What do we want? EVERYTHING! When do we want it? NOW!
That’s basically the upshot of how we in the livable streets movement are treating the upcoming legislative session in Albany, with a fresh governor sworn in for a full, four-year term.
This morning, Transportation Alternatives put out a first salvo in the form of a lengthy position paper outlining the group’s ambitious agenda to reclaim streets from cars, increase access to open space, build more affordable housing, improve transit and get more people biking on life-saving infrastructure. You can read TA’s doorstop of an agenda, which is inaptly named, “Seven Steps for New York State’s Leaders to Transform New York City’s Streets,” by clicking here.
Why is the name inapt? Yes, it boils down to seven principles — Create Streets for People, Make New York a Vision Zero State, Make Our Streets Fair, Build Self-Enforcing Streets, Reduce the Number and Size of Cars in New York, Put Bus Riders First, Get More Butts on Bikes — but the group’s 27-page document includes subsections containing at least 65 ambitious bills, initiatives, programs, schemes, plans, notions, items, motifs, strategies, intentions and methods of improving the aforementioned streetscape and livability.
We’re not complaining. It’s nice to have our Christmas wishes — old, new, borrowed and … green — all in one place. The problem? We eager recruits in the war on cars — like soldiers on the ground — need marching orders. We can’t storm Albany if we’re still fighting brush fires in the City Council. And we can’t levitate Pete Buttigieg’s office, if we’re still struggling to prevent Community Board 7 from exiling members who happen to show up at meetings wearing a tie with a bike on it.
Every idea in the TA document is a good one, but we need to focus, or we’ll waste ammo fighting the wrong battle. The enemy is well funded and backed by a hundred years of car culture. It loves to tire us out.
So for help, we called up Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris yesterday and he set us straight on what he and his group — and the rest of you activists — should be focusing on in the first 100 days of Gov. Hochul’s term. Harris’s targets:
- New York State must declare that it will follow Vision Zero principles — mainly that transportation systems must prioritize vulnerable road users over drivers. Plenty of American cities have adopted Vision Zero, but no state. Doing so would help Hochul to formally set the state’s goal to be zero road deaths by 2050.
- The state must revise its notion of transportation “level of service” as people-based instead of vehicle-based. Under such an initiative, state roads would be graded on how many people can be moved per hour, rather than how many cars. Long an ambition of NACTO, such a change would set into motion bigger transformations: more busways, bike superhighways and wider sidewalks, all of which move more people per hour than car lanes.
- Pass “Sammy’s Law.” TransAlt has been pushing this common-sense legislation for two years now, but it’s as urgent as ever. All it calls for is for the state to allow New York City to set some speed limits below 25 miles per hour. It’s such a no-brainer that it’s a wonder why we have to keep demanding it. (Oh, there’s that car culture, wearing us down again.)
After those are accomplished in the first 100 days, we can all go back to fighting the 100 Years War.
In other news:
- A mayor as cool as Eric Adams believes he is, his rant about former de Blasio administration officials only made the current mayor not look so good. (NY Post, NY Times, Gothamist)
- On the plus side, the mayor handled Curtis Sliwa’s cat vs. rat offer with more swagger. (NY Post, NY Times, Hell Gate)
- Root, root, root for the home team — unless the home team wants to develop a parking lot into something different. Yes, get ready for NIMBY on steroids at Citi Field. (QNS)
- Present company excluded, but if there is a better writer covering the pernicious intersection of car culture and fleet electrocution than David Zipper, we’d love to meet him or her (with a contract!). Zipper’s latest piece reminds us anew why electric cars are still cars … and in many ways worse than cars. A summary: “As automakers design faster, bigger cars, they are squandering a chance to make EVs safer than their predecessors. Without a gasoline engine under its hood, the Ford F-150 Lightning could have been equipped with a sloping front end that would have reduced danger to others in a crash. Instead, Ford retained the high hood of its F-150, declaring the now vacant space beneath it a ‘frunk.’” (The Atlantic)
- Speaking of EVs, Eric Adams touted a federal grant to help the city replace fuel-burning cars with electric ones, but he hasn’t said much about reducing all the driving that city workers do in a town distinguished by what Eric Adams is always calling the best transit system in the world. The purchase of EVs will include 150 Ford F-150 Lightning pick-up trucks that Zipper’s piece singled out as especially dangerous. (amNY)
- Here’s a good story about how Vox and NY Magazine will no longer take ads from “fossil fuel companies,” but it’s unclear if the policy also applies to car makers. (Marketing Brew).
- The Daily News offered more personal details on Edwin Rivera, the man who was mowed down by a hit-and-run pickup driver on New Year’s Eve — but the paper didn’t bother to discuss the epic dangers of the north Bronx for vulnerable road users like we did.