What I Learned
A big thank you to Paul S.
White, T.A.ís new Executive Director, for letting me write this final column.
This is dedicated to my mother-in-law and all my friends who forgot I was
stepping down as T.A.ís executive director, and called me in surprise when they
saw Paulís name on the T.A. E-Bulletin or their membership renewal letter.
In the last couple of months
Iíve been asked quite a few times what the most important things Iíve learned at
T.A. are. Here is what comes to mind at deadline. Iíve listed the least
important first to add to the suspense.
- Many people believe the
mayor sets transit fares. He doesnít, the governor does.
- New Yorkers arenít easily
impressed. No matter how many times I was in the newspaper or on TV, someone
at a community meeting was sure to let me know they had never heard of me,
T.A. or any of our advocacy campaigns. As a free bonus they often added,
that while I seemed like a nice, normal, guy, what I was trying to achieve
was doomed to failure.
- New York City is not ďStar
Trek: The Next Generation.Ē One of the most entertaining things about Star
Trek is the idea that rational dialogue and logic can sway even the most
hostile aliens. Donít believe it. Here in New York City, even the best
packaged appeals to the enlightened self interest of others often wonít
produce agreement. Witness the unrelenting hostility to East River bridge
tolls from Brooklynites who would enjoy huge traffic reductions in their
neighborhoods or the steadfast belief that more and cheaper parking will
reduce traffic along retail shopping strips.
- Winning better cycling and
walking is always fun, but doing the advocacy required to win isnít. Yes, I
know this may be a bit of shocker, but this T.A. advocacy stuff isnít always
a glamour parade. Sometimes itís an endless series of setbacks and
- Good ideas arenít worth
much unless they are backed with vigorous and persistent advocacy. Both T.A.
and the City Department of Transportation have dusty shelves full of
interesting plans for new bicycle networks and traffic calming schemes that
will never see the light of day. In the world T.A. works in, if someone
tells you their focus is developing new ideas, not fighting for their
implementation, they are really saying: ďDonít take me seriously.Ē Coming up
with new ideas is the fun part. Iíd do it for free.
- One person can make a
difference. Yes, this is actually true. From the poorest neighborhoods in
the Bronx to affluent Brooklyn Heights, I met people who, through great
perseverance, got big trucks off their streets, got the police to crack down
on speeding, won safer school crossings and won speed humps.
- Winning positive change in
New York City takes time and tenacity. This is a fundamental law. You cannot
get around it. But ironically, to be effective at winning change requires
being impatient for progress. In other words, youíve got to want things to
change now, but be willing to spend a lot of time fighting to change them.
- T.A. is delivering results
and making a difference. No doubt about this one. We are delivering real
successes for cyclists and pedestrians like you and me.
Well, thatís it for me folks.
Ten years, fifty some issues of Transportation Alternatives Magazine, three
kids, four bikes, a couple of broken arms, many friendships, hopes, frustrations
and successes later, I am out of here. My thanks to T.A.ís staff, board of
directors, membership and many fine volunteers for making it a great run.
Read the latest news on this