Many thanks to Tanya Paz for her post on the recent Janette Sadik-Khan (JSK) speaking event. JSK came to town to talk about what happened when she was Transportation commissioner for the City of New York. Here’s my perspective on the event.
I liked it, even though I didn’t really learn anything new in the realm of ideas. But it was still important from three points of view.
When a message about city transportation planning is delivered by someone (JSK in this case) who has been through the effort and taken the pain, and has succeeded, it’s major reinforcement. Doubts diminished; conviction strengthened. Her massive credibility doesn’t hurt, either. So what we’re doing here in Vancouver, and what we talk to each other about, and plan, is doable and the outcomes can be positive. We’re not alone; the ideas and direction are alive and well elsewhere; and the opposition is similar and predictable. (Hello Commercial Drive merchants). Full speed ahead, Captain.
While the audience was made up mostly of people who already hold most these ideas, I’m quite sure some were hearing them for the first time. Eyes opened, minds expanded, possibilities sketched — that sort of thing. Perhaps some of the elected officials in the audience fell into this group. This is good.
But there’s this third thing. This surprised me.
Personally, I’m not a joiner. I don’t really look for a lot of simple companionship, preferring to have only a few people in my life, and preferring ideas. But in this case, I felt an emotional-level tribal-like bonding going on in the room. Here were 500-600 people, reacting boisterously to JSK’s description of her city’s big ideas, new directions, opposition overcome, positive change, successful outcome. And the strong audience reception for elected officials; plus the ongoing delighted laughter, among other emotional responses — all sunk right in to me. And told me that we were together on this track, heading towards a different future for streets and transportation in our city, with every chance of getting there. Success is possible. We can continue to make change happen. We can.
It was a good experience. I’m pleased that I went.