Sadik-Khan, Byrne Discuss Infrastructure, From NYC to Bogotá

Event: Oculus Book Talk: Janette Sadik-Khan in Conversation with David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.24.11
Speakers: Janette Sadik-Khan — Commissioner, NYC Department of Transportation; David Byrne — Musician, Visual Artist, Filmmaker, Author, Bicycle Diaries
Organizers: AIANY Oculus Committee; AIANY Public Architecture Committee
Sponsor: Kramer Levin; McNally Jackson Books

Pedestrian plazas and new bike paths are improving NYC.

Jessica Sheridan

It was apparent during the discussion between David Byrne, artist and author of the Bicycle Diaries, and NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan that positive change is happening on a global scale due to multi-modal transportation strategies implemented in cities of all scales. For Byrne, his realizations solidified as he recently biked through Bogotá, Columbia; for Sadik-Khan, it is continues as improvements are made throughout the city.

As Byrne biked through Bogotá, he saw first-hand how infrastructural improvements have helped improve favelas. Paved bicycle and pedestrian paths have given downtown access to inhabitants, allowing them to find work in the city that was inaccessible in the past. “Improvised bike repair stations” — individuals who sit curbside with tools to help repair bikes — are now scattered along those paths. In addition, the TransMilenio bus system is a viable alternate to owning a car, as express bus lanes give uncongested priority on highways leading to downtown. Community centers are also popping up in the form of large-scale libraries. Byrne cited the Biblioteca El Tintal, designed by local architect Daniel Bermúdez, as an example of a library/auditorium/meeting space/cafeteria that is part of this new network, which has also become a source of pride for local communities.

Although NYC may not appear to have gone through major infrastructural change, Sadik-Khan pointed to Times Square just a few years ago, before the pedestrian plazas were established. She recalled naysayers who were concerned about increased traffic congestion and those who did not believe the plazas would improve the cityscape. Now, visitors and locals alike regularly meet up and spend time in Times Square; safety has improved dramatically with fewer accidents caused by automobiles; and traffic has not become more congested along the periphery, she noted. Throughout the city, new bike lanes and pedestrian plazas have made the city much more livable. Next summer, with the launch of a bike share program, which has received positive reviews at the pop-up information sessions, Sadik-Khan is looking forward to seeing New Yorkers take to the streets on two wheels and enjoy the increasingly fresh air.