Monday’s Headlines: Yeah, Still Hot Edition

egg on the sidewalk

We don’t have time to debunk every  inaccuracy in Staten Island Advance columnist Tom Wrobleski’s latest pro-car piece, but it does remind all livable streets fans what we’re up against as we fight the good fight.

Wrobleski’s windshield perspective proves again that car lovers despise any politician who talks about making our roads safer by reducing the daily carnage caused by drivers. In this case, Wrobleski focuses on Corey Johnson, who rightly told the New York Post last week that there is too much free parking in the city. Wrobleski didn’t like that one, but that was just his appetizer. He also mocked Johnson for saying, “Cars are lethal vehicles if they are not driven safely and properly.”

“No kidding, Mr. Speaker,” Wrobelski wrote. “So are passenger jets, ocean liners and subway trains. Let’s restrict or ban their use too.” (Note to Tom: We already highly restrict who can pilot or drive all the above vehicles — all of which cause fewer deaths per mile than cars. And if you truly want to reduce trips by passenger jets and ocean liners, why don’t you support the Green New Deal instead of just mocking it?)

Wrobleski winds up the piece with the standard argument of the car-driver — why should I have to sacrifice if no one else will: “If the mayor and the Council speaker are so … concerned that car exhaust is killing the planet, let them give up their official cars and their parking placards. And let all their staffers do the same. Let them put their money where their mouths are before they tell us what to do.”

Sure, we couldn’t agree more. But, point of fact, Tom: No one, not even future Mayor Corey Johnson, is telling drivers “what to do.” We still haven’t seen a single regulation that actually restricts drivers in the way that the pro-car crowd irrationally fears. Where are the car-free neighborhoods? (Hint: there are none). Where are the $1,000 surcharges to register oversized cars? (Nowhere.) Where are huge impound lots for cars with multiple moving violations? (Um, not built.) Where are the politicians who will truly stand up for bus riders instead of car parkers? (They’re in hiding.)

So to Tom Wrobleski — and the rest of the mainstream press: Do better. Don’t allow the fact that you drive to blind you to the negative social implications of driving. Your personal lifestyle choice affects the rest of us — so you need to stop championing policies that prioritize your desire to get around in a private, 4,000-pound steel cage that causes a disproportionate amount of death and destruction.

OK, off the soapbox. Here’s the weekend news roundup:

  • The Times’s Andy Newman offered a first-hand look at the challenges of being a delivery worker in New York City. The story is as good as journalism gets, showing just how horrible and difficult it is to be an exploited food-bringer in this congested town. (The story links to two Streetsblog pieces, so we’re proud to have helped the Paper of Record.) One quibble? Mayor de Blasio is let off the hook for his crackdown on delivery workers. De Blasio, you’ll recall champions New York as “America’s fairest city,” yet waged war on its least-paid, most-exploited workers — ones who delivered to his own police headquarters, by the way. Perhaps America’s Democrat primary voters are making de Blasio pay for his hypocrisy.
  • Clayton Guse at the Daily Newsuh joined the chorus of outlets questioning why crashes and deaths are trending upwards in supposedly Vision Zero New York. Friend of Streetsblog Jon Orcutt is a quote machine in the comprehensive piece. (NYDN)
  • We were happy to see Vin Barone at amNY give some ink to advocacy groups that are calling for the MTA board to reject this hasty reorganization plan orchestrated by Gov. Cuomo.
  • Jose Martinez at The City got the scoop on why the subway was so bad on Friday — but it’s unclear if the Automatic Train Supervision system will just keep failing or if it’s being fixed. Meanwhile, don’t make excuses to Assembly Member Michael Blake, who tweeted twice this weekend about how bad the trains were running — though he blamed Mayor de Blasio mostly, rather than his fellow state officials. (Point of information: Last week at a Citi Bike press conference, Blake boasted about he doesn’t ride a bike and turned down our grizzled editor’s offer of a lesson. Please take us up on our invitation, Assemblyman.)
  • The West Side Rag offered more details about the two pedestrians struck and badly injured on West End Avenue on Friday, but the usually professional media outlet allowed one resident to blame the crash on a safety redesign rather than the driver who hit the pedestrians. “[He] was a victim of this redesign,” Tag Gross told the website. “[Drivers] get jammed up at 96th and once they finally get a green light, they gun it up West End.” Gross is right: Drivers (and the 24th Precinct cops who don’t rein them in) are to blame.
  • The MTA followed some summer bus service cuts with an announcement that it would cut service to additional routes in the fall. Check the Daily News story to see if your line is affected.
  • Everyone is talking about the 50th anniversary of the first manned mission to the moon, but Wired asked, “How long would it take to bike to the moon?” (Answer: Who knows, but it would be a lot safer if Mayor de Blasio would finish the Queens Boulevard bike lane).
  • And, finally, we’re expecting lots of news today, what with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg likely to reveal the bicycle safety plan ordered up by the mayor three weeks ago.
  • Peter
  • Resident

    There’s almost no difference between Tom Wrobelski and an NRA spokesperson who thinks that no amount of laws or gun control can reduce gun violence. He just wants to preserve the privilege of driving, hiding behind complaints that SI lacks good public transportation – which is true! – to make it seem as if he’s reasonable. He’s anything but. He’s been wrong about this stuff for years, like nearly all middle-aged white newspaper columnists have been. It’s sad and predictable.

  • HamTech87

    Andy Newman’s piece on bike deliverers should be paired with the award-winning short film “Mamadou Warma: Deliveryman” by filmmaker Yusuf Kapadia. Here it is on Vimeo.

  • Joe R.

    There’s almost no difference between Tom Wrobelski and an NRA spokesperson who thinks that no amount of laws or gun control can reduce gun violence.

    He’s actually far, far worse than your hypothetical NRA spokesperson for two reasons. One, the numbers of law-abiding citizens killed annually by guns in this country is far, far lower than the number killed by motor vehicles. Gun control advocates like to cite figures like 30,000 annual deaths from guns. However, about 2/3rds of those are suicides, and therefore do not affect the safety of innocent people. Of the remainder, a fair number are either valid police or citizen self-defense shootings, or criminals killing each other. The number of innocent people killed annually by guns is probably low four figures (still way too high but far lower than those killed by motorists). The mass shootings which often spark renewed cries for gun control generally kill under four figures annually. While of course we do need gun control laws designed primarily to prevent these types of shootings, in most cases the firearms were obtained illegally. Better enforcement of existing laws would go a long way, as would improving our mental health treatment.

    Two, unlike guns, which kill no innocent people when used legally, motor vehicles, even those driven legally, kill thousands of innocent people annually via pollution. Drivers directly kill thousands more. The act of driving a motor vehicle on urban streets is inherently dangerous. No set of laws can fix this. Note that even in countries with much stricter licensing regimens and traffic law enforcement than the US the death rate from motor vehicles is still 1/3 to 1/2 as high as in the US. While motor vehicles can be made safer via infrastructure, better licensing, and enforcement, they will always be inherently dangerous to operate in close proximity to pedestrians or cyclists. Vision Zero is good propaganda, but in practice we’ll never come close to zero without essentially banning motor vehicles from large swaths of the city.

    What Wrobelski is doing is far worse than what the NRA is doing. It would be the equivalent of the NRA defending the right of gun owners to set up a range in Times Square. Obviously if that happened, innocent bystanders would die in large numbers. It’s pretty much the same with motor vehicles. Anyone advocating for their continued use, with no attempts to reduce that use dramatically, is essentially saying it’s OK for innocent people to die because their lives are trumped by the convenience of car owners. This line of thinking is already present in the transportation policy of NYC which prioritizes car storage over safety.

  • HamTech87

    So awful how the NY Times article this weekend “The SUVs that Conquered America” neglected to say that “conquered” should be taken literally given how SUV design contributes to higher numbers of pedestrian deaths.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/18/business/best-suvs-2019-mudfest.html

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