It wasn’t really about the engineering of the space, the real battle was about the culture — about changing the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, of changing their minds about who their streets were for.
If building roads actually resulted in less traffic, then surely after sixty years of interstate highway construction we would all be cruising at highway speed.
You can’t build your way out of congestion. It’s like dealing with obesity by loosening your belt.
“An advanced city is not one where poor people drive cars,” Peñalosa says, “but where rich people take public transportation.”
Never underestimate the anger directed at bicyclists. They ride too fast, terrorizing pedestrians. They ride too slow, dangerously obstructing drivers. They don’t wear helmets or reflective bike gear, jeopardizing themselves. They look ridiculous riding around in those helmets and reflective bike gear, more like Mad Max marauders than human beings. They shouldn’t ride in streets, which are hostile, car-only zones. They shouldn’t have their own lanes because there aren’t enough of them to take away space from cars. Yet there are so many of them that they’re running down pedestrians and therefore shouldn’t ride on sidewalks.
If governments sincerely believe that their streets are so dangerous they must compel people who ride bikes to wear armor, they should instead immediately redesign their streets to make them safer so people don’t need that protection in the first place.
Transforming a car-clogged street into inviting shared space doesn’t always require heavy machinery, complicated reconstruction, or millions of dollars. Planners can reorder a street without destroying a single building, double-decking a street, or building a streetcar, light rail system, or highway interchange. It can be accomplished quickly by using the basic materials that every city has access to—in New York City’s case more than six thousand miles of streets—and the basic stock that all city transportation agencies already have in their supply depots or available through existing contracts. Yes, I mean paint.
While spending money to build roads is seen as a public investment, critics characterize public transportation as a wasteful welfare subsidy. The pervasive myth that public transportation riders are subsidized and that people who drive pay the full cost of their trips has never been less true than it is today.
The way we look at the health of our bike lane network is how many women and children are using the lanes. Our goal was to create a safe and connected bike network.
If transportation were any other field, 33,000 annual deaths would be a national public health crisis and people would lose their jobs.
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska