Why We Should Care What Gabe Klein Says

Klein talks Capitol Bike Share in 2009 when he was still
Commissioner of Washington, D.C. DOT

The Urban Land Institute and Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti are bringing Gabe Klein to Los Angeles this week to discuss his experiences bringing bike share systems to Chicago and Washington, D.C. The presentation is on Friday from 1 pm to 2:30 pm in Room 350 at City Hall.

Gabe Klein doesn’t quite have the name recognition that Janette Sadik-Khan does. While Klein led departments of transportation  in Chicago and Washington, D.C., it’s hard to match the media profile Sadik-Khan earned as both a Livable Streets hero and the foil of conservative tabloids.

So it is that even though Klein’s profile compares well with Sadik-Khan’s, his speech this Friday isn’t quite getting the rock star coverage that hers did when she spoke at the Street Summit in 2010…even if Klein did launch two successful bike share systems in two major American cities.

But for those that don’t know, here’s why we should care very deeply about Klein, a man that Chicago Streetblog’s John Greenfield once called Klein the best department head in Chicago beyond just what he has to say about bike share. Greenfield also conducted an excellent interview on Streetsblog with Klein after his resignation was announced.

But let’s start with bike share.

In Chicago, the Divvy system now boasts over 3,000 bicycles at 300 bike-docking stations, providing more than 600,000 trips and 1.5 million miles. In D.C., the District Department of Transportation launched the largest bikeshare program in U.S. in less than 1 year. It has since been surpassed in size by Citibike in New York City.

In Chicago, Klein was a key player in beginning to complete Mayor Rahm Emanual’s campaign promise of “100 miles of protected bike lanes” in his first term. In less than a month after taking the helm at Chicago DOT, the first protected bike lane was in place. While cyclists are all very excited about the buffered lane with plastic dividers through the second street tunnel, it’s not quite as exciting as the protected lane on Chicago’s Kinzie Street.

In addition an expanded  bus rapid transit system, the Chicago Riverwalk expansion and construction of the Bloomingdale Trail is already underway. Greenfield reports that Klein left behind a legacy of many less glamorous accomplishments, “from publishing new CDOT guidelines on multi-modalism and sustainability, to launching automated speed cameras. I contacted a number of heavy hitters in the local transportation scene to get their take on the commissioner’s departure.”

Klein’s legacy at the D.C. Department of Transportation is just as impressive. In addition to bicycle share, Klein modernized the city’s bus routing and fleet and expanded the city’s bicycle network in addition to the launch of D.C. Bikeshare.

In short, Klein is every bit the star that Sadik-Khan is. In 2010, she spoke to a pair of packed houses and met privately with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa shortly before the City of Los Angeles began painting bicycle lanes and holding CicLAvias. Hopefully, Klein’s visit brings similar results.

  • mostimpressive

    We should care about what Mr. Corrupt says?


    If L.A. implements any bike sharing program, especially with Alta, there are going to be A LOT of pissed off people in the future. And, all the L.A. livable streets advocates will share in the blame when they all realize the mistake they’ve made by backing bike share.

  • Kat

    TYPO..you mean star in the last paragraph, correct?

  • Niall Huffman

    That article is nearly a year and a half old. Were the allegations about the Chicago bike share bidding process ever substantiated? Unsuccessful bidders on government contracts make these claims all the time; it doesn’t mean that anything illegal or unethical actually happened.

    What is so innately horrible about bike share that we are going to regret implementing *any* program?

  • mostimpressive

    I’m not spending time to dig up evidence for you, but if you’ve been keeping a keen eye in this area for a while now, you would know. Josh Squire, who accused Klein of impropriety, had a website dedicated to the issue, but I’m not sure where it is now.

    Leah Treat worked with Gabe Klein in DC, she’s now head of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation. Her forte is in finance, not in transportation, yet she’s now head of a transportation department? Portland is about to launch their bike share program with Alta. She’s not responsible for Alta getting the Portland contract, but you can sense there is something going on behind the scenes.

    Regarding the Portland bike sharing program. Alta has been recently accused of not being truthful in their grant application for federal funds. In essence, they claimed to have secured corporate sponsorship, but there is no evidence of this, in order to increases their chances of getting federal funds.

    Alta Bike Share is a shady company. There are one to many highly controversial issues with them.

    There will be a war against bike share in the future. All I’m going to say now is that bike share creates a distinction amongst people who ride bikes.

    Keep in mind, nobody is screaming for bike share, but there are people screaming for better bicycle infrastructure.

  • former angelino

    DC’s bike share program has contributed so much to the city. It is incredibly popular. Chicago’s system is up and running. Maybe results don’t count any more but old out of date articles short of facts do.

  • mostimpressive

    Just because one thing has a positive effect in one part of a system, doesn’t mean it’ll have a positive effect on the entire system.

  • Matt

    A war against bikeshare in the future? Fueled by what? Bikeshare exists in over 50 cities nationwide, as well as on University campuses as standalone bikeshare programs. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. To say that no one is screaming for bikeshare such an arbitrary (and inaccurate) comment to make.

    Naturally, in cities and towns that don’t have bikeshare currently, many people don’t even know what it is. There would be little reason to scream for something if you don’t know it exists. That’s the job of Transportation Agencies. To know more than you, and to be visionary. Bikesharing is a wildly successful additional form of transit in cities around the country. And in the cities where bikesharing has been implemented, there absolutely are people screaming for it. I live in DC and travel to New York and Chicago frequently for work. Yes, people are screaming for bikeshare. Do more research before you rant.

    As a side note, I don’t know Gabe Klein personally, but I did recently attend a conference where he spoke. From what I could tell, he was intelligent, committed to improving transit, open to questions, and generally a really down to earth guy. You’d never know he’s been as successful as he has been.

  • mostimpressive

    The distinction bike share creates amongst all the people who ride bikes is what will primarily fuel the war against bike share. Currently, bike share is in its honeymoon phase, so there’s this sense of happiness for the time being, but I can guarantee you that divorce is in its future. That’s all I’m going to say for now.

    It’s funny you say this: “…That’s the job of Transportation Agencies. To know more than you, and to be visionary…”.

    It just so happens that I have more knowledge than the transportation agencies when it comes to livable streets issues. In fact, I was going to share this knowledge with JSK/NYCDOT years ago because had they implemented the disruptive ideas that would have been revealed to them, the livable streets movement (in the US at least) would have become unstoppable. But, as time passed, there was something about JSK that just didn’t sit right with me, so I’ve kept quiet ever since. What was it that didn’t sit right with me? Basically, I will not knowingly help or associate with a 1% aspirer/enabler/sympathizer.

    Just as you have nothing but praise for Gabe Klein, there were people at one point in time who had nothing but praise for Jerry Sandusky. My point is that there are certain types of people who spend time crafting a public image that would be most favorable to them in order to dupe people like you.

  • Bike Chicago Employee

    Ah “most impressive” the latest Josh Squire alias. Josh is an obsessed losing bidder for Chicago and NY and many other cities who has various companies like CycleHop and Bike Chicago and is basically a hater. I worked for him and can tell you first hand that he lives and breathes this hatred every day. Let it go Josh and just focus on you.

  • mostimpressive

    I can assure you I am not Josh Squire. I’m the person that’s going to put an end to bike sharing in the U.S.



11 Transportation Officials Who Are Changing the Game

America’s streets are changing for the better. The signs are everywhere: Whether it’s bike sharing in Chattanooga, complete streets in New Orleans or bus rapid transit in Cleveland — cities across the country are trying new things and making impressive progress in the pursuit of safer streets and sustainable transportation. It’s all thanks to a lot […]

Progressive Cycles, a Meeting with Gabe Klein

The Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, and the Urban Land Institute Los Angeles invite you to a special event: Progressive Cycles: A Meeting with Gabe Klein With Introductory Remarks from Art Leahy, CEO Metro (click here to download the MTA Bikeshare Report) Friday, January 17, 2014 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm Board of Public Works Session Room […]

Gabe Klein’s Advice for Los Angeles

Gabe Klein is one of the United States’ top livability leaders. From the private sector, he became a maverick city transportation department head for Washington D.C., then Chicago. In leading those DOTs, he championed innovative multi-modal approaches that activate streets. He embraces bicycling, walking, and new technologies. This year, he has a new book out titled […]