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What's the scoop on Janette Sadik-Khan?

By Al Schumann on Saturday March 5, 2011 07:40 AM

From what I've read, her unforgivable flaw is that she's 1) a woman 2) who is acting like a spoiled, entitled, rude and insensitive man. According to the NY Post, she's been dragging drivers from their cars and publicly castrating them. That does seem a bit extreme, but... According to the NY Times, she's set up lots of pedestrian-only zones and lots of bike lanes. They also feel that mistakes have been made; by whom is an exercise left for the reader. An ambitious Democrat named Wienerschnitzel hates her for the bike lanes. That alone might be taken as a positive endorsement.

But I don't really know anything about what she's done, or whether it's any good. Any city dwellers care to comment?

Comments (25)

Im not even a biker and I love it.

Nymag compares her to Jane Jacobs. Them's big shoes.


looks great to me


and i never learned to ride a bike
hate walking
and would drive a big sedan
to the kitchen from my den
for a bunch of grapes
if i could

Al Schumann:

I was very suspicious when I read about her alleged character flaws. These things follow a pattern. The man who acts that way is "forceful, sure of his own convictions, passionate and technocratic in outlook". The woman, however, is "rude, aggressive, obdurate, divisive and irrational". The personal conduct is exactly the same, and the allegations may even have some truth to them. For the man, however, they excuse all kinds of hackery. For the woman, they indict any real accomplishments.

The double standard is bad enough, but it also always accompanies determined efforts to make things worse. If by some miracle there are places where people don't have to live in fear of vehicular homicide, that's an improvement, even if the improver is "rude, aggressive, obdurate, divisive and irrational".

I'll take a rude woman over a Hummer traveling the wrong way on a one way road and honking at me like im the one whose fucking up, any day.

Peter Ward:

It's great bikes will be protected from reckless drivers, but who will protect walkers from both reckless drivers and even more reckless (if less deadly) bikers--with say a wall of parked bikes?

What fwoan said.

My own issues, on this side of the Central Empire, isn't with bikers-- unless they act like complete fucking idiots.


Sadik-Khan is Bloomberg, as Napoleon's generals were Napoleon. These modest de-automobilization efforts are Bloomie's own, apparently with some considerable endorsement by elements of the "business community" who have noticed that car-choked streets are bad for, erm, business. I know this because friends of mine who are anti-car transpo wonks are suddenly getting grants and Gummint jobs.

But car drivers in New York are a lot like gun owners: a dangerous, somewhat unbalanced, but highly motivated minority, with some consequential business interests behind them. So there's lots of pushback.

S-K is the lightning rod, the cutout. If the heat gets too great, S-K gets thrown under the bus, no pun intended, and maybe Bloomie changes course -- or maybe he finds somebody else to pursue the same course. He doesn't call me anymore, so I don't know what he's thinking.

The Post isn't interested in policy; it's interested in selling newspapers, and the only people it sells newspapers to are pissed-off middle-class white guys -- mostly Jews and some Italians. Puerto Ricans and Dominicans sometimes read it, but not for the pissed-off parts -- just the racy Hollywood and scandal stuff. I don't know when the last time was that a black guy read the Post, or a woman of any tribe.

A good many of the pissed-off white guys drive -- a case of mutual causation: they drive because they're pissed-off, and they're pissed-off because they drive. Driving in New York will piss you off. I do it occasionally, and it pisses me off.

If I had to guess, I'd say S-K might be on her way out, and a few concessions will be made to the pissed-off white guys; but there's extensive elite consensus that the Robert Moses model needs rethinking, and the trends we've seen will continue, perhaps less aggressively, even if Weinerschnitzel ends up in Gracie Mansion -- a far-fetched scenario, I would have said, before Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago.

Nove looks to have nailed it. I'd wager heavily that the main motive is tourism promotion, plus a bit of burnishing Bloomie's cred with mainstream green-pwogs. It's kind of a neat idea, as far as it goes, which isn't very far. But, despite the attacks, I'm not shedding any tears for this woman. For one thing, she appears to have both a great life and plenty of self-assurance.

The partial Eurofication of Manhattan could be a core marketing plus for Bloomberg for Prez in 2012 or 2016. By the latter date, present oil troubles are likely to look like the early rumblings that they are. The overclass will then need somebody who can sell the idea that such baby steps and gestures are somehow serious reform.


If you live here in NYC, the steps don't look so babyish. In fact they look rather consequential. For the last century or almost, our city fathers have been trying to find some way to turn this town into Orange County, CA. The best thing you can say about Bloomie is that he's realized this project is not only doomed, but undesirable. Trust a technocrat to look at the bottom line.


An intra-borough class angle on this one: The outer-borough middle and working class ethnics (the car-driving white ones, anyway) hate the bike lanes and see them as the liberal-techocratic-Manhattan-plutocrat billionaire imposing his hoity-toity, East Side cocktail party "green" values on their streets(and commutes). You know, bike lanes are "so Park Slope,"...that sort of thing. To the Bklyn/Queens/SI crowd, Janette isn't the new Jane --- she's King Bloomie's liberal/enviro Robert Moses.

Schnitzel hails from outer-borough Koch Country, and even markets himself as a young Crazy Eddie, playing to the pissed-off white guys in his bid for Bloomie's job.


...Park Slope being an elite-lib Manhattan colony, of course.


It's quite true, of course, that the outer boroughs aren't so well served by transit as Manhattan and the nearer reaches of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. But most of the bike-laning, as far as I can tell, is in precisely these inner zones. To the extent that the backlash has a real popular base, I suspect it's mostly a Clash Of Cultures thing -- Bunkerism, you might even say.

davi paulinho:

In my personal experience, traffic has been completely screwed up by the changes to traffic flow made under the Bloomberg regime. I haven't a thought personally about the individual woman responsible for bicycle lanes, etc., but I can tell you that in my lower Manhattan neighborhood the changes have added terrible traffic jams and surely must be adding to air pollution as buses, cars, etc., now are stuck in jams that never happened before. Waste of time also is absurd as cars cannot make a simple left hand turn onto Pike Slip, and thus are diverted onto Market Street and Madison where there never before was a problem. Truly urban planning at its worst.

davi paulinho:

Sorry, but a brief follow up to what I wrote a minute ago. My Chinese neighbors (in Chinatown) who usually are completely removed from any local political interest, have taken to calling Bloomberg "the Tyrant" simply as a function of frustration with the changes to traffic flow his bicycle lanes and other obstructions have made to their ability to receive deliveries. Kudos to Bloomberg's minions to have found a way to engage the locals in hatred of the political system when they were totally disengaged before.

I can tell you that in my lower Manhattan neighborhood the changes have added terrible traffic jams
Obvious solution: congestion pricing.

Oh, and no more free or cut-rate parking. What does a hundred square feet of Manhattan street frontage rent for? That should be the rate.

Nove, I didn't mean to belittle the changes' importance in the city there. They do sound pretty cool. But one irony is that NYC is one of the few urban areas in which these kinds of changes are possible without truly major reconstruction. Elsewhere, including here in the immensely over-estimated transit Mecca of Portland, Oregon, the ratio of sprawl to core is way, way higher. Hence, if Bloomberg ever tries to sell himself as the green wizard of transport, the next question is how he proposes his project might apply in Phoenix, Denver, etc.

But one irony is that NYC is one of the few urban areas in which these kinds of changes are possible without truly major reconstruction.
That's undoubtedly true -- though the sprawl level in the overall metro area here (as distinguished from the urban core) is not much better, I think, than elsewhere in the US.

Still, the point is a valid one: we'll have to spend a lot of money, and a lot of people will have to move, and change the way they live, in order to de-automobilize the country to any significant degree.

But then, we spent a lot of money, and cajoled a lot of people to move and change, in order to pave ourselves into the dreary toxic car-ridden mess we're in. There's no reason, in principle, why we can't spend the money and do the cajoling that'll reverse the process.

If Bloomie is in fact the leading edge of an elite consensus that that needs to happen, then happen it will.


Nov, you wrote, "we'll have to spend a lot of money, and a lot of people will have to move, and change the way they live, in order to de-automobilize the country to any significant degree."

I suspect rising energy prices --- an inevitability --- will have something to say about this.


CZ -- You're right, they will. Also population growth; people keep making more people, but God stopped making land quite some time ago. And then there's allometrics -- what works at one scale doesn't work at a bigger scale.


MJS, I suspect the revolutions in the Middle East, whatever good or nefarious turns they take, will drive up oil prices for a good, long time. The US hammerlock on the oil flow is over, methinks (or mehopes).

Separately, do you or anyone else on this blog know if the tunnels to Gaza are now open? That would, of course, be its own kind of liberation.

Chomskyzinn: You may well be correct about the oil stranglehold. No coincidence that the US is considering intervening on behalf of human rights in Libya--a country with considerable oil and natural gas.

As far as I understand, the tunnels in Gaza are quite open. We'll find out soon enough what the good folks of Sinai/Gaza have been smuggling through them, I suspect.


Steven, some indispensable viewing, available on youtube: Noam vs Bill Buckley, on Firing Line, debating whether great powers can intervene in others' affairs in a distinterested manner. Choir-preaching to SMBIVA no doubt, but Noam's argument echoes nonetheless down through the ages...right down to an intervention in Libya on behalf of "human rights." Hah! Laughable, and wholly predictable.

May I interest anyone in some flowers and candy?

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