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 (2%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 248

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