London to Ban Cars in Center City, But New York’s Mayor Still Drives to the Gym

Mayor de Blasio was driven to his gym in a Chevy Suburban like this one.
Mayor de Blasio was driven to his gym in a Chevy Suburban like this one.

Tally no!

The de Blasio administration is apparently not ready to emulate a radical plan announced Tuesday by the City of London that would ban cars from a huge swath of the city center and reduce speed limits to 15 miles per hour.

City Hall did not return an email.

That’s too bad because the London plan — which aims to usher in a “world-class” street scene in the financial core of the sprawling metropolis — could be a model for New York. Under the proposal, all cars, vans, taxis, buses and even bicycles would be banned from “pedestrian priority” zones that would comprise at least half of the roads in the so-called “Square Mile” of the City of London.

The plan also includes a “core cycling network” of wider protected bike lanes.

“This is an ambitious piece of work,” Chris Hayward, chairman of the planning and transportation committee for the City of London Corporation said in a statement, adding that the “radical” proposal is aimed at “future-proofing” the city.

“With over 480,000 workers  commuting into the Square Mile on a day-to-day basis, these are some of the busiest streets in London and we need to be open for business,” he added, defying some fact-averse New Yorkers who believe that cycling- and pedestrian-centric areas undermine economic activity.

Bike advocates hailed the plan, despite its ban on bicycles in some areas.

“It is a complex issue but it’s about designing the right spaces for the right mix of people, so we don’t end up with lots of pedestrian priority where there needs to be space for cyclists,” said Simon Munk, of the London Cycling Campaign, according to the Daily Mail. “We’re very excited by the plans, which stand in stark contrast to some of their city neighbors. The streets must be designed to encourage people to move and interact calmly.”

city of london map

The London proposal [PDF] seeks to address many urban ills that New Yorkers would find familiar. According to the city’s report, public surveys show that Londoners believe “motor traffic levels … are too high; people walking in the Square Mile are not given enough priority or space, air quality in the Square Mile needs to be urgently improved, the City’s streets are not accessible to all, [and] the management of freight needs to be improved.”

To address those concerns, the plan aims to “make the Square Mile’s streets great places to walk and spend time by prioritizing the needs of people on foot and delivering world-class public realm [and] eliminate death and serious injuries from our streets through measures to deliver safer streets, reduce speeds, improve the safety of vehicles and encourage safer behaviors.”

The London plan comes just one day after the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a damning report suggesting that cataclysmic, civilization-destroying climate change can only be avoided with a radical restructuring of global society.

Almost at the instant the London plan was announced, Streetsblog spotted Mayor de Blasio’s Chevy Suburban SUV parked (legally!) outside the Prospect Park Y while Hizzoner was inside doing one of his several-times-per-week workouts.

So Streetsblog did some math.

The mayor has access to smaller cars and even hybrid SUVs, but this Chevy Suburban is a horrendous gas guzzler. According to specs published by Car and Driver, this 7,300-pound behemoth puts 9.2 tons of carbon into the air for every 15,000 miles, or roughly 1.1 tons of carbon to take the mayor 12.2 miles from Gracie Mansion to Park Slope three times per week for a year.

How much is 1.1 tons of carbon?

Well, 1 million tons of carbon is equivalent of the pollution generated by the electrical needs of 128,000 U.S. homes in a year.

So the mayor’s 1.1 tons of carbon is (sound effect of keys clicking on an old adding machine) the equivalent of the pollution emitted by one typical American house for 51 days.

Streetsblog asked City Hall if the mayor has any intention of not doing that anymore.

“No plan to,” said mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips.

Update: After this story was published, Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office sent over this statement:

Speaker is committed to reducing congestion and safer streets, which he believes can be achieved through congestion pricing. He applauds London’s efforts and will monitor their progress closely.

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