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Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  938 ratings  ·  126 reviews
Like a modern-day Jane Jacobs, Janette Sadik-Khan transformed New York City's streets to make room for pedestrians, bikers, buses, and green spaces. Describing the battles she fought to enact change, Streetfight imparts wisdom and practical advice that other cities can follow to make their own streets safer and more vibrant.

As New York City’s transportation commissioner,
Kindle Edition, 360 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Penguin Books (first published 2016)
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Mar 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spending most of my adult life working on the cultural and infrastructure change of our transportation system in Pittsburgh, this book was validating to say the least.

NYC streets, under her reign, changed so dramatically and gave advocates across the country a new way to think and talk about what our cities can be, almost creating a new language. Needless to say her work made everyone else's job much easier by mainstreaming the idea that built environments are meant to be altered and change with
Someday, someone will write a book about Sadik-Khan's innovative approach to urban planning that provides a detailed and balanced assessment of both her process and policies. Unfortunately, Sadik-Khan herself isn't interested in writing that book. I fundamentally agree with her philosophy and still found the self-congratulatory tone of this extended "hire me as a consultant!" advertisement grating and the cherry-picked scraps of data this book provides unconvincing. I can't imagine it changing ...more
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in advance of an Urban Milwaukee book club discussion taking place this month. It's a feisty memoir by a NYC transportation commissioner (2007-2013) who led a resurgence of urban street life in NYC by taking anachronistic traffic areas and creating urban plazas and protected bike lanes and by rethinking traffic patterns. She has a lot of interesting things to say about transit and infrastructure too. I am going to be looking at Milwaukee with new eyes after reading this book, ...more
Matt Lieberman
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While his mayoral reign was by no means perfect, Michael Bloomberg did some cool things over his three terms as Mayor of New York City. Many of these aforementioned low-temperature initiatives made lives easier for pedestrians (car-free plazas and curb islands in busy intersections), bikers (tons of designated bike lanes and a huge bike-sharing program) and even bus riders (select bus service). Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to 2013, ...more
Jake Davis
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a relatively digestible retelling of Janette Sadik-Khan's tenure as commissioner of NYC's transportation department. At its best, it offers concrete examples of pushing change through amidst pushback from a vocal minority, as well as some inspiring infrastructure changes committed in NYC. But a lot of the book also doesn't actually offer insight into how, as an advocate, you can cause change in your city.

So if you've been keeping up with transportation for a few years, you might gain a
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow, Janette Sadik-Khan got me very excited about optimizing urban traffic patterns. I'll never look at an eight lane intersection the same way again.
“There are new expectations for streets,” writes Janette Sadik-Khan. “Changing the streets is a blood sport. Projects that alter streetscapes upset the people who cling to stability, even if it is unsafe or inefficient.” Change becomes the new norm. And that’s how the author concludes her exciting book.

Ostensibly, this is a book describing how New York City revitalized its streets. Sadik-Khan, however, applies the lessons learned to other cities. After all, many of the ideas used in New York
Cathy Douglas
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, autobiography
This book was very educational for me. Where I live (Madison, WI) there's a lot of pride in being a "platinum level" bike town, one of only five in the US, but what does that even mean? We have nice off-road bike paths, including a lot of recreational routes going out of town. We've also got a few nice programs and events, and a bike share platform that seems to serve mostly tourists.

Street Fight opened my eyes to what we don't have, "complete streets" as they're called, engineered to
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Easy to read memoir-"urban planing for dummies" hybrid, but...

It's hardly an "urban revolution handbook". Not enough details and ideas how to implement changes. It focuses mostly on what was done in NY.

It probably won't convince anyone who isn't already receptive to the idea that maybe we shouldn't focus so much on cars.
Kelsey Redding
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a pedestrian, this changed my perspective on public safety, transportation options, and cars authority on the road. It’s a bit redundant as a read, but still fascinating to watch this woman reshape NYC.
This book was a fun, informative read on NYC’s politics but I wish there was more of a counterpoint to many of JSK’s policies.
Ash Rao
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a major inspiration to future public servants and transportation enthusiasts alike. Janette does a great job of highlighting key projects during her time at the NYCDOT and the community engagement, research, and governmental relationships it took to get them done. Great read for urbanists and municipalities who want to do more to reclaim street space!
Aug 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-planning
If you've never read a modern urban planning book and this is available, read it. It covers the basics of bus, bike, and auto. Know that the title is misleading. This is not a "handbook for urban revolution." It's not a handbook at all. It's simply a list of Janette Sadik-Khan's accomplishments in changing the design of parts of New York. They're big accomplishments, but calling this a handbook is nothing but marketing.

If you have limited time for modern urban planning, read Jeff Speck or Sam
Elizabeth H.
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful read to see the huge transformations that Sadik-Khan and her team have brought to New York City during her term as transport commissioner. Many new ideas are explored in some useful detail: reclaiming streetspace dedicated to cars for bicycle or bike lanes, or for islands and other people-centric uses; Select Bus Services; improving the city's failing infrastructure etc. Two important insights gleaned were the importance of having data and statistics to back your campaigns and its ...more
William Cline
Dec 30, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to William by: Anonymous thoughtful coworker
A light history of the author’s tenure as NYC’s traffic commissioner, plus a little bit of “getting the last word in.” Considering the fallacious outcry she received as thanks for making New York’s streets more functional and humane, I can’t fault Sadik-Khan for wanting to set the record straight. However, despite the subtitle’s promise to serve as a “handbook” for other cities, there’s very little in here that you wouldn't get from reading Streetsblog or the like.
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went in to this book with a huge positive bias because Sadik-Khan is a personal policy hero of mine. She is the person most directly responsible (working of course within a large and talented community) for some amazing transportation changes in New York. This book is the story of these projects, including turning Times Square into a pedestrian mecca, making the city more welcoming for bikes, adding rapid bus lines, and more. I was pleased to find it readable and accessible, and can easily ...more
I don't know why I am so interested in city planning, urbanism, stuff I can have no effect on whatever. But I am. This is a bit of a "rah-rah for me, also hire my consulting firm" book but that's fine, from what I can tell Sadik-Khan had a great effect on NYC and there are worse ways to make a living. Unlike any other person I've ever known who lived in New York, I love Times Square; and I love it much much more now that it's a pedestrian paradise. So she has a lot of political capital to burn ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Urban planning for the 21st century and public spaces are crucial in revitalizing local economies, keeping cities safe and reducing income inequality, so I was intrigued to read about Sadik-Khan's successful implementation of bike lanes, public spaces, pedestrian crossings and public transit in New York City. I wanted to love this book, and parts of it I did, but I had a few issues with it.

Firstly, my interested waned in and out throughout the book. It wasn't until about page 50 that I got into
Barborka Grísová
- curb extension, bulb-out, neck-down
- Madrid Rio
- thermoplastic, epoxy-modified acrylic coatings
- can a transportation system change cities politically, economically and socially?
- Ciclovia (Spain) - closing streets to cars in Bogota
- Legible London (wayfinding playbook, street totems)
- "Cities that do not offer basic orientation for pedestrian visitors miss an oportunity to enlarge the foot traffic that infuses the tourist and ground-floor retail economy."
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Janette Sadik-Khan is a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation and an advisor on transportation and urban issues.
Thus her book is has lots of stats and anecdotes about NYC
211 drivers believe more roads can solve traffic congestion, & residents believe signals and stop signs can solve traffic safety problems - both wrong

212-3 slow drivers to speed of life
215 don't be a (bike) jerk NYC video
221 proposal to license/insure bike riders, mandatory helmet
Nabeel Ahmed
This is a great book for anyone interested in how cities can reshape and transform their streets, shifting away from car-centrism to 'complete streets' that cater to pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, AND drivers. It introduces basic transportation principles such as induced demand that are illustrated with colorful anecdotes from Sadik-Khan's time as transportation commissioner. As she says, if you can do it in New York, you can do it anywhere.

That is not, however, the full story.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sebastian Gebski
Technically (in terms of writers' craft) it could definitely be better, but this is not the point. The point is all about the content. Janette worked as a transport commissioner for NYC during Bloomberg's cadence & was recognised as a very active & efficient doer whose decisions & completed initiatives have made a big imprint on this city & its citizens. This book is an unique opportunities to learn from her lessons learned - and possible to revamp your way of thinking about your ...more
Steven Lee
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Janette Sadik-Khan has been a polarizing figure, but for many urban progressives she has been a breath of fresh air. Sadik-Khan was the head of the Department of Transportation for the City of New York under the Bloomberg administration. During her tenure she introduce many big, sweeping projects that have transformed the city as well as hundred of small changes that are redefining it.

I think the thing I appreciate most about this book is that Sadik-Khan is firm in her believes about cities,
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a local councillor and this book hit really close to home. It was inspiring to see what was possible, and a wonderful source of ideas. At least once I had to stop reading and calm down because I was so angry at the narrow-minded, selfish conservatives who fight so hard in New York, my council in Australia, and around the world to stop good work happening. It was both reassuring and disheartening to see the same lies being pulled out on opposite sides of the globe.

My only criticism of this
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read. I have been a city cyclist for ever and never totally minded sharing the road with cars until I got a little older and had kids and all. Now our city has started adding more bike lanes and improving sidewalks for pedestrians and I have to say, separated bike lanes feel much safer than sharing roads with big ford trucks. The book is mostly concerned with Janette transforming New York streets to make them more pedestrian/cyclist friendly. I think it's amazing that Janette was able to ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know how I'd feel about this book at first - the beginning parts seemed like they might veer into the territory of "I'm the expert and the public doesn't know what's good for them", but it shifted pretty quickly away from that mindset and more into strategies for working with communities, businesses, and the media to show mutual benefits for transportation alternatives and gaining public buy-in. I really liked how she emphasized using data and pilot projects as a way to win over ...more
Robert Patterson
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A personal account of the author's success, stamina and strength in reshaping pedestrian policies in NYC against a tide of NIMBYism, 70s to 90s stagnant car first urban policy, and conservatism.

Clearly capable as a transportation / city planning development manager the book is really a case study of the author's success and selling portfolio of her services building better pedestrian infrastructure to revitalize urban areas.

From an urbanism perspective however there is nothing really new from
Jeff Stern
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sadik-Khan is my new urban planning hero. She is responsible for improving NYC’s bikeways, pedestrian space, and making the city a better and safer place to live. I devoured this book over the weekend, reading in the very places it discussed like in the transformed Broadway squares and alongside the now-blighted 3rd avenue. I carried it with me while peddling my Citi Bike, a transportation option that wouldn’t have existed without Sadik-Khan’s leadership. Sure, being able to personally testify ...more
Sarah Gowanlock
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book doesn’t contain much new information for those following Transportation Alternatives or Streetsblog, it does give a holistic recent history of the dramatic changes ushered in by Sadik-Khan: select bus service, bike lanes, citibike, and major infrastructure projects too. The book also clearly illustrates the data behind why these changes were necessary and gives a glimpse at the projects NYC missed out on because they were considered too radical...hopefully one of her successors ...more
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