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Thanks, Gabe Klein & Janette Sadik-Khan
The phrase "...it's amazing, compared to where we were five years ago..." crops up in pretty much every interview I give and presentation I make these days. And the comparison is simple: we've come a long way, whether you are talking about ridership numbers, the people who are riding, or the places people are riding.
Sure, there are things like gasoline prices skyrocketing to more than $4 a gallon in 2008; an economic collapse of some note; and dramatically shifting demographics in American society that have certainly contributed to the huge shift towards cycling that we see in almost every U.S. city.
Equally influential, however, are two powerful and inspirational transportation leaders: Janette Sadik-Khan and Gabe Klein. Five years ago, even though both were deeply involved in the transportation sector, they weren't exactly household names in the bike/transit/walk/placemaking world.
Today, as Mayor Bloomberg's term comes to an end in New York City and Gabe Klein, Chicago's outgoing Transportation Commissioner, moves back to Washington, D.C., they are the rock stars of a movement that has gained remarkable traction in communities across the nation. And it is because of Sadik-Khan and Klein that the momentum we see in those communities is going to flourish for years to come.
You see, they didn't just do amazing things on the ground to transform the communities in which they worked. They have done things that open the door, set the example, and raise expectations in Normal, Illinois; Roswell, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; and Spokane, Washington, alike. They have changed the rules of the game -- sometimes quite literally -- for all of us.
The NACTO bike guide and the D.C. and Chicago bikesharing systems are two obvious examples of projects that have had a profound impact in the cities themselves, and have been absolute game-changers in changing the perception of bicycling among elected officials, hardened traffic engineers and the often fickle general public.
We thank you unreservedly for that leadership, await with eager anticipation the places you will take us in the next five years, and assure you that we'll do all in our power to take full advantage of the new rules and new game we are playing in American cities.
(Photo: Gabe Klein, then District Department of Transportation Director, speaks at the ribbon-cutting of D.C.'s Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes.)