JSK: 'What's good for Trek is good for America'

Janette Sadik-Khan is the rock star of transportation bureaucrats, not just because she is the current Commissioner of the Department of Transportation in America’s largest city. But that has something to do with it.

Embarrassing confession: I’ve passed up the opportunity to see Sadik-Khan two previous times. I mean, how exciting could a transportation bureaucrat be? It wasn’t until I heard a real rock star, David Byrne, gushing about her in the audiobook of Bicycle Diaries that I realized I shouldn’t miss the opportunity again. And that opportunity came at the Womens Bicycling Forum.

Sadik-Khan has been at the center of PlaNYC, New York City’s mission to overhaul it’s infrastructure to make the city safer, greener, and more liveable. And because these projects are in New York City, and because the projects are showing results, other transportation bureaucrats are paying attention.

She said,

It’s harder and harder to find an American City that is not prioritizing cycling.

Here’s her full talk, via The League of American Bicyclists:


What do you do if you live in a city where your transportation department still can’t read the handwriting on the wall — the paint on the road?

It would be nice if you could force these holdout transportation officials to watch Sadik-Khan’s presentation, but there’s probably a law or something against that.

Janette Sadik-Khan and Alex DeLarge
Transportation Commissioners Janette Sadik-Khan (New York) and Alex DeLarge (Droog City)

But we can fantasize, can’t we?

One of the best quotes from the video is this:

Our streets have really been in suspended animation for the last 50 years. And when you think about it, the last major change on New York City’s streets happened in the 1950s, when major avenues in Manhattan were turned from two-way to one-way. That was during the Eisenhower Administration, at a time when the country was embarking on a whole new interstate system.

And when you think about it, if you were a business that didn’t change the way you did business for 50 years, do you think you would still be in business?

Before leaving the podium, Sadik-Kahn said, “What’s good for Trek is good for America.” This was a nod to John Burke (president of Trek, who would speak next), but also a paraphrasing of the apocryphal quote, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” attributed to Charles Erwin Wilson, Secretary of Defense under Eisenhower.

That controversial misquote symbolized an era where business interests — Auto Industry interests in particular — wielded political power with high-handed arrogance.

Sadik-Kahn was cleverly saying that the tables are turning. John Burke was just a prop — and an out-wonked one at that.

So, Janette, if you’re reading this: I got it.

My participation in this years’ National Bike Summit was made possible by these sponsors.

Bike Shop Hub Flagstaff Biking Organization Bike Virginia

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6 thoughts on “JSK: 'What's good for Trek is good for America'”

  1. Iain says:

    That’s awesome.

    I’m so happy to hear that you got a chance to see her.

    After watching the video, I don’t know why you decided to pass up the opportunity before.

    I particularly liked when she focused on cyclist safety(prospect park bike lane).

    I would love to see a more bike lanes, but that is a municipality decision.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Hey! I said I was embarrassed. Don’t rub it in.

      I’m the guy who always gripes about people who need their interests and causes to be validated by celebrities, so this is doubly embarrassing for me.

  2. Ben says:

    She is pretty awesome. If I weren’t significantly younger than her and she weren’t married…

  3. John M. Hammer says:

    Talk to people in New York and her reviews are decidedly mixed. Of course, if you do nothing but read The Post and The Daily News, she is the devil: The editors and (judging by the letters) the readers think that bikes don’t belong on city streets at all, and every bike lane is that much less space for cars. There’s usually a giant outcry even when new bike PARKING spaces are planned.

    I think all the new bike lanes are terrific. There are two issues that come to my attention regularly, though:
    1- Some of the bike lanes are just stupid, suddenly disappearing and then continuing a few blocks later on the same street, or running on the facing-traffic side of the street instead of the with-traffic side.
    2- There is absolutely no enforcement keeping stopped/parked cars and, especially, delivery vehicles OUT of the bike lanes but there is a HUGE enforcement push keeping bike riders In the lanes even in cases where it is simply unsafe to do so and the “enforcement” is in fact contrary to the laws and regulations.

    See some of Casey Niestat’s and Jimmy Justice’s latest YouTube videos for examples.

    All in all, though, things are much improved under Ms. Sadik-Khan and I find myself hoping that it’s not all wiped away in the next mayoral administration.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      One of JSK’s points she raises is that the headlines are completely at odds with the polling. Most people like the bike lanes and the changes, she says, but the headlines make it seem as though there is universal disapproval.

  4. Iain says:

    These things happen to the best of us. At least you got around to it eventually right?

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