A version of this article originally appeared on Transportation Nation.
Let’s go back in time to December 2010. The city’s tabloid editorial pages are just beginning to sink their teeth into the transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, for -- among other things -- her avid support of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas. In Brooklyn, well-connected residents are preparing to sue to remove a bike lane.
On Dec. 9, 2010, New York’s city council holds a standing-room-only, overflow-room-inducing, five hour-plus hearing on bikes and bike lanes in New York City. Bronx council member James Vacca, who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee, kicks things off first by warning the crowd to be polite, then sets the stage by pointing out “few issues today prompt more heated discussion than bike policy in New York City.”
In the hours that followed, he was proven correct: Sadik-Khan was grilled, interrupted, and accused of ignoring the will of the public, prevaricating, and acting by fiat.
And she was put on the defensive, repeatedly exclaiming “That’s what we do!” when yet another council member excoriated her for not soliciting sufficient community input.
At one point, Lewis Fidler, a council member from Brooklyn, told Sadik-Khan her answer was “kind of half true. I don’t say that to be snooty. I say it because I think maybe you’re not aware.”
And then he reeled himself him. “This is not like you’ve got to be for the cars or you’ve got to be for the bikes or you’ve got to be for the buses. It’s really not … the cowmen and the farmers can be friends.”
The mood at this week’s Transportation Committee hearing, held in the same room as the 2010 hearing -- and with many of the same players in attendance -- was markedly different.