Bikes and Cars Can Coexist. Book Demonstrates How, Despite its Misleading Title

ebikes rock

New Member
This is my review of “Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution” by Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow. Ms. Sadik-Khan is the former NYC Transportation Commissioner who implemented the NYC bike share program and oversaw the installation of dedicated bus lanes and bike lanes. Ms. Sadik-Khan speaks from a position of obvious authority. She cites several years of experience developing and implementing transportation policies in New York City during the Mayor Bloomberg administration. Ms. Sadik-Khan also cites previous experience from her tenure at the U.S. federal Department of Transportation. Thus, it’s hard to question her credibility – especially important in today’s internet-myth driven environment. Perhaps what I found so compelling about this book is that it actually presented data-driven analysis and first-person illustration. While it’s a “policy-book” it’s a pretty light read and is approachable. There are even some curse words and f-bombs just to keep it real “New Yawk” lol.

I bought this book because I’m currently fascinated with the concept of bikes as transportation for real-world adults. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I found it so inspiring that I subsequently volunteered with my local bike advocacy organization.

The book layout merits mention. It does not directly jump into “bikes are superior, everyone should ride one.” Rather, the early chapters present the evolution of road design throughout the past 50 odd years. Throughout this history the Ms. Sadik-Khan introduces the concept that automobiles have been provided undue priority in cities. This deference to cars affects everyone – cyclists, pedestrians, bus riders, the elderly, etc. Cars have “disrupted” cities in that cars take away from places to sit, observe, and interact. Who wants to sit on a sidewalk café next to four lanes of honking traffic? Who wants to explore multiple shops and restaurants in an area that is bisected by three lane 40 mph boulevards? I found it an insightful observation – cities are for people, but cars truly dominate.

Through this perspective, Ms. Sadik-Khan builds a winning strategy for alternative transportation solutions that satisfy the majority of population. Bikes are but one of the alternatives. The author cites statistics and traffic flow studies to demonstrate that limiting the amount of cars still allows traffic to flow – sometimes even more efficiently – while allowing human beings to “reclaim” areas that once could be described as traffic-deadened. It’s inspiring. Perhaps more importantly, it’s based on experience instead of conjecture.

The book expertly presents data-driven arguments for improving bike/people infrastructure. Some things I found insightful:

· 172 percent increase in retail sales in Brooklyn’s Pearl Street between 2007 and 2012.

· 71 percent increase in retail sales adjacent to a newly installed bus-only lane along Fordham road in the Bronx

· 58 percent decrease in injuries for all street users after the installation of a bike path on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan

· 1.1 million taxi trips moved 7 percent faster overall through Midtown traffic, according to GPS data

I love data-driven analysis. We need it. We use it to research the wattage on our bike purchases. We should use it in our conversations about road access issues. In this regard the book excels.

My sole critique of the book is the title. It implies an underlying “us vs them” situation that the book takes great effort to carefully disprove. Urban transportation is not a zero-sum game. Yet this title provides an immediate introduction that likely puts detractors/doubters on the defensive. The title leads a detractor to easily envision stories of COMMIE bike riding HIPSTERS organizing to take away THEIR car!.... OUTLAW the ability to take THEIR KIDS to soccer practice! running OVER OLD PEOPLE in the streets!.....Clearly ”Handbook for an Urban Revolution” is not the most approachable title for a book that so expertly proves there are policy and design solutions which all citizens and stakeholders are able to enjoy. I strongly disagree with the title. Change is hard and requires compromises. But presenting an advocacy book with a title using the word “Urban Revolution” is certainly not a way to engage doubters and skeptics.

The old adage states that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But very few in today’s hyper-reactive world actually take the time to test that adage. Nonetheless, I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone interested in bicycles, e-bikes, and the access issues that are sometimes involved therein.


Active Member
I've only been through New York city once, by accident. But, I wonder what the city would be like if all the cars were banned. Maybe have an extended trolley system, bikes, etc.

Ann M.

Well-Known Member
@ebikes rock, you are aware that others on the NY City Council have made electric bikes illegal to ride there and potentially illegal for bike dealers to sell them in the city?! Quite an upside down perspective compared to the logic in the weirdly named "Streetfight...' BTW, some enterprising publisher probably told the authors that they would have a sleeper of a book unless it got something Radical in the name :eek:. Thanks for sharing; it's good to hear about making places we live more livable.

ebikes rock

New Member
@Ann M. I totally agree that the title was designed to be somewhat dramatic/sensational for sales purposes.

Separately, I did NOT know about the 'murky legal' environment in NYC. VERY disappointing to hear that. Hopefully things will improve in that regard.

john peck

Well-Known Member
If you've seen it,you know. If not, go online & checkout the 'Dutch Cycling Embassy'. The Netherlands is
a model for how our infrastructure 'should' work. While we have the extra challenges of distance & topography.
there is a great deal we could learn from the Dutch. It's a fascinating video well worth watching.

Hmm? just went there, but can't seem to find the original video I watched a couple years back, but
I'll keep looking. in any event the site still provides insights
Last edited: