Nov 072011

A woman on a bike with a kid on the back, basket on the front, and text that reads VOTE BIKE.On Election Day Eve, this is your reminder to vote—and to vote for bikes. By that I mean that if you haven’t already done so, you need to determine where local candidates for office stand on funding a complete transportation network that supports all modes, and doing so in a logical and cost-effective manner.

In Washington, you also need to vote no on Initiative 1125 because it will keep transportation dollars from going to bike and pedestrian projects, among other problems.

Now, back to candidates. It isn’t enough for a candidate to say, “I support good streets.” To the candidate “good streets” might mean four-lane major arterials that enable cars to move swiftly and without impediments, whereas your definition of good streets includes bike infrastructure, sidewalks, and design that takes into account everything from the needs of semis and delivery trucks to people riding their bikes to work or to shop in the same corridor.

Nor is a vote for bike infrastructure a “quality of life” vote, any more than a vote for streets in general is a “quality of life” vote.

Candidates and elected officials who see people on bikes as trendy adornments for ad campaigns showcasing their area’s lifestyle miss the point. Many people can’t—or shouldn’t—drive: the young, the very elderly, people with certain disabilities, people with suspended licenses, and the very poor who can’t afford gas that’s still in the shadow of $4/gallon and all the other costs of operating a vehicle.

A complete transportation system with sidewalks, transit, and a bike network serves all those people. It also serves drivers by enabling us to get to the places where we work, shop, obtain health care, and get an education—without competing with them for parking spaces or adding to the wear and tear on the streets. That is what we need candidates to understand.

Let me be clear—I am all for basic street repair projects that will create nice, smooth surfaces on which I can ride, like the ones funded by the street bond Spokane voters passed a few years ago. We’re still seeing projects that bond pays for and I’m happy to have new streets.

The catch with that bond, however, was that the wording has been interpreted to mean that streets can only be rebuilt the exact same way they looked before—without any regard to changes in people’s options, preferences, and budgets for transportation, and without regard to new transportation plans.

Did you know that if a street didn’t have a bike lane or complete sidewalks before, it can’t get those with street bond funding, even if the city’s Master Bike Plan or Pedestrian Plan calls for them and even if the entire street is going to be torn up and rebuilt with our bond dollars?

So guess what? If you’re a resident or business owner along that stretch you can be inconvenienced twice instead of once, when the bike project or sidewalk infill is done later instead of at the same time. Convenient and cost-effective—not.

The wording of the next street bond is everything when it comes to construction of bike infrastructure and sidewalk completion and City Council will make the decision about what goes to the voters. Saying “let the voters decide” doesn’t tell the whole story–what the voters get to decide on comes from the Council.

The street bond isn’t the only thing, as street projects are planned with other funding sources including state and federal dollars, but it’s a key question and a matter of local decision making. While a recent effort to eliminate one federal funding source for bike/pedestrian projects failed, I expect other such attempts in the future so I want to vote carefully concerning decision makers who touch local dollars.

My process for compiling the statements below:

  • I put the same question to every candidate for public office on his/her Facebook page and got the responses listed below.
  • Where a candidate did not allow posting to a public wall, I sent the question as a Facebook message, so most but not all of these responses are publicly stated on the candidate’s own page and visible to everyone.
  • If I had not heard back from the candidate by Sunday I sent an individual email to the campaign contact indicated on the Web site.
  • All answers are exactly as the candidate wrote them.

Candidates who received the endorsement of the Cascade Bicycle Club are marked with an asterisk *. Not all candidates sought the endorsement.

Candidates who are members of the Complete Streets Spokane group on Facebook are marked with a ©.

Question: When the next street bond is put to the voters, are you willing to include bike infrastructure and sidewalk completion?


Mary Verner*: Yes. I have already started work with a committee to select categories of projects for the next bond including segments of complete streets and elements of bike and ped plans.

David Condon: No response received by publication time.

(NOTE: Additional information may be received later this evening, in which case I will update the post.)

City Council President:

Ben Stuckart*©: I have said at numerous forums that the City Council should pass the Complete Streets ordinance. That way the infrastructure called for in the comprehensive, pedestrian and bike plans would be part of any new bond.

Dennis Hession: Yes I am and would also like to get your thoughts as to how we can maximize the value added by any voter approved street bond.

Council District One:

Joy Jones: Yes!

Steve Salvatori: Yes, I support a new street bond, and yes I think I think it should specifically state what it is to pay for.  One of the controversies on this last bond, was that some folks don’t feel that sidewalks and bike lines were part of the deal.  I believe in complete transparency, and think that if we want to spend part of the funds on those improvements, we should give the voters a chance to be part of that process.

Council District Two:

Richard Rush©: Street Bond projects should be consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan. I have voted against street bond project contracts because they did not implement the Comp Plan. Any new Street Bond initiative should include provision for complete streets.

Mike Allen: What I’ve stated publically is that I will support the street bond similar to last time, but will also support bringing forward (at the same time) a second bond issue that would be for bike and sidewalk infrustructure. I think the public should decide.

Council District Three:

Donna McKereghan: It’s going to depend on the details, of course. People aren’t generally aware that in growing cities, bike lanes increase the number of jobs, and I certainly support that. However, I do not support bike lanes on all new and/or updated streets. We need to invest in bike lanes for so many quality of life issues, but we need to balance that with many other quality of life issues. So, it’s going to depend on what the next bond specifies because we’re coming out of this recession VERY slowly.

Mike Fagan: As long as the voters want to support an expansion to the street bond scope of work, I am in. I know that the media and others as well, have painted me as a person who can’t work well with others. I really question this line of thinking because if that was the case, I must have held a gun to the heads of the neighborhood folks I worked with in order to accomplish the things we did in Hillyard. Bottom line here is that I firmly believe in “Let the voters decide”.

Get out the vote!

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Reader Comments

  1. I wish you would have added my response to your objection that bike lanes go “beyond” being a quality of life issue. I replied to you that: Your explanation of what it is “beyond” a quality of life issue is what I *mean* by “quality of life.” The type of transportation we want to have, whether it serves the community (and not just those who drive) – as well as the impacts on our air, our health, our stress levels and so much, much more – all quality of life, in my dictionary.”

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