With a perfunctory wave of a checkered racing flag, Eric Adams kicked off this year’s crushing of the dirt bikes. “Today, as we stand in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, we are freeing ourselves from these destructive pieces of machinery,” the mayor said Tuesday as a bulldozer in a Brooklyn impound lot sat ready to flatten about 100 of them. Dirt bikes, and their four-wheeled cousins, ATVs, are illegal to ride on city streets, and Adams — much like his predecessor, who inaugurated the tradition — is obsessed with them. The bikes, and the Black and brown teenagers who ride them, are easy targets, but they barely chart in the city’s own data about actual crashes. They can be loud and annoying, and some riders go way too fast, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather be on the wrong end of one them than, say, a Cadillac Escalade or any of the million-plus completely legal SUVs on New York City streets.
So if we’re doing street-safety spectacle, why not crush some SUVs instead? If an SUV hits you, your chances of being killed are two to three times higher than if you’re hit by a regular-size passenger car. In addition to getting obscene gas mileage, eating up too much urban space, and creating preschool-class-size blind spots, SUVs are the reason pedestrian fatalities are rising so dramatically nationwide. They’re also becoming more popular in New York City, a terrible development for basically everyone not driving one: During Bill de Blasio’s administration alone, the share of fatalities involving SUVs went up 55 percent for cyclists and 47 percent for pedestrians. Weirdly, de Blasio didn’t smash any of them while he was mayor; instead, he climbed into one every day to ride across town to the gym.
Pedestrians, like the 10-year-old who was killed walking home from school by an SUV driver who plowed over the curb in Queens earlier this year, don’t stand a chance against a giant Suburban. So what if the city were as serious about confiscating them from drivers who operated them recklessly as they are about going after kids popping wheelies at 2 a.m.? What if, after racking up a certain number of infractions or causing a serious crash, a driver’s vehicle were impounded and — this is the fun part — smashed in a glorious spectacle?
The situation is win-win: SUVs are dangerous, and watching them get transformed into scrap-metal pancakes would be wildly satisfying. The city can sell tickets to watch these actual monster trucks get flattened while funneling the proceeds to safer intersections in the city’s streets plan. To borrow a phrase from Adams: “You want to terrorize our neighborhoods? You’ll get crushed.”