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Car Culture

Monday’s Headlines: Yes, You Missed a Lot Edition (It’s OK, So Did Andy Byford!)

How drivers see us in London.

The big story you missed over the weekend was our old pal Andy "Train Daddy" Byford getting slammed for a public service announcement just released by Transport for London, the agency he now heads. First, the advert (trigger warning: a cyclist almost gets seriously injured by a driver):

Outrage was fairly immediate:

    • "Yes, both bikes and cars are exactly the same and have the exact same literal and figurative impact on each other, and there is nothing that requires more consideration when driving a 3000 lb machine. got it," tweeted Open Plans.
    • "We continually ask those who are vulnerable to placate those who hunt them," said Tom Flood, the ad man who is waging a one-man war on the car culture.
    • "The way it equates the fear of being killed and the anxiety of hitting someone is really problematic," posted Peter Flax. "We are not in the same boat. If something goes wrong, the guy on the bike might be dead. The idea that both parties have an equal responsibility to empathize with each other is a fallacy. Imagine another scenario where the victims are urged to share responsibility like this. People who don't spend a lot of time riding don't see the contours of car culture. They probably watch that video and shrug. I watch it and see it saying that I need to be nicer to people who almost killed me. Fuck that. ... If you are speeding in a 5,000-lb SUV while holding a mobile phone, the emotion in our exchange is coming from different places. The bizarre obsession with naughty riders (and 'distracted pedestrians') is tied to this. Many people who drive struggle to accept responsibility that simply by getting behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle they have a hugely disproportionate responsibility to not cause carnage. ... It's an inconvenience to share space with vulnerable people."
    • "This is indeed the kind of well-meaning PSA that comes from the car culture. The call to 'understand' each other suggests the oppressor and oppressed are on equal footing, which is a false conceit of the empowered. Ugh," we posted.

If you want complain to Transport for London, use this form.

In other news from a busy few days:

    • First of all, we published an important story that highlighted what advocates and experts believe is a major failure of Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz to hold a killer driver accountable.
    • We also had a clarion call op-ed from incoming Council Member Erik Bottcher about getting trash off the sidewalk.
    • Now, probably the most important story of the weekend was the huge Times takeout on the completely-not-secret flaw in President Biden's instrastructure bill: We don't know how to do big projects well anymore. (Seriously, ever paragraph of this story will depress you.)
    • MSNBC host — and our old man editor's neighbor — Chris Hayes followed up on a Times op-ed last week about giving everyone a free e-bike. It's nice when the mainstream media gets it. (MSNBC)
    • And it's nice when mainstream writers talk about how important their bike is to their personal sanity. Makes riding a bike not seem so weird when people like Jennifer Weiner are doing it, right?
    • There was a terrible hit-and-run crash that killed someone trying to cross the Long Island Expressway in Queens, the Daily News reported, but the Post raised the possibility that the human remains were merely deposited on the highway, since there was no blood consistent with a crash.
    • Apparently, the NYPD can catch hit-and-run drivers — in his case, the man who allegedly ran over and killed Murielle Gousse earlier this year in The Bronx, the Daily News reported (the Post and amNY added that the driver was a city school custodian). Meanwhile, we're still waiting for arrests in the Imorne Horton killing in February, the Borkot Ullah killing in July, and the Jose Ramos killing last month.
    • Topic for the table: Why is Eric Adams offering any high-level city jobs to suburbanites? (NY Post)
    • As we have long said — and now former John Jay College President Jeremy Travis has discovered — driving is the entry-level drug of corruption. (NY Post)
    • We're better than the rest of the country, but way too many New Yorkers still chose a five-minute drive over a 15-minute walk. (amNY)
    • Usually cynical legend Jake Offenhartz did a long tribute to New York City's central role in the growth of the elevator — yet failed to link this modern convenience with the MTA's failure to provide them for all customers at all stations. (Gothamist)
    • Incoming GOP Council Member Vickie Palladino is apparently unvaccinated and, she claims, unbowed. Palladino refused to tell the Post if she was vaccinated, claiming it is a “private matter between myself and my physician.” Let's remember Palladino's claim of privacy when she discusses abortion rights, which she apparently opposes, too.
    • Former federal transit man Larry Penner has some problems with the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut pact over Covid-19 transit funding. (Hudson Reporter)
    • Incoming Council Member Ari Kagan wants to preserve the wood planks of Coney Island's historic Boardwalk, which the city apparently wants to replace with concrete (making the famous Boardwalk more or less a sidewalk). (NY Post)
    • It is the rare community newspaper that understands the importance of car-free space, so kudos to The Riverdale Press on its big take-out on efforts to make a truly permanent open-streets program.
    • Oh and speaking of the open streets program, one way not to do it is to make it so reliant on scores of volunteers and community fundraising. But that's the route the city has chosen, which explains why the coordinator of the best open street in town — on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights — is reaching out for donations:
    • And, finally, don't forget that our old man editor will join Nicole Gelinas on an Errol Louis-moderated NYU panel, "The Future of Public Space in New York City." It's at noon on Tuesday. Click here to sign up.

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