September/October 1996, p.12-13

What is T.A.?
Transportation Alternatives - The advocates for cyclists and calm neighborhood streets

Transportation Alternatives is growing. Half a dozen years ago T.A. had fewer than 800 members. Today we number 4,000 and serve as a powerful voice for bicyclists and pedestrians in the greater New York City area.

Founded in 1973 to encourage environmentally sound transportation, T.A. continues to promote bicycling, walking, and public transit, and seeks to reduce dependence on the automobile. Our efforts encompass the five boroughs of New York City and the 12 million people in its environs. At its heart, T.A. is a pro-urban environmental group.

T.A.'s Vision
Picture a city filled with bicycles, where the street life I not drowned out by traffic, where neighborhoods devote open space to residents rather than to motorists, and where streets are designed for safe and comfortable walking. In this New York, cyclists would have bicycle lanes, secure indoor and outdoor parking, and safe access to bridges. Commuters could depend on safe and efficient subways, buses and light rail systems to move about the metropolis. And because motorists would pay for the air pollution and other harms inflicted on the public, fewer would choose to drive. With more tranquil streetscapes and better public transportation, our cities and towns would attract more people and reduce dependence on cars, thus preserving our nation's open space and turning back the tide of suburban sprawl.

Sound farfetched? This is the vision that cities like Copenhagen in Denmark, Curitiba in Brazil and Groningen in Holland are already beginning to achieve.

Many Parts, Working Together
Transportation Alternatives is people-members, volunteers, staff, and board of directors-working for a better city. We try to balance the energy of community action with professional quality work.

Members-everyone who has made a membership contribution in the last year-give us clout and resources to get things done, and provide T.A. with a reservoir of volunteers.

Volunteers donate time and labor to help T.A. This year, more than 300 T.A. volunteers have helped publish this magazine, led neighborhood campaigns and attended community meetings. Others have helped in the office with mailings or other projects, or handed out (and mailed in) thousands of postcards for extended car-free hours in Prospect Park and other causes. And, as always, a healthy group is helping make T.A.'s NYC Century a success.

Staff: T.A.'s staff of five full-time and three to five part-time employees generates advocacy pressure on public officials on immediate and long-term transportation issues.

T.A.'s Board of Directors is responsible for keeping the organization on course and financially healthy. Our thirteen board members bring to T.A. a diversity of experience. They are nominated by T.A.'s membership and staff and selected by a board nominating committee.

Major Programs
At the heart of T.A.'s efforts are winning the five bicycling basics: safe streets, bicycle lanes, bridge access, secure parking, and bike links to mass transit. In addition to our bicycle advocacy, T.A. is working to foster broader transportation changes and plant the seeds for change in the next generation.

The Neighborhood Streets Network, a coalition of 32 NYC community and civic groups, is working to reduce traffic and improve pedestrian conditions in their neighborhoods. T.A. weaved the coalition together in late 1995 to unify the voices of the many communities struggling to reclaim their streets from traffic.

Recycle-A-Bicycle teaches kids bike mechanic skills and allows them to earn-a-bike through community service. Along the way the kids learn self-discipline, respect, and cooperation. To date, 500 kids have graduated from RAB programs at four schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a coalition of 14 NY, NJ and Connecticut civic and environmental groups (including T.A.) working for environmentally sustainable, socially equitable and economically sensible transportation in the 31-county NYC area.

T.A. also works on advocacy campaigns of city-wide importance, like our work with the Gowanus Expressway Community Coalition and Car-Free Central and Prospect Parks.

The Result: A Powerful Voice For A Livable City
T.A. members should be proud of what we have accomplished together. In a city beset with gargantuan problems, T.A. offers simple, cost-effective, and lasting solutions. While the obstacles to achieving our vision are great, our efforts build on each other and benefit thousands of New Yorkers. Our work has awakened neighborhood groups, fellow environmentalists, and political leaders to the possibility of a city freed from the dominance of the automobile.

T.A.'s Top Ten

T.A. has won many victories in our 23 years. Here are our 10 favorites:

  • Unrestricted 24 hour bike and pedestrian access to the Brooklyn, Queensboro, George Washington, and Williamsburg bridges.
  • Bicycle access to NYC subways 24 hours a day.
  • Central Park bike lane and extended car-free hours.
  • High quality bike lanes on Lafayette St., Nicholas Ave., and-soon-Hudson St.
  • Introduced the concept of "traffic calming" into NYC's public debate.
  • Created the Neighborhood Streets Network.
  • Raised the political profile of cycling and walking needs so that NYC now has $65 million in Federal aid for bike and pedestrian projects.
  • Safe Streets campaign that helped lead to a new police focus on traffic enforcement.
  • Legal bicycle access to "River Road," a 9-mile scenic stretch along the New Jersey Palisades.
  • Bike parking: won indoor bike parking at garages throughout NYC and the installation of the first 150 of 2,000 municipal on-street bike racks.