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Californians Laugh As Mayor Says LA Drivers are Better

Mayor de Blasio continued his defiant position against creating more open space in New York, but this time, he defended his decision to not take action with a complete mischaracterization about the supposedly more polite car-culture in California that makes it possible for cities there to provide more space for non-drivers.

Golden State residents were openly mocking de Blasio after he said on Wednesday that “in California, drivers stop at intersections even if there’s no light or stop sign; they stop when people are trying to cross the street even in the middle of the street.”

“This is a very different culture,” added the mayor, whose comments were quickly tweeted by Politico’s Erin Durkin, setting off a wildfire.

L.A. Times reporter Laura Nelson first thanked de Blasio for giving her a laugh.

On Wednesday, Council Speaker Corey Johnson challenged the mayor’s apparent notion that New York’s mean streets can’t be tamed.

“I have more belief in New Yorkers,” said Johnson, who is pushing a bill that would force the de Blasio administration to take 75 miles of roadway (i.e. public space) that is currently set aside for cars and reallocate it to non-drivers. “I believe that New Yorkers have risen to the occasion and will continue to do so. New Yorkers will figure out how to do this in a safe way during this time.”

The mayor’s latest comments came after he has repeatedly mischaracterized an effort by Oakland to remove thru-cars from 74 miles of local streets. Previously, he described Oakland as too different from New York, though its residential areas are quite similar to many of ours. And he said on April 14 that Oakland “said that streets were closed off, but they didn’t put up any barricades.” In fact, the city did place barricades to alert drivers that they could not use the streets unless they need something on that particular block.

Cartoon: Bill Roundy
A cartoon reminder from Monday by Bill Roundy

The mayor repeated that fallacy on Wednesday.

The mayor’s increasingly open belief that New York drivers can’t be trusted is particularly troubling, given that his latest round of budget cuts sliced away $10 million from Vision Zero programs, including money from an unspecified safe streets public awareness campaign.

If, indeed, drivers can’t be trusted, perhaps now is the time to give them a refresher course? Johnson said the city can do more.

“We will address that at the upcoming hearings [on the budget and the open streets bill],” he said. “I’m sure DOT is going to say they don’t support it, because they mayor doesn’t support it, but we will still ask them if this bill becomes law, how would they execute it? … He could veto the bill and we could over-ride the veto.”

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