Motor Mouth Face-Off: Vote on the Most Cringeworthy Car-Centric Quote

It can be a revealing moment when a public official lets slip with a quote that inadvertently tells you what he really thinks of policies to improve walking, biking, or transit.

We asked our readers around the country to send us the most egregious “Motor Mouth” quotes they could dig up. Now we need you to help us choose the most heinous.

Here are the six contenders — blaming victims and dismissing multi-modal solutions to traffic problems — followed by the Motor Mouth poll.

Peter Coccaro, president of the City Council in Vineland, New Jersey

In a story about pedestrian deaths on Route 47, Coccaro told the Press of Atlantic City that the problem is jaywalking:

“There’s actually no legitimate crossing area,” he said of many sections of Route 47 where traffic signals and crosswalks are a significant distance apart. “They just jaywalk. We’ve had some issues with pedestrians.”

Translation: Saddled with a dangerous, inhospitable road? It’s the pedestrians’ fault!

Tom Bruff, transportation manager for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)

In a Detroit News story about the region’s most dangerous intersections in the Detroit region, Bruff expressed bafflement about the high rate of crashes in Macomb County:

Half of the most crash-prone intersections are in Macomb County, which has a smaller population than Wayne and Oakland counties. Its population, however, has been growing — it had 840,978 residents in 2010 and 847,383 in 2012 (up 6,406 or 0.8 percent), according to the latest Census figures.

“There’s no rhyme or reason why it has so many high-crash intersections,” said Tom Bruff, transportation manager for SEMCOG.

“Although it should be noted that the road commission has been making improvements to traffic signals at intersections for the past few years.”

Translation: The regional transportation agency has no idea what makes roads in the sprawling suburbs so dangerous.

Bob Garner, Tulsa City prosecutor

Speaking at a City Council hearing last month, Garner dropped these two bombs:

Exhibit A: “I understand your concern. I ride a bicycle also. And I have been passed on numerous occasions way too fast by motorists. And I also realize that when possible, just being a smart person, use the trail. If they provide a bicycle trail and I can get to point A to point B on a trail, it’s safer for me as an individual to do that.”

Exhibit B:  “I don’t know why you’d want to ride a bicycle on 71st Street. And I hate to say this, I take the trail to that location. I do go to some of those restaurants with my wife and I. And I made a determination for my own safety and my wife’s safely; we’ll stay on the sidewalks even though that’s probably a violation of the city ordinance… that’s just exercising sound discretion for everyone concerned.”

Translation: There is never a good reason to bike in the street, even if it means breaking the law, which I’m not too clear on despite being the city’s top prosecutor.

Davide Wrone, spokesman for the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic

Wrone gave these quotes to the St. Louis Post Dispatch and a local CBS affiliate.

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: Instead of giving people more transportation options, we’d prefer to stay in the downward spiral of car dependence and endless sprawl until we’re bankrupt.

Maryland likes to place the onus for street safety on pedestrians. Image: Maryland State Highway Administration Facebook page

David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration

Here’s Buck in talking about the dangerous conditions on Route 3 in the Capital Gazette:

“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.

Rita Robinson, former general manager for Los Angeles Department of Transportation

Here are Robinson’s remarks on community opposition to a plan to turn Pico and Olympic Boulevards into one-way streets and change the lighting in an effort to turn to turn neighborhood streets into mini-highways:

“We realize there is a great deal of pain, in regards to change. There is always is, it doesn’t matter what it is. Whether it’s going to a new school or deciding on a new cleaners. It’s always difficult.”

Translation: We are so oblivious, we can’t distinguish legitimate safety concerns from NIMBYism.

Larry Klimovitz, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council

Klimovitz was overheard saying the following while giving a tour of his office, according to Pedestrian Error:

“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.

There you have it. Which is the worst? Elect the Motor Mouth champ:

Which quote is the worst?

  • St. Louis County (50%, 123 Votes)
  • City of Tulsa (19%, 48 Votes)
  • Baltimore Metropolitan Council (12%, 29 Votes)
  • Vineland, NJ (7%, 18 Votes)
  • Los Angeles DOT (6%, 14 Votes)
  • Maryland State Highway Administration (4%, 9 Votes)
  • SEMCOG (3%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 248

  • Anonymous

    Gotta go with the prosecutor admitting to breaking the law due to dangerous roads.

  • Adam Herstein

    Sorry, none of these compare with Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford:

    What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later you’re going to get bitten… Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks, not for people on bikes. My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.

  • Bill

    I actually found Bob Garner’s comments about Tulsa to be sensible. I don’t see how any of these politicians in the article are all that offensive. There’s some ignorant blabbering here, but nothing really malicious or outrageous. I’ve come to expect no good things from the mouths of politicians when it comes to cycling, and most never disappoint.

  • Anonymous

    For me, it’s not the quote itself that is so bad but the underlying thinking that is scary. You don’t even say these kinds of things (they’re just not anywhere near the tip of your tongue) if you truly see bicycles as a legitimate form of transportation that needs much more support.

  • Anonymous

    Since the prosecutor isn’t a transportation official and therefor essentially a civilian in this war, I don’t find his comments all that upsetting. What I do find upsetting is how negative some bicyclists are towards others when they express reluctance to ride on the most dangerous streets. I think we should support each other’s personal comfort levels.

  • Nathanael

    There’s a subtle distinction here. Most of these quotes reflect vast and disturbing ignorance, and a wrong attitude… but the St. Louis quote reflects *hostility*.

    With the others, I would say that an education campaign might get them to understand their mistakes. The St. Louis department needs to have its board and executives *fired*, because they’re doing this *deliberately*, not through ignorance or thoughtlessness.

  • Bike Soup

    We’re THAT awesome, Tulsa! Goooooooooooooo, Bob!

  • Bike Soup

    Garner Shapiro & Associates once prosecuted a case against a bicyclist for moving slower the motor vehicles. Shapiro: If you can’t keep up, GET OFF THE ROAD!

    Tulsa Municipal Court Judge Hofmeister concurred. The case was appealed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. That court upheld the original ruling.

    Technically, bicycles are BANNED and CRIMINALIZED, within Tulsa City limits, under Tulsa Revised Ordinance, Title 37, Section 622.

    Tulsa is really THAT awesome!

  • Christine Price

    It’s such a vicious cycle. I grew up in St. Louis county. Definitely NOT bike friendly. And so motorists and cyclists end up sharing the road with difficulty, which makes motorists hate cyclists even more! And rather than thinking, “maybe we should build some infrastructure so we can all live in peace,” they think, “they should get off their bikes and clog up the roads with me.” Well, no, they think things that are far worse than that. And say it, even. It’s terrifying.

    I find it kind of funny, in retrospect. When I was in high school, a lot of the students lived within a few miles. And yeah, it was pretty darn hilly around Lafayette, but it’s still manageable. But I don’t think anybody ever biked. I know of one teacher who did. But that’s it. Instead, everybody bought new cars for their 16 year olds.

  • Maryland is pretty bad, IMO. He blamed peds for 90 percent of collisions. Not saying it’s the worst, but def underrated.

  • John Dough

    I dont get your comment. Do you have some reason to doubt the man’s estimate correct? Are you saying the he’s wrong about the 90 percent?

    If he had said 90 percent of fatalities were caused by drunken driving, would you accuse him of blaming drunks for 90 percent of fatalities? Duh. Of course they are!

    I’m just left wondering why his blaming peds is “pretty bad”. …unless you know he is wrong.

    I think the translation is that, if you want to enhance your odds of crossing a street safely, you should use a marked crosswalk. To me, that makes sense. I think I learned it in about 2nd grade.

    I’m going with St. Louis County as being the worst. But, not because of your, um, “translation”. It’s because of the disregard this public official has for people whose safety his department is charged with protecting.

  • Darlene

    Maryland SHA’s own biased estimate, which never faults road design and asesses primary fault to the pedestrian if they’re not in a crosswalk even if the driver is drunk and there are no crosswalks in sight, puts the blame on pedestrians in 70% of crashes. The spokesman doesn’t even know his own agency’s anti-pedestrian propaganda.

  • Darlene

    Here is the 70% claim on SHA’s web site:http://www.roads.maryland.gov/Index.aspx?PageId=376

  • John Dough

    Hi Darlene,

    That’s an interesting claim you make about biased estimates and its an interesting link to the SHA’s website. But, I don’t see the connection between the two.

    The website cites police reports, saying that 70% of pedestrian fatalities were the fault of pedestrians themselves. You say that’s an estimate (as opposed to based on data) and you claim it’s biased and propaganda. How do you know that?

    What you claim may or may not be true. I’m just wondering how you can claim it, based on the evidence you give.

    It seems like the guy from Maryland got the number wrong. That doesn’t necessarily make it anti-pedestrian propaganda.

  • Darlene

    Police reports are by nature subjective. The officer uses judgment which is colored by his or her cultural biases to determine fault. Most police drive more than they walk and live in car-oriented areas. And, the orders they operate under carry inherent bias. The pedestrian is blamed any time he or she is not in a crosswalk, regardless of whether there are adequate crossings or what the driverwas doing.

    Additionally, police fault determinations are made for insurance and liability purposes, not by or for traffic engineers or pedestrian safety specialists. They do not take into account whether the design of the road was appropriate. Use of these determinations by transportation agencies to determine policy and/or design is flat-out lazy.

  • John Dough

    Can you supply a link to the objective data upon which you base your conclusions?

    If the police officers walked more than they drove, then you would believe them?

    Can you give examples of the biased orders they operate under?

    What if a pedestrian is hit when not in a crosswalk and there is a crosswalk within just a few feet? Then is it the pedestrian’s fault? Where do you draw the line? Five feet? Fifty feet? Five hundred feet? Before you answer think about whether your answer is subjective.

    If fault determinations were made by traffic engineers and/or pedestrian safety specialists, would those determinations not be subjective?

    What exactly IS appropriate road design? That wouldn’t be subjective in any way, would it?

    With all due respect (more respect, in fact, than you seem to have for police or transportation agencies, by the way), you last sentence, declaring transportation agencies “lazy” for using police data is “flat-out” ignorant…not to mention “subjective”.

  • Anonymous

    The prosecutor is admitting what most people who ride bikes already know–that most of our streets are so stressful to ride and that people would rather ride on a trail or on the sidewalk. I can’t fault him for that.

    What I would like from him is support for building better streets so that riders don’t have to share the sidewalk with pedestrians or share the street with dangerous cars.

  • John Dough

    Crickets.

  • Miles Bader

    Rob Ford seems to genuinely enjoy pissing people off and being a douchebag, and he’s made a career of it.

  • John SFO

    Actually, a pedestrian (who is not disabled) is nimble and can get out of the way of an automobile just as quickly as he or she can get in the way–or decide not to from the get-go. Automobiles, and especially buses & trucks are not nearly as nimble as pedestrians. Clearly, victocracy–not common sense is what Streetsblog wants to convey.