“Streets are some of the most valuable resources that a city has, and yet it’s an asset that’s largely hidden in plain sight”
In this funny and thought-provoking talk, Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner of New York City, shares projects that have reshaped street life in the 5 boroughs, including pedestrian zones in Times Square, high-performance buses and a 6,000-cycle-strong bike share. Her mantra: Do bold experiments that are cheap to try out.
Janette Sadik-Khan was appointed commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation in 2007. For six years, she managed nearly 5,000 employees and was responsible for the operation and management of some 6,300 miles of streets throughout the city’s 5 boroughs.
Despite her access to a budget of some $2 billion, Sadik-Khan adopted a designer’s approach to urban innovation: rapid testing and regular iteration. In other words, try an idea to see if it would work; if it didn’t, try something else, no harm done. In Times Square, an iconic New York City location visited by 350,000 people every day, this involved the creation of pedestrian zones by painting the asphalt and putting up some lawn chairs. The success of the approach allowed her to create 50 pedestrian zones throughout the city, in the process repurposing 26 acres of space previously allocated to cars.
In 2013, she helped to introduce the instantly-popular Citi Bike bicycle-sharing program to the city, making New York one of the cycling capitals in the United States.
This transformation has, in turn, inspired other cities — including Boston, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Mexico City — to create their own pedestrian spaces. Los Angeles, a notoriously car-centric city, carved out a corner of its Silver Lake district in 2012 for the public to walk, sit and eat. It even duplicated the green dots that mark New York’s streets. Buenos Aires is expanding its pedestrian zones to create calmer spaces in the bustling city of 12.8 million.