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Car Culture

Thursday’s Headlines: Government Must Break Its Own Car Culture Edition

12:01 AM EDT on October 31, 2019

Mr. Car Culture himself. Photo: 78th Precinct.

We — and by "we," we mean Corey Johnson — talk a lot about breaking the car culture. But government is the single biggest enabler of said culture. The latest example came on Wednesday when Friend of Streetsblog Shmuli Evers tweeted about how Board of Elections workers were being ferried around to polling places in a fleet of city-hired cabs.

That's not a good look for a local panel whose constituents mostly use transit to get everywhere — and their feet, bikes or wheelchairs to get to the polls.

But it's just the latest example of a system that simply defaults to the car. Mayor de Blasio's gym trips are the most egregious example, but we see it everywhere: in the way police officers drive to everything (and drive recklessly in their personal cars), in the 50,000 teachers who were given parking placards that encourage them to drive to work, in the way the city has expanded its fleet of vehicles (and increased the injury-resulting crashes from them!), in the way drivers are encouraged to think of the curbside space as theirs, in the way politicians think they're doing good by building a supermarket, but end up just adding more cars to a neighborhood with too many of them (which Travis Eby nicely bemoaned on Twitter).

Government needs to do more — and not just something that looks good on paper, like Chuck Schumer's recent push for electric vehicles. He sees EV as the solution to all our problems (except, senator, the problem of car carnage, congestion, rubber pollution and, of course, the need to generate billions of new kilowatts of electricity), but thankfully Henry Grabar had a much more relevant take on the "future" of transportation in Slate that the senator should read.

Here's the rest of the news:

    • In a related story, at least there was some good news as Speaker Johnson's "Streets Master Plan" bill did indeed pass on Wednesday. (Gothamist)
    • In another related story, the Democratic Socialists of America, the little outfit that helped Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez go from tending bar to, eventually, running the country, has decided to dive into the car problem, first creating a "Transit Justice Committee," which will meet for the first time on Nov. 3. (Details from the DSA, via Twitter)
    • A cyclist was hit and seriously injured on Ocean Parkway — and Guse of the Newsuh's story is a reminder that too many crash reports are based entirely on the driver's testimony as the only witness still on the scene when cops roll up (the cyclist or pedestrian is either dead or in the hospital). But this time, witnesses told cops that the cabbie ran a red light (though he wasn't arrested, alas).
    • Meanwhile, a Bronx woman is clinging to life after being hit by the driver of a Westchester bus. (NY Post)
    • Oy vey, is NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill really going to defend the cops who pummeled kids in the Jay Street subway station last week? (Hint: yes) (NYDN). The teen who was punched for, apparently, no reason is suing the city for $5 million (NY Post).
    • Like Streetsblog, the Post also covered the city's plans to give pedestrians more space near Rockefeller Center this holiday season, though the Tabloid of Record again depicted the safety and streetscape improvements as a war on cars.
    • Streetfilms auteur Clarence Eckerson rode a bus in Queens — and all we got was this damn amazing rant about delivery trucks that block bus lanes with complete impunity.
    • In case you missed it, the Times editorial board is fully behind the Council's effort to reform the rogue private carting business.
    • A community board in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, found a new NIMBY argument against a proposed development: the plan doesn't include enough parking spaces for residents, meaning car-owning locals will have more competition for the neighborhood's limited on-street car storage (public curbside space that doesn't belong to car drivers in the first place!). (Brooklyn Eagle)
    • Today is Halloween, when kids dress up in costumes, ask for candy, and get run over and killed at something like twice the normal rate. Please be safe out there.
    • And, finally, it's a great chance to rerun that picture of how our editor dressed for Halloween a decade ago — you remember, when the Prospect Park West bike lane scared the bejeezus out of all those fancy Park Slopers:
Gersh Kuntzman and friend, Halloween 2011.
Gersh Kuntzman and friend, Halloween 2011.

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