Council District 7 Candidate: Tom Fallon
1. Do you use a bicycle (or walk) in the city? If so, for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands) and how often?
I am a recreational biker and I wish my wife, Marie and I had more time to use the trails around the city. We walk our dog in our neighborhood through Highland Park, Morningside and Stanton Heights. My wife is a runner and she hits the pavement several times a week.
2. What roles do you think city council can play in making cities safe, accessible and friendly for biking and walking?
Pittsburgh City Council has a vital role in passing legislation and working with the administration in implementing programs. It is key that Council sees that bike and pedestrian programs are part of the City’s budget and that funding is there to implement these projects. Council members are also chairs of the committees that are responsible for working with bike advocacy groups like “Bike Pittsburgh” to ensure best practices for programs that affect Pittsburgh residents and visitors.
3. In what ways can enhanced bicycling and walking facilities and opportunities benefit your district and the city as a whole? Are there any specific projects that you’d like to see accomplished?
District 7 has seen an influx of new residents that are looking to “live were the work, work were they live” and developing safe and effective programs for this District will develop “best practices” for the entire City of Pittsburgh. I think the “Better Bikeways” vision is a necessity and would encourage this vision to be developed even more to create a safe environment for everyone traveling on Pittsburgh streets. I also feel that “Commute 101”, “Safe routes to School” and PSA are important to help motorists understand better that there is a transformation happening in the City of Pittsburgh.
4. Pittsburgh was chosen to host the 2014 Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference, which is expected to draw 1,000 biking and walking planners, engineers, government officials, and advocates from around the country, the largest gathering of it’s kind. Their focus is on biking and walking as means of getting around, with less focus on recreation. If you could put one project in place to “show off” your district, what would it be? Will you direct your staff to attend the conference to further their professional development?
I think the “Better Bikeways” vision needs to be achieved prior to the Conference because it will show attendees that this major metropolitan city is dedicated to bike and pedestrian safety. I think once a final design is adopted it could be quickly implemented in District 7 because many of our roads and the terrain are more suitable for integration of bikeways. I think that it would absolutely be beneficial that staff members of District 7 and myself as a council member attend the Conference.
5. In just about every neighborhood throughout the city, one of the top concerns is drivers driving too fast, aggressively, and not yielding to pedestrians. What ideas do you have to calm traffic and make our neighborhoods safer and more comfortable in which to walk and bike? Feel free to talk about particular problem spots in your district.
This is a major problem throughout the City because of the current Administration only idea is to expedite traffic through our neighborhoods. Neighborhoods like Polish Hill are considered “shortcuts” only to allow drivers to avoid traffic on major roads and quickly get to their destination in Oakland and east.
I support programs that will slow traffic on neighborhood streets such as extended sidewalk corners to end cars parking in crosswalks and allowing pedestrians less time on the actual roadway. This also ends cars going around turning vehicles at intersections.
I would also advocate using one way streets to eliminate shortcuts as long as it does not interfere with the action of the residents of the neighborhood.
Where possible I would detour traffic around “islands” to slow drivers speed or use other ideas that have successfully achieved the goal of slowing traffic in neighborhoods.
I also support larger more visible crosswalks.
6. Do you support the Allegheny River Green Boulevard? Briefly explain why or why not and what a councilperson’s role is in the project.
I absolutely support the Boulevard. I have worked on this idea even before the official naming while working for the State Senate. This would allow the City to connect numerous neighborhoods together while allowing alternative access to Downtown. While working for Senator Ferlo, we felt that it was critical, once Penndot replaced the Heth Run Bridge at the entrance to the Pittsburgh Zoo, that there would be access to the river and the green space that would tie into the Boulevard. As the Councilperson representing District 7 and the City I would continue to work with this project to ensure its development, which would include working with the owner of the Allegheny Valley Railroad, Mr. Peterson to develop a commuter rail along that corridor.
7. What do you think is the number one risk to walkers and bicyclists both in your district and the city as a whole? What will you do as an elected official to remedy it?
In District 7 the main risk to walkers, bicyclists, runners and other drivers are drivers’ mental distraction of trying to do too much. Texting is dangerous, potentially deadly and illegal, yet drivers are still texting and talking on cell phones, hands free or not, are a mental distraction.
As an elected official I think the State Legislator’s “texting law” failed because of the limitation to only texting. I feel this is unenforceable in its present form and would propose a total ban on cell phone use while driving. However, until the law is reformed, our public safety department must get more aggressive in policing the current guidelines and ticket those offending drivers.
8. What are your ideas for securing funding sources for biking and walking projects?
Many of our new companies in the Pittsburgh area are encouraging alternative modes of transportation to work, I would look at partnerships/sponsorship with these companies to assist in the funding of these projects.
9. In conclusion, why do you think people who care about bicycling and walking issues should vote for you?
I have been involved in many of these issues already because of my work in both this City Council office and the State Senate under the supervision of Jim Ferlo. I have worked on writing legislation to expand the use of motorized scooters on City streets while eliminating unsafe, unlicensed/illegal ones from operation.
I have worked with many of the people involved on these issues and can quickly assisted in the implementation of programs such as “Better Bikeways”. As a business owner of Urban Green Development, LLC I know the need to attract people to this City that have alternative views on transportation and the environment. As a leader in such organization as Rotary International I know how to convene all the concerned parties to implement mutually accepted outcomes. As a board member of a neighborhood charter school I am also concerned like a parent that our children arrive to and from the activities safely. As your next councilmember I would work to ensure these ideas.