What It Takes to Change a City

Image Courtesy Thomas Roessler
We are winning.

Bike share, pedestrian plazas and Select Bus Service are the proof. Play Streets, new crash investigation protocols and hundreds of miles of bike lanes are testament too. There are public opinion polls, editorials in the daily papers, hundreds of thousands of daily cyclists and millions more who ride a few times each month that attest to the new normal on New York City’s streets.

The path has not been an easy one. There have been obstacles, setbacks, periods of dormancy and myriad challenges. Transportation Alternatives has lost and gained friends and members and supporters and staffers, and you’ve probably argued and yelled and protested along with us.

We’ve all sacrificed: Long hours, broken bones, breakdowns, crashes, screaming matches, hurt feelings; the list goes on and on. But that’s what it takes to change a city. It takes single-mindedness, selfishness, conviction and courage to hold tight to an idea and hoist it up above all the others; to parade it around and speak up; to face ridicule and rejection and go home tired and still believe in your bones that what you’re fighting for matters.

That’s what we want to celebrate in this special feature section. On the dawn of the launch of Citi Bike—one of the most important changes to New York City streets in decades—Reclaim is going to skip our usual sit-down interview and forego some of our traditional news reporting to give space to a pair of personal essays about perseverance and commitment. The authors of these two pieces have struggled through pain and loss and found strength and honor in, among other things, the fight for safer streets. Their voices are two in a chorus that has given Transportation Alternatives and the fight for livable streets a moral authority and a human resonance that goes far past plans for engineering, education and enforcement. Their work has been a true north for our movement.

At the dawn of this new era, the Reclaim staff hopes you appreciate this intimate look back, and we hope you find in these stories courage to continue to change your streets, our city and the world.