Motor Mouths: Send Us Clueless Transportation Quotes From Public Officials

Before he gained worldwide notoriety as the mayor allegedly caught on tape smoking crack, Toronto’s Rob Ford was perhaps best known as the mayor who said, “Bicyclists are a pain in the ass!

Perhaps no public official will ever top that combination of brevity and mindless hostility toward non-automotive transportation. But there’s a lot of competition out there.

Recently, we asked our Twitter followers to share quotes from state and local transportation officials that reveal an underlying contempt for walking, biking, and transit. Below are three examples that readers sent to us. Each comes from an official agency spokesperson, so you can only imagine what gets said behind closed doors. If you’d like to add to this initial collection of Motor Mouths — and we hope you do — send your example of car-centricity to angie@streetsblog.org or tell us about it in the comments.

Without further ado, our first round of Motor Mouths.

St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic

The Offender: David Wrone, spokesman for the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic, as quoted by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and a local CBS affiliate.

The Evidence:

Exhibit A: “As a matter of policy, we don’t build dedicated bike lanes. St. Louis County salutes the bike-riding community, but we manage our system in the knowledge that motor vehicles comprise the vast majority of our customer base.”

Exhibit B: “We’re a highway department, not a bicycle department.”

Translation:

A: We’d prefer to stay in the downward spiral of autocentric development resulting in car dependence and endless sprawl until we’re bankrupt.

B: The “transportation” part of our name is just for show, we really only care about highways.

Maryland State Highway Administration:

The Offender: Agency spokesman David Buck in the Capital Gazette.

The Evidence:

“The safest way to get across the road is to cross at marked crosswalks,” said Buck, who estimated that 90 percent of pedestrian-related accidents are caused by pedestrian error.

Translation:

If pedestrians would just quit getting in the way of cars, they wouldn’t get hit.

Maryland likes to place the onus for street safety on pedestrians. Image: ##https://www.facebook.com/MarylandStateHighwayAdministration?fref=ts## Maryland State Highway Administration Facebook page##

Baltimore Metropolitan Council:

The Offender: Larry Klimovitz, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, on the blog Pedestrian Error.

The Evidence:

“For transportation, the federal government requires us to coordinate as a region to make decisions. For all this other stuff we do, it’s voluntary. So, for example, water quality, housing, bike/ped …”

Translation:

Biking and walking are not transportation.

So there you have it, our first three contenders.

We’re looking for more Motor Mouths. Give us your examples in the comments or email angie@streetsblog.org. Be sure to include a link to a news report or other official record of the statement. Also, if you caught a local or state transportation official saying something totally brilliant on the record, we’d like to know about that too.

  • It’s ironic that Rob Ford was allegedly caught on camera doing coke. His policy of erasing bike lanes suggested that he disliked white lines.

  • Matthew Mourning

    Just dropping a note again — St. Louis CITY is a completely separate entity from St. Louis County, a weird distinction that dates to 1876. St. Louis County is shorthand for “suburbs” – that might put these comments into a better context. The City of St. Louis is bicycle friendly, with hundreds of miles of bike lanes and a bike commuter station.

  • I wish I had taken a picture of the PSA sign on the ground at the northwest corner of E Illinois and N Columbus in Chicago. I don’t recall the exact wording, but it basically blamed the 3,000 pedestrians struck by cars each year in Chicago for being in the way of automobiles.

    You guys should try to get a Chicagoan to grab a pic of it for you.

  • John Montgomery

    Nice one, John

  • carma

    Anthony Wiener: “When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing? Im going to have a bunch of ribbon cuttings tearing out your fucking bike lanes.” circa: 2011.

  • Anonymous

    That number strikes me as extremely high.

  • Anonymous

    In NYC, 1464 pedestrians were injured by vehicles last month alone, so if anything, Chicago’s number is “low” (of course, Chicago has a smaller population, so that’s to be expected). http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/07/22/nypd-1464-pedestrians-and-cyclists-injured-11-killed-in-traffic-in-june/

  • Devan

    Haha you wish. Have you checked the polls lately Mr. Weiner? Thank god you will never become the mayor of NY or any other city because your career in politics is over! And with a mouth like that not even McDonalds would hire you!

  • Anonymous

    You may be right: http://gridchicago.com/2012/are-chicagos-pedestrian-safety-campaign-posters-too-depressing/ I think I was thinking of pedestrian deaths, which I think we’re at ~12 or so for the year, and I assumed, incorrectly, that the deaths would make up a larger percentage of the total.

  • carma

    im so glad he wont have any remote chance of becoming mayor. and if he does, the people of NYC deserve such a moron. as a ny’er all my life, i will have to flee to jersey.

  • Danger’s the name. Carless Danger.

  • Steve Faust, AICP

    “Cyclists will just have to get over it!”
    Joe Lhota, MTA Chairman said last December on WNYC.

    Lhota thought he was telling cyclists that the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge could not support bicycle/pedestrian path – that the VNB was not engineered for paths.

    That ain’t so Joe.

    Lhota was quoting TBTA staff engineers who have been in denial of any path for over 50 years. But 16 years ago, in 1997, City Planning released its VNB Bike/Ped Crossing study. DCP hired Amman and Whitney, the VNB’s original design firm, to do an engineering study of the bridge’s capacity for paths. Ammann and Whitney found the VNB can support two path, in essentially the same way as on Ammann’s earlier George Washington Bridge, and the total cost in 1997 would be $26 million, $35 to $50 million in today’s dollars.

    Lhota was misinformed, but it’s a great quote;
    Yes Joe, for 50 years, over a million cyclists have been getting over the VNB on special events, and yes, in the near future:

    Cyclists will just have to get over it!

    Any day, all day, all year long.

  • Kyle Zheng

    You’d think that Vancouver with such good urban design would be past the reins of motordom.
    Not so: The Vancouver police department asks: “What Can You Do to Keep Pedestrians Out of Harm’s Way?”

    http://vancouver.ca/police/organization/operations/traffic/pedestrian-safety.html

  • Anonymous

    Has anyone seen the new DC adverts that say that police are looking out for ‘unsafe pedestrian behavior’? They’re hilarious.

  • Brian S.

    Whether it’s via doing coke or erasing bike lanes, I’d say he’s quite the fan of eliminating white lines.

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St. Louis County’s David Wrone Is Our Champion Motor Mouth!

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Sometimes public officials say regrettable things. But few of them display the flagrant disregard for part of their constituency that St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic spokesperson David Wrone has. Wrone was the runaway winner in our recent “Motor Mouths” competition to find the most clueless statement from a transportation official, by demonstrating […]