For the people-on-the-street quotes, they turned to motorists, not the people enjoying the plazas or the cyclists riding in the new lanes. They put Sadik-Khan and Michael Bloomberg on the defensive for her “brash,” “imperious” style, never acknowledging the ample public demand for safer street designs or the community board votes in favor of them. They gave airtime to Louise Hainline’s discredited bike counts on Prospect Park West. They never mentioned the fact that most New Yorkers don’t own cars, or that bikes and buses can move the same amount of people as automobiles while consuming much less space.
Still, the piece had a few things going for it.
- Broadway at Times Square looks great without cars.
- They gave Sadik-Khan time to speak. I’m sure a lot of material ended up on the cutting room floor, but the DOT commissioner makes a clear, compelling case on camera for redesigning congested city streets.
- Bloomberg provided a choice quote about why it makes sense to give people more transportation options.
- I’m speculating here, but the average person watching at home probably came away thinking that training a spy camera on a bike lane from your apartment is not the behavior of a well-adjusted adult.
- The one-two punch from Gridlock Sam and Sadik-Khan at the end said it pretty clearly: A hundred years of car-centric design have not made streets function any better; we need to do things differently.
But then came anchor Brian Williams, blithely dismissing the case for change that Smith’s piece had been building toward. An avid horsepower aficionado, Williams seemed to revel in his ignorance of how traffic works (“Those cars, they’re not going to stay home!”) and almost openly rooted for bike lanes to be torn up. The larger truth — that traffic will only get worse unless you give people better options for getting around — apparently escaped him.