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.

  • Komanoff

    Such terrific news! NYC cycling gets full-time use of the most committed, resourceful and effective cycling advocate in our history. And Transit Center barely skips a beat as the phenomenally gifted Ben Fried takes Jon’s place. Fantastic all around!

  • Streetfilms (928 videos!)

    We are a city of 8.6 million and we could use many, many voices on the bike advocacy front. I have been so impressed what Bike New York has become under Ken Podbiza and now this will just launch them into the stratosphere.

  • JK

    Great! As an everyday bicyclist I’m very happy to hear that Jon Orcutt and BikeNY will be bringing much needed clout and energy to boosting “bike-specific advocacy” in NYC. Count me as a supporter.

  • JohnBrownForPresident

    Fantastic! I never cared much for BNY because group rides and “family friendly” ain’t my thing but advocacy is fantastic and you all have great reps in the cycling community.

  • Peter Engel

    Wow! Fantastic for Jon, for BikeNY and all of us in NYC!

  • Maggie

    Wow, both these announcements are really exciting.

    NYC is clearly suffering from two things: first, the climate-destroying impact of de Blasio’s encouragement for placard abuse everywhere (his climate legacy will be defined by this issue – in particular his baffled response to why he didn’t bother to encourage people to take transit in the snow), and second, the city’s tendency to make every single safe streets project a pitched, lengthy community battle for short disconnected segments, as opposed to designing and building a city network.

    I’m really excited to see Orcutt and Fried in these important advocacy roles, to help NYC rise to its deeply unfulfilled potential. Congrats to both!!!

  • Cristina Carnicelli Furlong

    For way too long, bike initiatives live and die by TA and DOT- a quick look at even Streetsblog jobs board shows there’s way more action at the ground level in other cities. Heck, LA- has more ground level advocacy. I really look forward to the reach that BikeNY can offer. Hopefully, they’ll be successful at VisionZero For Schools and bringing the Health Dept in too. Congrats to Bike New York for pulling in such an exceptional brain and long time visionary. BikeNY stands a chance to remove a level of politicking and entitlement from the piñata that is livable streets in NYC.

  • Cristina Carnicelli Furlong

    BTW- a piñata is a typical latin american party game where one bangs a stick at a cutesy, easily destroyed effigy for some cheap candy or baubles.

  • Wilfried84

    OMG he’s not wearing a helmet! 😛

  • Joe R.

    I know that’s sarcasm but I waiting for someone to say that seriously. I actually consider it refreshing to see someone in a high cycling advocacy position NOT wearing a helmet. If we ever want to mainstream cycling, it needs to be seen as a normal activity like walking. Wearing a helmet, or even worse advising cyclists to wear one in your PSAs, sends the message that cycling is dangerous.

  • Rex Rocket

    Cycling is dangerous. The helmet is not a factor in mainstreaming or popularizing bicycling. The behavior of drivers is the main obstacle.

  • Maya Mi

    In my research on bicycle use in China, I was surprised to learn that helmets are not necessarily the answer to safety: “…in the Netherlands, with the safest cycling of any country, less than 1% of adult cyclists wear helmets, and even among children, only 3–5% wear helmets… The Dutch cycling experts and planners interviewed for this article adamantly oppose laws to require the use of helmets, claiming that helmets discourage cycling by making it less convenient, less comfortable and less fashionable. They also mention the possibility that helmets would make cycling more dangerous by giving cyclists a false sense of safety and thus encouraging riskier riding behaviour. At the same time, helmets might reduce the consideration motorists give cyclists, since they might seem less vulnerable if wearing helmets” (Walker, 2007, as cited in John Pucher & Ralph Buehler (2008) Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, Transport Reviews, 28:4, 495-528, DOI: 10.1080/01441640701806612)

  • Joe R.

    All very true. Child helmet laws especially are a particularly bad idea. If they had existed when I was a child, I can say with certainty I never would have bothered to ride a bike. I know I shunned any other sports which required special equipment, as it made them inconvenient and non-spontaneous to engage in.

  • qrt145

    But cycling is the quintessential equipment-dependent sport, since it requires a bike! 🙂 Now playing tag, that’s a real equipment-free sport…

  • Joe R.

    I’ve always thought of the bike as an extension of your body. Maybe I should have been clearer. I avoided sports where you had to strap on knee pads, helmets, whatever, because it took away from the spontaneity of it. If I want to ride my bike, I just grab it and go. I’m riding in whatever time it takes me to physically get myself and my bike out the door.

    Now if there was some way to build inherent protection into the bike itself, I’m all for that. Velomobiles for example have their shell, and in some cases a roll cage.

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