Ed Reiskin: "Star-struck" by New York bike gal
|Before Shahum told Mayor Lee|
that he's "timid" and not bold enough
The Bay Guardian's Steve Jones ridicules Mayor Lee for not pushing bike projects like New York:
San Francisco and our timid Mayor Ed Lee could learn a few things from New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan---who became a national hero to urban cycling advocates while being villified by some in NYC---have quickly created hundreds of miles of new bike lanes and the nation’s biggest bike sharing program.
Recall that Jones expressed his contempt for Mayor Newsom to the mayor's face back in 2006, as did Leah Shahum that year---after Newsom appointed her to the MTA board. In fact the city's bike people never had anything but contempt for Mayor Newsom, even though he gave them everything they asked for. They never considered him cool or "progressive" enough, since they all voted for uber prog Matt Gonzalez, not Newsom, in the 2003 election.
Mayor Lee too has given the bike lobby everything it's asked for, but he needs to know that will never be enough. Until and unless he declares that the primary function of the city government is to redesign city streets to the exact specifications provided by cyclists. Nothing less will be enough.
“Cities need to try new things on their streets and public spaces,” Shahum said, echoing the message Sadik-Khan regularly delivers. “We need to try new things and we need to do it now.” It was a message that became a mantra, as she repeated it again and again, urging the city to do more experimentation on the streets and less long analysis. Part of that is slowing down cars to “actually prioritize the safety and health of our citizens on every street in the city.”
"Slowing down cars...on every street in the city" should be Mayor Lee's primary objective in governing the city, because cars---and the people who drive them---are the enemy, and, besides, motorists are primarily a source of revenue for a predatory City Hall (SF now has the highest parking fines in the country).
Shahum and Reiskin both admitted being star-struck by Sadik-Khan, with Reiskin saying his intro was “like my teenaged daughter introducing Brittany Spears.” Shahum said she’s often guided by the acronym WWJSKD: What Would Janette Sadik-Khan Do? Reiskin, a regular cyclist, told the story of moving to New York City in 1991, selling the last car he owned (cue the applause by the large crowd of cyclists), but that he didn’t bring a bike because at that time, the common thinking was, “Who’d be crazy enough to ride a bike in Manhattan?”
Reiskin signaled years ago, long before he became the head of the MTA, that he agreed with Shahum that slowing traffic in the city on behalf of cyclists is what he would like to do, even if that slows down the Muni system he's in charge of. He wants to do that on Polk Street, though the residents of Polk Gulch perversely oppose losing a lot of street parking to make that "improvement" for cyclists (which is why a Chronicle editorial lectured them the other day about their bad "attitude").
And Reiskin wants to do that on Masonic Avenue, even though that will also delay the #43 Muni line. Reiskin is clearly more interested in bikes than he is in buses.
But in just the last few years, Sadik-Khan has led the transformation of New York City into one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. “If she can do that there, why can’t we do that here?” Reiskin asked, later adding, “It’s phenomenal what’s happened there.” He called Sadik-Khan a cross between famed urbanist Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, who was responsible for more public development projects than any New Yorker. “She’s got the Jane Jacobs sensibility, but getting shit done like Robert Moses,” Reiskin said.
Mayor Lee should take notice and start pushing bike projects here in San Francisco. Are there any bike projects to push that he doesn't already support? No, but never mind. The bike people---including Reiskin---still think he's a wimp and way too "timid." Imagine what Reiskin could do if he was Mayor of San Francisco! He would be "phenomenal"! Oh, wait, the bike people are probably the most unpopular special interest group in the city, after years of Critical Mass, the Wiggle, and bad behavior by many cyclists on city streets. If Reiskin---with his pro-bike, anti-car record---was a candidate for mayor, it would at least give city voters a chance to vote on these projects.
But as Sadik-Khan and Shahum both repeatedly emphasized, it takes bold political leadership that is also pushed by civic groups like SFBC and the public in general, prodding on timid elected officials. As Sadik-Khan said, “People are way far ahead of public officials in understanding what works.”
Okay, we get the message about Mayor Lee. He's not "bold" enough for Reiskin and the bike people. But what about Supervisor Chiu? Is he too now nothing but a "timid elected official" because he hasn't supported the Polk Street bike lanes?
And when exactly will "the public in general" get a chance to weigh in on all these bike projects?
Funny, but none of these folks preaching "bold leadership" are so rash as to propose allowing city voters to pass judgment on how their streets are being redesigned on behalf of a special interest group that represents only a small minority.
|Scott Wiener and Ed Reiskin|
on Bike to Work Day