Buzzfeed opinion piece: After terror attack, let's ban cars in cities

After every mass shooting incident, the left immediately calls for more gun control. That knee-jerk response has led some on the right to mockingly ask, after attacks like the one in Manhattan this week, whether we should now ban cars and trucks. Today Buzzfeed posted an opinion piece (by an outside contributor) who takes this line of thought and runs with it. Yes, the author says, we should ban cars and trucks, at least in cities:

In the coming days, politicians will try to convince you that what happened on the West Side Highway in Manhattan this week was an issue of terrorism, immigration, or religion. But just like the plague of mass shootings is a gun problem, the thousands of people killed by cars as they walk our streets every year is a car problem.

I guess you have to give the author points for consistency but in this case, she’s consistently wrong. The attack in Manhattan was a terrorism/religion problem. The attacker made it very clear why he killed people with a rented truck. He was inspired by ISIS.

You can’t stop crazy. But you can reduce the number of people allowed to drive their 4,000 pound machines into city parks, along city beaches, past playgrounds, and alongside the sidewalks of the most pedestrian-packed places in the nation. If we banned cars from every city in the US tomorrow, we would stop vehicular terrorism overnight — and save thousands of lives.

The Manhattan attacker has not been judged “crazy.” He does not appear to be mentally unsound. Rather he appears to be an extremist motivated by a violent strain of Islam. The rental truck, which had probably been rented 100 times before, wasn’t the problem. The driver’s radical ideology was the problem.

More than 40,000 Americans were killed by cars in 2016 — the equivalent of a fully-loaded Boeing 747 falling out of the sky once every three days. It’s more than the 33,000 annual gun deaths, and more than the 20,000-plus people killed by synthetic opioids that year. Half of those automobile fatalities occurred in urban areas; about 6,000 of them were pedestrians.

Not mentioned here is that, according to the CDC, about 1/3 of those deaths involved alcohol. In 2015 “10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (29%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.” Again, the problem here isn’t the car it’s that the person driving the car is doing so irresponsibly and probably illegally. But, just as with guns, we don’t take away law-abiding, responsible citizens access to cars because of the behavior of irresponsible people.

Exactly 10 years and 11 months ago, a different man steered onto the same Manhattan bike path that Sayfullo Saipov did this week. He also accelerated for a mile, and then he killed my best friend. My friend’s name was Eric Ng, and he died on the same block as Saipov’s first victim. The drunk driver struck Eric so hard that he was knocked out of his sneakers.

This is tragic but clearly the drinking while driving was the problem that resulted in this deadly accident. Does the author support banning alcohol sales? She should probably know we tried that once and it didn’t work out.

Of course, the cities we have today could not ban cars tomorrow. No current public transportation system functions well enough to carry an entire city population. Not everyone can walk or ride a bike. Too many taxi drivers would be out of work…

Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city center by 2019. Madrid has a goal of 500 car-free acres by 2020. In Paris and Mexico City, people are restricted from driving into the city center on certain days based on the age of their cars or the number on their license plates. Inside Barcelona’s superblocks, all car traffic that isn’t local is banned. Over 75 miles of roads in Bogotá, Colombia, close to traffic for a full day every week.

There’s no doubt that this idea is catching on in some cities, but even in Oslo, which is leading in this, the city center is a relatively small area (about 1.7 square kilometers or about half the size of Central Park). Banning all cars and trucks from Manhattan is not going to be possible anytime soon. And if it’s not possible there, it’s really not going to work well in less population-dense areas of this massive country.