Walsh and Connolly answer the 2013 Mayoral Bike Questionnaire

13490305-mmmainYou have played a huge part in the Bike Union’s efforts to make cycletracks a central issue in this Tuesday’s Boston Mayoral election. Most directly, you supported the collaborative effort from bike groups across the city to produce the questionnaire below (see it on video here).

But also, by supporting the Bike Union for the past three years you helped ask for a cycletrack on Western Avenue back in 2010, which this year became a topic in Mayoral forums. You, Bikes Belong, SRAM and the Bike Union helped send former candidate Felix Arroyo to Seville, Spain in 2011 to see how cycletracks have transformed that city–and his support for cycletracks was clear. And you helped press hard to make the Public Garden Cycletrack a priority for the bike community for the past two years. As a result of all this work, we now have two mayoral candidates who both speak in support of cycletracks.

This Tuesday it’s time to ensure that both of our mayoral candidates feel the bike vote. Both candidates have a history of working with the Bike Union, John Connolly on cycletrack funding and helping to usher funding for Hubway through the City Council, Marty Walsh on helping to clear the way for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to design and build the remaining pieces of the Neponset Greenway and Dorchester Coast Trail. But they do have different visions for the city and for bicycling.

Our members saw this first hand at the Bike Union’s Annual Meeting on Sept. 26, when Walsh and Connolly spoke to 275 union members about their visions for the city. In Jamaica Plain the two have staked out different positions on the Casey Arborway project that is now reaching 100 percent design stage. There are also clear differences in the questionnaire below, particularly in the areas of funding (question 7), how collaborative decision-making can be accomplished (8) and police enforcement (9). Candidate John Connolly has distinguished himself by taking several bike rides with groups like Allston-Brighton Bikes and DotBike to explore bike issues.

At the same time, both speak to creating a connective network of bike paths and cycletracks. Both have been responsive to the bike community and we thank them for that attention. Deciding which candidate will follow through on this support, and complete Boston’s Bike Network Plan sooner, will be up to you. Our last three mayors served an average of 15 years each, so we know this year’s election could very well determine Boston’s bike future for a long time to come.

In an election this close, the bike vote can make a difference. Somewhere in the range of 14 percent of Boston’s voters are still trying to define the differences between the candidates in time for this Tuesday’s mayoral election. With the candidates now tied, or close, depending on which polls you look at, this 14 percent could swing the vote either way.

To help you in this quest, the Bike Union brought together Bikes Not Bombs, Biking in Boston with Kids Blog, Boston Collective Delivery, BU Bikes, Lane Change, MassBike, Roxbury Bicycle Brigade, and several individuals representing the diversity of Boston to create a bike questionnaire.

Thanks to pressure from these communities and you, both candidates have now answered allowing for a head to head comparison of their future policies and vision for biking in Boston. Please share this questionnaire far and wide.

John Connolly submitted a video to share his answers. Citing time constraints, Marty Walsh submitted his answers in writing. The two candidates answers are compared head to head below. Please note that Connolly’s answers have been transcribed from video.

1) What do you see as the major obstacles to encouraging ridership, and how would you address them?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
Safety is the major obstacle to encouraging bike ridership in Boston. The issue of safety is particularly worrying for our cyclists with families who want to ride with their children. All cyclists need to feel safe and secure on our streets. Boston can deliver that security through well-designed bike lanes and cycle tracks, bicyclist and motorist education and outreach programs, and proper signage and traffic signal coordination. By implementing these solutions, we can help to ensure that all who use the road can do so safely and efficiently.     I think safety is the major obstacle that discourages ridership. I certainly feel that personally. I’m the type of cyclist I think we want to see more of in Boston. I bike every now and then, but probably not as much as I should or would like to. And a lot of that has to do with safety. So we’ve gotta start with education, but also the next mayor can make it a priority in the capital budget to expand bike infrastructure with a focus on cycletracks to help promote safety and more cyclists getting out across the city.

2) What school programs will you create to promote
bicycling?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
Safety needs to play a large role in education, beginning early in a child’s academic career. Boston’s students need to learn how to be safe in all areas of life, from sexual health, nutrition, and exercise, to being aware of the potential dangers on the city’s streets and sidewalks. I plan to reach our youngest students as they learn to ride with training wheels to emphasize the importance of wearing a helmet whenever they are on a bicycle and looking right and left before crossing the street. As our children get older and enter their teenage years, programming will be focused on getting around the city by T, by bicycle, and by car once they turn 16. Students need to be taught about using bike lanes, how to signal properly, and the best ways to navigate Boston’s busy roads. They will learn how to maintain and repair their bikes and also where to safely store them. Bicycling is a healthy and efficient way of navigating the city and should be encouraged in Boston’s educational programming. We need to make sure, however, that our riders are educated and prepared to safely ride on our streets. By reaching out to our young people early, we can ensure that our bicyclists are ready to take on the city’s streets.     I’ve supported reforming our school assignment system so that we can make sure every child can go to a high quality school close to home. And if we do that, I’d love to see children biking to school. I would bike to school when I was going to high school, but you never see that in Boston anymore. I want to see Teddy, Claire, and some day Mary Kate-my three children-biking to school. So I think that would be a key initiative for me when it comes to school and bikes but also make sure that we’re promoting bike safety in our schools. I think that’s vital to having a culture that’s going to work for cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. On schools I also want to give credit to Nicole Freedman, the Mayor’s bike leader. We’ve got several programs in schools like Roll it Forward and the bike safety program which make a difference. We have to continue programs like that as well.

3) How will you leverage Boston’s higher education institutions for bike safety?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
Many of Boston’s college and university students get around campus on bicycles. It is therefore in the best interest of these institutions to promote bike safety to their students. I would start by making sure that outreach starts early. New student orientations should include programs educating students on biking in Boston. For returning students, refresher courses should be offered. Students should also be encouraged to use helmets and other safety gear through subsidizing such equipment in campus stores. As our institutions of higher learning continue to develop and expand, they should ensure that all development is bike friendly and includes bike racks, proper bike lanes, and signage throughout campus and on nearby main streets. I would also like to see Boston’s colleges and universities work to create alternate routes of travel that are off of the main streets so that students can avoid traffic and get from class to class quickly.     I think that we need to mandate a bike education/bike safety course as part of freshman orientation at every college and university across the city. I want to bring the leaders of those institutions to the table, I want to bring cycling advocates and cyclist groups in with the institutions and work on how we can get bike safety and bike education programs for every freshman who’s going to go to school in Boston. We also want to make sure that our higher ed institutions are distributing safety equipment. We ought to have higher ed institutions offering the students helmets, reflectors, lights, everything that can make a cyclist truly safe on our roads.

4) How will you motivate building managers to encourage biking to work?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
Building managers have a lot to gain from encouraging biking. Biking reduces vehicular congestion, promotes health and wellness, and reduces a building’s overall environmental impact. People need safe places to park their bikes close to work. Some of Boston’s building managers will therefore need to install additional bike racks. They may also need to make space available indoors or under shelter for days when bad weather will damage bikes. Additionally, providing locker rooms with showers would make biking a much more appealing form of transportation and would make many people happy and more comfortable at work. Cyclists are often healthier than those who drive to work. Because healthy and fit employees are generally more productive, managers should realize that it is in their own best interest to take proactive steps in encouraging more employees to cycle to work.     I want to see a real commitment to building bike infrastructure across the city, and it’s not just cycletracks. I want to see bike racks and bike corrals built in across the city, but I also want to see holistic planning with developers so that we’re making sure that our developments and new housing and new commercial spaces in the city are dedicating space for storing bikes, showers for cyclists. We need to put all of those pieces in place and start with real planning but also prioritize it in implementation so that we are truly a bike friendly city. That starts with infrastructure. I think we can also learn from other cities. In New York, a tenant has a right to ask for bike parking and the landlord has to provide it. We should explore a similar ordinance in the city to make sure–whether it’s landlords, owners of businesses, or whatever the case may be–that we are setting aside dedicated space for bike parking.

5) How will you increase access to biking in every neighborhood equally?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
In order to increase access throughout the city, we need to make sure that neighborhoods with less biking infrastructure are brought up to speed as soon as possible. Areas of the city that currently lack bike lanes, bike racks, Hubway stations, and other amenities need to be addressed first. I will work with the Transportation Department along with community groups to ensure that we address the areas with the most need. I will also work with all neighborhoods collaboratively to identify the most efficient routes around the city. I will also encourage a regional approach so that the residents of Boston and its neighboring towns and cities have an easy and safe commute. I would also like to increase the number of bike shops in Boston and work with community centers and schools to make people aware of the bike groups in their neighborhoods.     Too often we think biking is just for certain people, and I’ve seen that it’s very much the contrary. For starters, I’ve biked through just about every neighborhood in the city during this race and I’ve seen the entire city engaging cycling and loving cycling. We want to make sure that in everything we do–whether it’s bike infrastructure, bike education and how we support and grow the cycling community–that we’re reaching out to all communities. And this is something that we should be encouraging all of Boston to do. But I think we’re already there in many ways, this is about the city coming behind and opening doors and saying we’re truly going to do everything we can to be bike friendly and I think we’re going to see the entire city get behind that. So part of what the city should do to encourage cycling in communities across in Boston is make sure that our plan, and our implementation shows this. That’s about having cycletracks on Malcolm X Boulevard, connecting Dudley to the rest of the city with real bike infrastructure. These are the key points where we can show our commitment to every neighborhood in the city and making every neighborhood truly friendly for cyclists.

6) How will you encourage bike related business?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
I will encourage Boston’s Main Streets programs to use local bike businesses in the city, such as bike couriers who can efficiently transport products short distances. I will also work with the Office of Economic Development to identify areas of the city where biking is very popular and make sure that bike related businesses exist in those areas. As Boston’s bike related businesses grow, such as courier services, I will ensure that they advertise jobs in a manner that attracts experienced bikers and promotes safety.     Part of supporting biking in Boston is also supporting biking businesses, recognizing that a bike friendly city creates an awful lot of economic growth for the whole city. I think about a group like Urban Adventours which does tourism, I also think of the Refuge Cafe, where they have a big piece of bike parking right in front of their store. You can see the direct link between supporting local bike businesses and overall growth for our community so I think this is vital. One other piece are non-profits likes Bikes Not Bombs which prepares people… gives them skills that are transferable directly to biking or to other jobs so there’s a whole lot of connections that we can foster and support when it comes to local businesses and cycling.

7) How would you increase funding for bike infrastructure?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
Having been a state Representative for the last 16 years, I have strong relationships with my colleagues on Beacon Hill. This makes me the best candidate to secure more resources from the state for bike infrastructure. I would also work with local businesses and institutions that would benefit from more bike infrastructure to form partnerships that would lead to the amenities needed for bicyclists in Boston.     I think we have to be creative when it comes to the funding for bike infrastructure but there’s a lot we can do. For starters this is about priorities in the mayor’s capital budget. The next mayor can prioritize the construction of cycletracks and other bike infrastructure in the capital budget and we can begin construction right away. I think we have to really look at the Boston bike plan and then go from there in how we build the priorities in the capital budget. But the other natural piece are our PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and relationships with institutions across the city. I believe if we approach our institutions and talk to them about about making an investment in bike infrastructure they will be supportive in helping to fund it because it will benefit their institutions as well as the neighborhoods of Boston and the biking community generally. There is great opportunity when it comes to funding and that we can get this done.

8) How would you increase participation in transportation decision-making processes?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
Collaboration is an important focal point of my campaign. I would invite all of Boston’s biking advocate groups to the table to give me their thoughts about proposed transportation ideas. These groups would also be called upon to give their ideas on how to alleviate the city’s transportation problems. I also plan to create neighborhood liaisons to the Mayor’s Office that deal strictly with development issues. These liaisons will represent the voices of their respective communities when talking to developers and myself about projects that will impact transportation in the city.     When it comes to decision-making on transportation issues and that’s almost everything that involves urban planning. We need to make sure we have a truly transparent process and I’m dedicated to making sure we reform our development process to make it truly transparent and to make sure we are going first and foremost to the community for their input. And as I’ve shown during this campaign, I am always going to reach out to the biking community for their input. I also want to make sure we transform our culture inside city hall. I want it to be user-friendly customer-friendly and truly take community input. But there are also directives that a mayor can make that will make a big difference. And for starters, I want to make the rule that all things that we do in the transportation department, is going to be done from a complete streets planning perspective and that we are going to put pedstrians, bikers, and motorists on an even footing in Boston as we go forward. And I think that will have a major impact on how we execute and how we carry-out transportation planning for Boston.

9) What is the police department’s role?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
The police play a large role in the promotion of biking and bike safety in Boston. They need to strictly enforce traffic laws, especially those that can be dangerous to bikers, such as driving in bike lanes, double parking, blocking intersections, and other moving violations. The police also need to be tough on bicyclists. They should ticket cyclists who break the rules of the road. Just as there are bad drivers on the road, there are also bad cyclists. We need to do all we can to break bad habits, and strict traffic enforcement can help.     In addition to investing in bike infrastructure to help make this a more bike-friendly city, we also have to make sure that we are enforcing the rules of the road. But I’ll never do that in a way it’s being done down in New York right now, where we are stopping cyclists for minor infractions and allowing motorists to get away with breaking several rules. I want to make sure that we begin by enforcing the rules when it comes to motorists who aren’t really held accountable at all when they violate laws that impact safe and healthy cycling in the city. I’ll make sure that this becomes a major part of how we train city workers whether it is police, code enforcement officers in the special services department, or the transportation department in Boston. I want us to create a culture where we are focused on safety for everyone who is using Boston streets, but most especially focus on keeping our bikers and pedestrians safe.

10) Would you prioritize a network of bike paths and cycle tracks?

State Rep. Marty Walsh     City Councillor John Connolly
Yes. Biking is becoming more popular in Boston and we are not keeping up with the need for proper infrastructure that will keep our bikers safe. As Mayor, I will work to bring more cycle tracks and bike lanes to Boston, especially in busy areas where accidents are common. Bikers need to feel safe on our streets, and that means more bike infrastructure, more cycle tracks and bike lanes, and better transportation planning throughout the city. A Walsh Administration will make biking a priority because it is a safety issue, and all Bostonians deserve to feel safe in our city.     Prioritizing a network of bike paths and cycletracks will be one of my major priorities. In my first budget we will make it top priority within the capital budget and we will begin construction right away. And we will look to the cycling community for help in making sure we do it correctly.

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