that we are still at the beginning of the street design revolution. And as mobility innovations continue to disrupt transportation, the underlying goal must be to make these innovations work for people and cities, and not the other way around. Taking back streets for people creates safer, more attractive, and economically vibrant public spaces.