May/June 1998, p.3

Rudy Discovers Pro-Ped = Good Politics

Last issue we took Mayor Giuliani to task for his ill-conceived placement of pedestrian barricades in Midtown. The Mayor deserved the criticism then and still does for this muddle-headed, pedestrian-impeding, motoring-encouraging scheme. But a funny thing happened just a few days after we went to press in late February. In the aftermath of the barricade and jaywalking backlash, the Mayor made his second term kick-off speech, and surprise, a big part of it was straight from T.A.!

To his credit, the Mayor announced that traffic enforcement and pedestrian safety are important and admitted that the police have long ignored the streets where New Yorkers live, bicycle and walk in favor of patrolling highways. This is no secret to those of us who bicycle and walk amidst the motorized chaos and terror on Big Apple streets. It was quite a day, when after years of being subjected to police and bureaucratic denials, the City's top official acknowledged that NYC motorists are out of control and the police need to get busy. The Mayor also made a special point about the need to reduce speeding (a longtime focus of T.A. advocacy) and pledged to install more speed humps and improve taxi driver training. His speech had a radically different tone from January, when he was busy suggesting walkers are a public nuisance and that cars should be accommodated. The post-jaywalking Giuliani cited streets as "perhaps our most important public space," and noted that pedestrians "simply deserve to feel safe crossing our streets." Given this quick turn about, one wonders if the Mayor's advisors tipped him off that being pro-pedestrian makes good politics.

Whatever his motivation, the Mayor has followed his rhetoric with action. See "Three Big Steps to Safer Streets" on page 12 for the exciting details. While it is doubtful that the Mayor has enjoyed a transportation epiphany that will soon have him calling for auto-reduction measures like tolls on the East River bridges, higher parking fees, car-free parks, or (gasp!) an end to the police harassment of cyclists, he has done some good things this spring. Unfortunately, missing from his policies is any coherence or planning. Just as the Mayor is waking up to the importance of the walking environment as a barometer of the city's quality of life, he nevertheless continues to push policies, like accommodation of auto-dependent mega-stores, which generate intolerable levels of traffic.

T.A. is not sitting idly by hoping the Mayor achieves enlightenment. We are working in every borough with our members, local community groups and elected officials to hasten the advent of the day when people, not cars, have priority. You can help by enlisting your neighbors and friends as T.A. members. About 80% of our members joined because a friend told them about us. The equation is simple: the more members we have, the more muscle we have and the more incentive the politicians have to improve conditions for cyclists and walkers.

John Kaehny
Executive Director

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