In New York, Robinson Packs the House, Leaves Em Speechless

4_1_10_car_free.jpgA slide heralding some of LADOT's accomplishments from Robinson's slide show.

LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson spoke to a standing room-only crowd at NYU's Rudin Center this morning, kicking off the New York City Street Summit. Robinson's speech, delivered just two weeks after NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan brought lessons from the Big Apple to her backyard, was both a spirited defense of LADOT's planning policies and a response to Sadik-Khan's vision of change.

"Every day, Los Angeles sees over 10 million car trips, and the number one goal of LADOT is to make this trips as smooth, fast, and stress free as possible," Robinson explained, before delivering a series of "lessons learned" to help NYCDOT better move cars through their city.

"Streets can only be so wide, that's why it's important not to waste space on things that don't provide room for moving and parking automobiles," Robinson told an enthusiastic group of former NYCDOT staff clustered in the front row. "Wasting space on bus-only lanes and bike lanes is sometimes politically necessary; but with term limits, you can just wait out the elected officials more times than not."

Robinson pointed to the LADOT Sharrows program, which she referred to as the "Sparrows Pilot Project," as an example. "We called it a pilot program. We brought in other agencies. We tied up the staff at the Bike Coalition. We promised the City Council President we were working on it. In truth, his kids will be termed out of office before we ever paint one of those damn things. Honestly, won't painting birds on the ground just confuse people anyway?"

A second secret initiative Robinson unveiled was LADOT's covert "DIY" program. "Sometimes people want things bad enough that they're not going to stop until they get what they want," she said. "So let them write their own bike plan, paint their own Sharrows and bike lanes, plan their own CicLAvia, devise and promote their own traffic calming plans, track their own bike crashes, do their own bike counts, create their own safety signage, film their own safety videos or whatever they want. They do it. We condemn it. Poof! No liability. And there's a lot of money saved to re-time signals to speed up traffic on other local streets."

During the Q&A period Robinson was repeatedly asked about some of the changes happening in New York City. After getting some laughs by recounting her tales of tripping over the bike lanes, Robinson lit in to New York's street transformations.

"I see you have a DIY problem yourself," she said. "Someone left a bunch of chairs all over Times Square. Someone's going to run over them. And what's with putting a parking lane in the middle of the street over on Eighth Avenue? Doesn't that just encourage double parking? I tried to drive my car in that lane to the left of the cars and everyone just yelled at me. You shouldn't confuse drivers like that."

After the speech, Robinson joined the NYPD on a tour of "best Critical Mass crackdowns."