Streetfilms: A Conversation with NYCDOT Boss Janette Sadik-Khan

I usually don’t post Streetfilms that have a strict New York focus, but this one is different.  Open Planning Project Director Mark Gorton sits down with the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan, to talk about what’s going on in New York.

The 11-minute film, a long one by Streetfilms’ standard, is "required viewing" for Livable Streets advocates everywhere.  Sadik-Khan sounds more like Josef Bray-Ali than Rita Robinson as she explains that streets are for people, and that design and enforecement dictate how people view and use a street.  The best streets are more about creating a place for the public than just moving cars, a concept that seems lost on officials at LADOT.  Let’s just say this, at no point does anyone in the video fret that adding a bike lane will take space away from cars.

So find time in the next couple of days to sit down for 15 minutes and watch this video.  Depending on your mood, you’ll need the other four minutes to either cry or cheer.

  • Wooooo Hooooo! What a treat! Sadik-Khan for president! This video gave me goosebumps. Janette Sadik-Khan is an old friend of mine. She was a senior at Occidental College when I was a freshman. She was a very courageous activist challenging the college’s investments in racist apartheid South Africa. I credit her with some of political/activist awakenings.

  • I have taken the approach of reform of our performance measures to allow this sort of roadway design to take place. In New York, the winds of politics blew in just the right direction and they’ve gotten to where they are without the performance measures I am so crazy about.

    This is from Sadik-Khan’s Strategic Plan’s Benchmark Section (and is in the hands of the mayor’s office):

    Create new internal performance measures:

    Review key agency-wide, divisional, and city transportation performance measures

    Create new internal performance measures where necessary and a means of collecting and reporting additional data.

    Align Citywide Performance Reporting indicators with new agency initiatives performance measures.

    I was thinking this morning, after watching this video, how deeply ingrained the language and ideas of transportation engineering are in the rhetoric of the left-leaning politicians in L.A. The private automobile is this every-man’s dream machine on most transportation speeches I’ve heard. Building more and wider roads is talked about as a way to allow more social mobility from working class to the bourgeois by people like our Mayor, our Congressmen, and Assemblymen.

    When freeways and automobile infrastructure has so obviously wrecked working class lives and communities, it boggles my mind that politicians take this tack.

    In NY, you can see this connection between Democrats and pro-car policies as well.

    I am still plugging away with my hope of re-engineering our roadway measures here in L.A., but the politics is what really fascinates me.

    I am so jealous of New York right now.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    UbrayJ02: Yes, be jealous of us but also realize how fast NYC came to be where it is now. Literally it has been since the end of May 2007 (plus you could possibly, fairly say maybe 6 months of things before that going in a better direction as the Mayor’s attitude changed and Commissioner Weinshall started to do a few good things.

    So in reality things started getting a little bit better at the beginning of 2007, and then – yes – insanely better since mid-2007. This could happen in any city if enough people mobilize. It took us a long time, I never thought we would be even halfway where we are now by 2015. And other cities are watching!

  • Janette Sadik-Khan has been my hero since I first heard her speak in 2003. I was so impressed with the changes made even since I left NYC in Sept. 2007. Living in LA and watching this, though, it is like watching a fiction movie. I loved seeing the parking/bike lane flip, that would truly make cyclist feel safer in LA and would invariably lead to an increase in cyclists on the roads (read: less cars). Thanks for sharing this with us. Perhaps one day we can imagine a world like this here but I’m not sure we’re even at the imagining point yet.

  • I loved seeing the parking/bike lane flip also. More protected bike lanes would be fantastic! Of course the argument here is to just use the sidewalk since nobody walks in LA. ;) Nice video.

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