Paul Steely White delivering thousands of letters to NYPD in 2011 demanding driver accountability. Photo via nag-brooklyn.org
New York is one of America’s most progressive bike cities. On one hand that makes perfect sense. As the biggest, fastest-paced city in the country it has always drawn forward-thinking, ambitious people; why not forward thinking, ambitious bike advocates? On the other, it’s kind of insane. New York has a sociopathic driving culture, a police force and political establishment historically apathetic to the idea that fatal crashes are anything but accidents, and millions of drivers, bicyclists, and walkers all vying for the same small space. Yet over the last decade, Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn have been remade into great places for biking and walking with protected bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and more and the advocates at Transportation Alternatives (T.A.) have been there every step of the way.
Recently they’ve turned their attention to Vision Zero, a radical notion that traffic deaths in New York are completely preventable. Given that the city is still averaging between 200-300 fatal bike, pedestrian, and car crashes annually, they have a long way to go. But T.A. Executive Director Paul Steely White says the Vision Zero framework they’ve laid out can get them there if they can garner the political support and capital funding necessary. I spoke to White about his history in New York City advocacy, his role in one of America’s most influential advocacy organizations, the “golden years” of New York City bike advocacy, transforming transportation with Vision Zero, and much more.