New York's Streets Provide "Platform for Social Activism"

Justin Davidson ruminates on the great strides Janette Sadik-Khan and New York's Department of Transportation have made in reforming the city's streets. As much as they've accomplished, the transformation remains a work in progress.

1 minute read

December 18, 2013, 7:00 AM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"Making New York’s public spaces safe, civilized, and navigable is a deeply democratic issue," observes Davidson. "If you think that the new street designs are just about giving spandex-encased bikers a high-speed lane of their own or providing tourists with café tables and Wi-Fi, then try shepherding a gaggle of preschoolers across a complicated intersection or pushing a walker across Broadway."

Davidson describes some of the specific elements - from protected bike lanes to curb extensions - that've made New York's streets more accessible to all users. "They’re the work of the Department of Transportation, whose outgoing head, Janette Sadik-Khan, turned an agency devoted to painting bridges and fixing potholes into a platform for social activism."

But reforming the city's streets is "nowhere near complete," he adds. In addition to a backlog of necessary repairs, he identifies several areas of need, including "find[ing] a way for the various ways of getting around the city to coexist more peaceably."

"Faced with the staggering cost of covering basics, the next administration may be tempted to forget the frills. That would be a terrible mistake, because it’s those background tweaks that improve life for everyone in the most democratic part of the city: its streets."

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