If you've been reading the blog you'll remember that I had a near death experience with a black Mercedes Benz on my bike. The driver said some angry swear words at me, and then I discovered he was a New York state senator.
Senator Klein, Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives, and I today had a meeting to discuss policy changes that would potentially make the streets safer for bikers and pedestrians. This, as you know, would help make more widely accessible the commuter options which are much better both for the planet and for people than cars.
First off, though, let's remember this: after I posted about my incident with Senator Klein, hundreds and maybe thousands of you phoned his office and emailed him to ask him to meet with me. Together, we helped a politician to listen to what we had to say.
So important conclusion number one: YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE RESPONSE TO OUR SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS MAKES A DIFFERENCE. SO THANK YOU!
Next important thing to say is that Paul and I were able to find a lot of common ground with the Senator.
- The Senator very gracefully apologized for the confrontation we had and said that he had been startled by my knocking on his window. I told him that no apology was necessary and that the problem was that poor street design causes such confrontations all the time.
- The Senator agreed that red light and speed cameras in New York City, a measure advocated by Transportation Alternatives, might well decrease reckless driving and make the streets safer for bikers and walkers. He agreed to look at concrete proposals with a view to potentially supporting them in the state legislature.
- He agreed to cosign a letter with Transportation Alternatives to the New York State Department of Transportation asking that the many bureaucratic barriers to having speed-bumps installed on neighborhood streets be minimized. Speed bumps are one method of "traffic calming" that would make neighborhood streets safer for bikers and walkers.
- The Senator expressed interest in introducing legislation that would revise the New York State driver's education test to require questions relating to pedestrian and bicyclist safety and relevant penalties in relation to collision with pedestrian injuries and deaths.
- The Senator was open to examining forms of congestion pricing and other New York City traffic reduction methods with a view to finding compromises--such as investment in express bus service to his district from downtown Manhattan--that would provide a win for both his constituents and for traffic reduction advocates.
- The Senator also said that, though he doesn't ride bikes himself, he may be willing to take a ride in the back of my rickshaw to experience the difficulties bicyclists have in New York City.
Of course, we have yet to see whether the senator will follow through--stay tuned--but there can be no doubt that we had a congenial and potentially productive meeting.
Your phone calls and emails had the effect of helping to open one legislator's mind to options that will take our transportation system one step closer to being truly good for the both the planet and for the people.
Congratulations on your efforts! And thank you.