NEW YORK – Two new mayors, two big cities, two unfortunate traffic incidents. But one incident – in Los Angeles – was viewed as awkward and sad, while the other – in New York – has become yet another irritant for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Maybe the differing reactions reflect the differences between the cities. To recap: De Blasio has been under fire for traffic violations committed by his convoy after he had vowed to crack down on dangerous drivers.
In his first extensive public comments on Thursday's incident, De Blasio on Monday said, "I don't tell the NYPD how to do their work when it comes to protecting me." De Blasio and the New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, have said the NYPD officers who provide security and transport to the mayor are specially trained to watch for possible threats and to drive accordingly.
While insisting that "no one is above the law," De Blasio went on to say that he trusts his security contingent to decide how best to get him around safely.
"They're the experts. I respect that," he said. "So in any given moment they may see something I do not see."
Now consider what happened to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in January.
The LAPD officer driving Garcetti through downtown L.A., did not see a woman crossing a street until it was too late. The pedestrian, Juliet Nicolas, was hospitalized for three days after the mayoral vehicle hit her. Garcetti visited Nicolas in the hospital. The story disappeared from the headlines quickly.
Police have said Nicolas may have been crossing against the light, a common practice in L.A. and in New York. Police in both cities have tried to crack down on jaywalking, but De Blasio's new "Vision Zero" street safety effort targets drivers, not walkers.
That made his own convoy's violations all the more embarrassing. They were caught on video by WCBS just two days after "Vision Zero" was announced and after De Blasio said that everybody would be held accountable. The large SUVs ran through two stop signs in a residential neighborhood, turned without using their indicator lights and were clocked going about 60 mph in a 45 mph zone, according to the video, which has aired repeatedly in New York.
On Monday, the "Vision Zero" plan, which among other things would lower the city speed limit to 25 mph from 30 mph, had its first public hearing at City Hall. Several speakers broke down in tears as they spoke of losing loved ones to speeding vehicles or inattentive drivers during the hearing, which lasted more than four hours.
One of the speakers was Lizi Rahman, whose son, Asif, was 22 when he was hit and killed by a truck while pedaling home from work on his bicycle. The incident turned her into an advocate for safer streets.
"I don't want you to feel sorry for me," said Rahman, she said. "I want you to do something."