“The future is riding on an electric bike”

Between 2007 and 2013 it transformed the streets of New York.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
12 May 2024 Sunday 04:26
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“The future is riding on an electric bike”

Between 2007 and 2013 it transformed the streets of New York.

She was the Transportation Commissioner during the term of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. We transform city streets to make room for pedestrians, cyclists, buses and green spaces.

More than half of the world's population lives in cities.

Yes, and in the year 2050 it will be 70%, and there is no deadlier place in the world. Car emissions are the main source of air pollution.

Cities gave most of their space to cars.

It must be returned to the citizen. The streets need someone to defend them. During the Bloomberg administration we built 650 km of bicycle lanes, today we already have 3,800 km. And our Bicing has become the largest bicycle park in the world outside of China.


In six years we created seven rapid bus lines, we managed to turn Times Square into an oasis for pedestrians and we built more than seventy new squares in New York.

They hurried.

We did it with pilot projects and temporary materials because New Yorkers didn't believe their city could change.

You were angel and demon.

Yes, many were reluctant at first. You cannot change the status quo without a fight, you can ask Mayor Sadiq-Khan of London, Mayor Hidalgo in Paris, López in Bogotá, Moore in Sydney, or Plante in Montreal... Mayors who have joined to return the city to the citizens.

Where did you get your ideas from?

One of my first trips was to Copenhagen, where they did something very simple: they created their bike lanes by moving cars off the sidewalks, quickly and cheaply.

what was the next step?

We collected a lot of data that showed that all of those pilot projects had mobility, health and economic benefits. Businesses on pedestrian streets have improved their income by 50%; Many more people enter stores if the streets are friendly to people who walk or bike.

In the superblocks of Barcelona they replace trees with flowerpots.

Cities must be filled with trees to improve air quality and mitigate heat. There are cities that are even studying removing the cement and making the streets wild again.

There are also policies and citizens who want to return the streets to cars.

The changes are difficult to accept, although in the vast majority of cities the mayors who have opted for pedestrians, greenways and bicycles have been re-elected.

Citizens want safe cities.

When you design streets thinking about cars as if they were highways, the streets become empty. Having more people on the streets makes them safer. Streets should not just be a way to get from one place to another.

Is crime reduced?

In neighborhoods where street life has multiplied, crime has decreased. The great urban planner Jane Jacobs said that it was not the police that made a neighborhood safe but the watchful eyes of the people who sit on the benches, in the parks, who walk down the street.

And traffic accidents are reduced?

Interventions in New York, from bike lanes to widening sidewalks, have driven traffic accident mortality to its lowest level in 100 years.

What city surprises you?

Milan, with its Piazze Aperte program, has turned car spaces into places where children play. Paris has created school streets, tree-lined green streets and transformed main thoroughfares such as Rue de Rivoli and Rive Droite into car-free corridors filled with people walking and cycling. In central London the number of cyclists now exceeds the number of drivers.

Is pedestrianizing streets the future?

75% of the street space is used by 25% of traffic, which is lethal. If an alien came to Earth, he would think that the most important thing for us are these one-ton metal boxes because they take up the most space, and are noisy and polluting. Has no sense.

What will the city of the future be like?

The future is riding on an electric bike. If we manage to change the streets of cities we will change the world, and it can be done quickly and cheaply.

Doesn't the climate or topography matter?

What matters is the geography of the street, people don't feel safe going between cars. As soon as we built the first bike lane in New York, bike sales rose 58%, it's good public policy.