Bike New York to Launch New Advocacy Arm with Jon Orcutt at the Helm

The former DOT official, TransAlt chief and TransitCenter communications director will help chart a new direction for the biking education and event group.

Glory days: Jon Orcutt (left with then-DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, then Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, and then-DOT bike-share program director Kate Fillin-Yeh) will become the advocacy leader of Bike New York.
Glory days: Jon Orcutt (left with then-DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, then Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, and then-DOT bike-share program director Kate Fillin-Yeh) will become the advocacy leader of Bike New York.

Cyclists — one of the smartest people in the transportation world is about to fight your fight.

Jon Orcutt, a former policy director for the city Department of Transportation and currently communications and advocacy director of the nationally focused TransitCenter, will join Bike New York to launch a new advocacy program “to help New York become the best cycling city in the world,” the group said.

Bike New York has not traditionally been an advocacy organization, focusing mostly on education and events such as the annual Five-Boro Bike Tour. But a louder megaphone is needed to push on the city’s Vision Zero agenda.

“We want to make some noise and be part of the conversation,” Ken Podziba, president and CEO of Bike New York, told Streetsblog. “We’ve established an incredible education program … but we’ve always wanted to contribute more to advocacy. Jon is the right person to lead the charge.”

Jon Orcutt, doing what he does.
Jon Orcutt, doing what he does.

For his part, Orcutt, who will start on Feb. 4 as Bike New York’s new communications director, said he was excited to focus solely on cycling.

“Transportation Alternatives is fighting big legislative battles on many transportation issues in Albany, for example, but there is a lot of bike-specific advocacy that needs to be done. We need the bike network to be bigger and to be maintained much better,” said Orcutt, who was part of the DOT leadership team during its first big bike lane push from 2007-14. Orcutt was also working for DOT when Citi Bike was launched. Previously, he led Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

“New York has come a long way as a cycling city, but it’s time for a new round of policy innovation and quality improvements,” he added. “A bigger bike network requires better maintenance policies and more institutional support across city government. I’m really looking forward to bringing Bike New York’s reach and resources to the effort to win these changes.”

Podziba agreed that the biggest challenge facing cyclists is unsafe conditions stemming from an incomplete bike network.

“Bike New York teaches people how to bike safely with cars because we want more riders,” he said. “But some riders say they will never ride in traffic with cars, so we need a better network of protected bike lanes. The city is moving in that direction, but we want them to move quicker. We are not at the critical mass yet where enough people ride and feel safe.”

He also said the group would also seek the holy grail of bike advocacy: fewer cars. “They have way too much real estate in this densely populated place,” he said.

Former Streetsblog Editor in Chief Ben Fried, a widely respected journalist, will join TransitCenter in Orcutt’s absence. He starts on Jan. 14.

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