Bike. Walk. Vote. 2017 – 10 Questions with the Mayoral Candidates

 

Tuesday, May 16 is Primary Day in Pittsburgh

Find out where the Mayoral Candidates stand on biking and walking issues

Biking and walking are political issues. When you choose to get around by foot or by bike, you are addressing critically important issues: personal health, air quality, oil dependence, economics, infrastructure, and safety.

Each election cycle, we want to make sure that voters understand issues that are important to them. In the case of street safety, where 25% of traffic fatalities and major injuries are pedestrians, improvements to our built environment may literally save their lives.

This year, the candidates themselves politicized bike lanes in interviews, statements, and campaign videos.

We wanted to be sure to give these candidates an opportunity to talk directly to their constituents on these issues, so that you can better understand where they are coming from and make an informed decision for who to cast your vote on May 16.

The last mayoral election, there were about 5,500 votes between the top two candidates. Our petition to the candidates garnered the signatures of about 3,000 voters.

This election we have a simple message:

Biking and walking are affordable and healthy ways for Pittsburghers to get to work, to the grocery store, to school, to the doctor, or to anywhere else that we need to go. And I want the Mayoral candidates to pledge to make Pittsburgh streets and communities safe for all bicyclists and pedestrians. 

If you agree with this statement, sign your name onto this petition and show that biking is important and popular in Pittsburgh.

I Pledge

Ten Questions with the Mayoral Candidates

Find out what the candidates think about your safety, as well as their ideas on how to improve biking and walking in Pittsburgh.

1. Bicycling/walking and safe bike/pedestrian infrastructure enhances quality of life and addresses issues such as affordability, equity, access, health, and the safety of our streets. In your view, what can the City of Pittsburgh and your role as mayor, do to actively encourage more people bike and walk?

Mayor Bill Peduto

I see the improvement of infrastructure in this city as a branch with three streams: physical improvements, education, and enforcement. One example of a step that we have taken is the creation of the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure.  The first of its kind, this department has a charge on moving PEOPLE efficiently rather than focusing solely on vehicles in order to provide city residents with accessible, sustainable, and efficient transportation options.

Rev. John Welch

The City, through the office of Mayor, can invest more in beautifying and fortifying the walking and bike trails in our parks through the Parks Conservancy. It would also be important to partner with Highmark and UPMC in promoting healthy living which includes walking and cycling. But most importantly, we need to communicate about safe walking and cycling. Walkers and cyclists are often distracted because they walk and cycle with earbuds not noticing the traffic or other pedestrians around them.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

2. Do you think that the capital budget allocation for bike infrastructure is too much, just right, or too little. Please explain your answer.

Mayor Bill Peduto

When it comes to maintaining our infrastructure to increase the safety and transportation efficiency for everyone in the City, there is always room to do more. By coordinating strategically with partners like the utility companies and PennDot, we will be able to better implement complete street construction.

Rev. John Welch

It depends. The budget will grow as the awareness and needs grow.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

3. About 25 percent of Pittsburgh households have no access to an automobile, and are dependent on affordable transportation like biking and walking in addition to transit. Please describe your vision for non-motorized transportation.

Mayor Bill Peduto

We are creating a systems-wide approach to simultaneously improve transit- transportation and bike-pedestrian networks. This includes improvements to city steps as well as access to schools, critical amenities, and transit stops.  

Rev. John Welch

This data must first be analyzed and dissected on the basis of affordability. There are residents who while they can afford a car, desire not to have a car and prefer walking and cycling. There are others who desire a car but cannot afford a car and must rely on public transportation because of the distance between where they live and where they work. And lastly, there are those who do not desire a car and cannot afford one as well and so they are either dependent on public transportation, walking or cycling. There will always be, and rightly so, public transportation. Making it affordable is the current challenge. I worked to move statewide legislation to dedicate funding for mass transit. That was a 5-year battle.

If we are going to create a vision for non-motorized transportation it cannot be disintegrated from the vision of creating more jobs with family sustaining wages that are accessible. We have an affordability issue in this city and region because we have a jobs issue.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

4. We are at the point now where increasing on-street infrastructure like bike lanes will require some difficult decisions, which will not please everyone. A classic example is the struggle between installing bike lanes, sometimes at the expense of on-street parking. Give us some insight into your decision making process and how you plan to balance the opinions of residents who may be at odds. This example does not have to be bike/ped related.

Mayor Bill Peduto

I believe that we must build an appropriate engagement process that allows all perspectives to be heard. We need to build complete networks while coordinating to accommodate people all over the entire City. Ensuring residents, business owners, and guest that we are not just focused on individual intersections or curbs.

Rev. John Welch

There will always be decisions that will not garner unanimous consensus. The first thing anyone should do, and especially the head of a city or company, is employ a consequentialist analysis in the decision-making and you so this by considering all of the stakeholders affected. Scholars in business ethics also suggest that it is best to get ahead of a potential societal/environmental issue by also consulting that constituency before making the decision. Pittsburgh is a city with very narrow roadways and dense housing thereby limiting parking to the streets. All of this must be taken into consideration; otherwise, there will be an “us and them” debate.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

5. The Healthy Ride Bike Share program, launched in 2015, is a low-cost transportation solution for trips that are too far to walk, yet too short to take transit or drive. Have you used this service and what are your thoughts? What ideas do you have to help increase the accessibility of bike share in lower income communities?

Mayor Bill Peduto

We have been supportive of the expansions of healthy rides. We were happy to write a letter of support that ultimately led to gaining a state grant, and we are interested in seeing the system expand to spaces beyond the public right of way by negotiating with private property owners to get more opportunities in more neighborhoods throughout the city. I have used the program and I have led a ventures outdoors program to introduce others to it.

Rev. John Welch

I have not used this service. Understand that lower income neighborhoods in most cases are also food deserts. Bike sharing will not help someone who has to travel 2-3 miles to get fresh produce or other groceries. This is not a “chicken and egg” issue. We must first build the infrastructure in low income communities by restoring “Main street” businesses that will not only address the accessibility of necessities to residents but also restore neighborhood character. Once this is done, then extending a ride share program in these communities will make sense.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

6. Please explain your opinion of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit project, and how bicycling and walking fit into this picture.

Mayor Bill Peduto

The City has been actively involved in the planning of the community engagement for the BRT to address community concerns. This would create a downtown-to-Oakland corridor, including bicycling infrastructure. The BRT would be treated as part of a mass transit system and not a one-off project.

Rev. John Welch

The BRT project makes sense on many levels but again, it has to also make sense to all of the stakeholders, not just the riders on public transit. It’s obvious business owners on the Forbes Ave corridor did not appreciate the option that put the BRT on Fifth because it would effectively dislocate many of their customers. The use of electric vehicles surely will help the environment. One must still ask whether or not this is how we should be investing $240million dollars and are their other priorities. Also, will this then lead to an increased cost for public transit? We already have some of the highest public transit rates in the country. As for cyclists and pedestrians, they are also part of the affordable mobility calculus. Could $240million dollars be used to create safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists rather than convenient transportation? That’s still to be answered.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

7. OpenStreetsPGH has grown from 44,000 participants in its first year to 55,000 in year two. Have you participated in OpenStreetsPGH? What are your thoughts on the event, and do you see the City taking on a bigger role in enhancing it or reaching more people?

Mayor Bill Peduto

We will continue to work and support OpenStreetsPGH as we have in the past. We (along with CitiParks) have helped in the facilitation of street closures and route selection. I have personally participated and have been joined by the County Executive, as well.

Rev. John Welch

OpenStreetsPGH is a wonderful and exciting event and I believe the city should take a bigger role to enhance it because this speaks to the character of Pittsburgh. I would like to see every community host its version of OpenStreets much like what is done with the different arts festivals.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

8. People bike when it’s safe, comfortable, and connects to the places they need to go. Pittsburgh’s bike infrastructure, while it’s come a long way, is still disjointed. In your opinion, what steps do we need to take to close these gaps?

Mayor Bill Peduto

We are continuing to move in the direction of making physical investments into safer infrastructure for both bikes and vehicles. Increasing public safety requires more enforcement. We are also working with community partners to identify the biggest problem areas and identify solutions.

Rev. John Welch

First, we need to re-examine the efficacy of the current bike infrastructure even with its improvements.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

9. Do you have a biking or walking related story you’d like to tell?

Mayor Bill Peduto

I biked Copenhagen with Bricker – bonus points.

Rev. John Welch

I was an avid cyclist in my earlier years until my bike was stolen. I biked from my home in East Hills to Carnegie Mellon U daily to class when I moved off campus. Navigating Penn Avenue, Wilkins Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Forbes was fun, but back then we didn’t have drivers texting. When I became a father, the biggest thrill I had was teaching all four of my children to ride a bicycle, not driving a car.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

10. Why do you think people who care about street safety and/or bicycling and walking issues should vote for you?

Mayor Bill Peduto

I have done more than any other Mayor since David Lawrence in reshaping the transportation within the City of Pittsburgh. Including bringing BikePGH in at every stage in the process–holding monthly meetings with the administration around these projects. It is a core component of our values as an administration to keep a critical eye towards safety and safety-related improvements for everyone in Pittsburgh. I added a seat for Bike Pittsburgh at the Southwest PA Commission.

Rev. John Welch

One of the pillars in my campaign is making Pittsburgh a Safe City. This is a comprehensive view of safety through a public health lens. It includes clean air, clean drinking water, gun violence and healthy lifestyles. As a PhD in bioethics/healthcare ethics, quality of life is important to me, but most important, insuring quality of life for all, not just for those privileged with choices others cannot benefit from. A fair and just city is one that protects and cares for its vulnerable. As President Kennedy said, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” but that’s assuming the boat isn’t anchored to the bottom of the sea. My work and my credentials are emblematic of the fact that I am the fairest and more just candidate in this race.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris

Did not answer.

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4 Comments

  • Bill Wedemeyer says:

    Some insightful answers from both Mayor Peduto and Rev Walsh. Can you comment on the circumstances as to why Councilwoman Harris did not answer a single question?

  • erok says:

    We contacted her and her office multiple times over the course of a month via various methods, with not one reply. She has responded to our survey in the past, when she was running to keep her seat in City Council. She also has no website and no contact information for her campaign to reach out to. We tried.

  • wbt says:

    Councilwoman Harris does not appear to care much for cyclists. A view of some of her positions can be seen at: http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2017/05/04/darlene-harris-bicyclist-confrontation/

  • wbt says:

    Also, though Mayor Peduto says “By coordinating strategically with partners like the utility companies and PennDot, we will be able to better implement complete street construction,” that isn’t currently happening. The official response at public meetings is that “complete streets does not apply to PennDOT projects” like Forbes Ave. As the incumbent, Peduto has every opportunity a mayor would have to make that strategic coordination happen, and it’s not. We should not count on campaign statements that it would in the future.

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