Mayoral Candidate Bill Peduto Answers BikePGH Q&A
20 Questions with Mayoral Candidate Bill Peduto
Bill Peduto (D)
1. What role do you think Mayors play in making cities safe, accessible and friendly to biking and walking?
The Mayor must play a critical role in these issues. The Mayor sets the agenda for every department that deals with the city’s transportation infrastructure and the appointments of the directors that lead these departments reflect that vision. I will appoint department directors who share my vision of a Pittsburgh that is safe and accessible for all forms of transportation and that leads the nation in complete streets design and planning and multimodal transit options. We have been able to make remarkable progress over the past 10 years because of your advocacy and your tireless work and I’ve been right there with you along the way. You know you can count on me as Mayor and I am excited about what we can accomplish together.
2. It is important that everyone has access to safe streets for biking and walking. What will you do as Mayor to ensure that everyone who lives in the City is within a half mile of interconnected bicycle facilities that can take them from where they live to work, to shop, and to green space without fearing for their safety? There are many gaps in the pedestrian network as well. How will you address this as Mayor?
One huge step forward will be the bike share program that Council recently approved. But there is much more that we can do to connect networks and improve safety. I will incorporate complete streets design and planning into every construction project the city embarks upon to ensure that whenever we are out doing work to repave a street or repair a sidewalk we are taking the opportunity to upgrade the streetscape to incorporate best practices in complete streets design such as physically separated bike lanes and highly-visible crosswalks. If we pair upgrades with already-planned projects we will save time and money in process. It just takes coordination and a plan of action.
3. Last month, a new bike sharing program was announced that will add 500 bikes in 2014, similar to programs in other US cities. Do you support bike share in Pittsburgh? The City has been allocated about $2M in the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) for start up costs through the federal Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) program.
I strongly support it and I proudly voted for it. In fact, my Policy Director, Matt Barron, met with representatives from Alta in 2011 when they first expressed an interest in working with Pittsburgh. I am looking forward to seeing the success of this system and to being able to expand it over time. It is my hope that as more casual cyclists start to take advantage of bike share the popular support for bike/ped improvements will increase exponentially. Bike share is critical to completing those last mile connections between home, public transit, and work. I think it will be a hugely positive project for our city.
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. What type of projects would you like in place to “show off” Pittsburgh? Will you direct your staff to attend the conference to further their professional development?
I think our bike share system will be the centerpiece to be able to show to the world. I want to make sure that it is fully up and running in time for the conference. Another feature is our great system of riverfront trails. Hopefully by 2014 we will also have a few complete street projects underway or possibly even completed like the Penn Avenue reconstruction along the section of Penn that divides Bloomfield and Garfield. I would like a new Mayor’s office to play a central role in the conference and to be intimately involved in the discussions, panels, and events around it. I will encourage my department directors to attend and to participate in as many of the discussions as possible. This is a huge opportunity for Pittsburgh to show off what we have already accomplished and learn from the great work that other cities have done.
5. PennDOT has set a goal of 5-10% of trips in Pittsburgh’s CBD, and 5% of all trips less than 3 miles be made by bicycle. The City’s draft primary mode share goals out of MOVEPGH are similar – 4% bicycling and 16% walking by 2020. Do you endorse these goals? What will you do as Mayor to realize or surpass these goals? This goal is located in the City of Pittsburgh Bicycle Plan.
I endorse those goals but I think we can do even better. I’ve taken some strong steps in my Council district to try to get us there, including funding a design competition to design bike corrals for our three business districts (Walnut Street, Ellsworth Avenue, and South Highland Avenue). But as Mayor there is a lot more we can do to meet and exceed these goals. The best way to achieve this is to make sure that the bulk of new housing development that occurs in the city is transit oriented and is located within reasonable walking distance to a transit hub. We’re already starting to achieve this in East Liberty but we also need to focus on neighborhoods like Beechview, Manchester, Homewood, and Larimer that are transit-rich but housing-poor. And thanks to the great work that PCRG has done with their Transit Oriented Developed Typology report we now have a blueprint for how to get there. I think bike share will be another major factor in meeting and exceeding these goals. If we can build enough interest and support we could see a major uptick in commuting by bike. Finally, and I know I’m harping on this, we need a real institutional commitment to complete streets that allow people to feel safe enough to walk or bike to work.
6. In 2010, the League of American Bicyclists acknowledged Pittsburgh as a “Bronze” Bicycle Friendly Community. What directive will you give to your directors in order for Pittsburgh to move from Bronze to Silver and beyond? More info at bikeleague.org/programs/bicyclefriendlyamerica/communities.
We need to continue building out our network of bike lanes based on your recommendations, we need to start to incorporate physically separated bike lanes where appropriate, we need to institute traffic calming measures, and we need to rebuild the City Planning Department and fully staff it. I know that we can achieve Silver status if we focus on these priorities.
7. Very poor data exists in the City regarding crashes that involve pedestrians and bicyclists. The numbers are generally underrepresented, and don’t allow City staff to plan accordingly for improvements. What opportunities do you see to better use data to make our streets safer for everyone?
First of all we need a comprehensive open data policy that cracks open the city’s books and puts the information up online so anyone can download it in a usable format. In order to do this we also have to set data standards that cross departments. We need people in the City Planning Department to be able to quickly and easily share data in the same format as people in the Department of Public Works, for example. Once we standardize formatting and open up our data to everyone the innovators in Pittsburgh will have an app created overnight that can show you on a Google map where every crash involving a car and a pedestrian or a cyclist has occurred. We have to break down the walls of city government and start working more collaboratively. I want to follow Boston’s model and create a Pittsburgh Office of New Urban Mechanics. This office in Boston was created specifically to work with advocacy groups, tech companies, and individuals to design applications to help the city operate more efficiently and effectively. We have so many resources here at our disposal and people who want to help. It’s time to start letting them in the door.
8. Leading cities for bicycling are implementing innovative bicycle infrastructure (a.k.a. cycle tracks, green lanes, intersection enhancements, bicycle boulevards, etc.) to encourage people who are “interested but concerned” to ride a bike. During your administration, will you implement these types of innovative bicycle facilities to attract even more Pittsburghers to ride bicycles? A number of recent plans have emerged in Pittsburgh that promote these types of bikeways including Oakland 2025, Allegheny River Green Blvd, Downtown Retail Strategy, and we expect MOVEPGH will as well. NACTO.org’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide also gives guidance on this.
Absolutely. We all know that we’re not going to break the 10% barrier unless we implement these improvements. I will make enhanced bike infrastructure a priority and I will lean towards requiring that any new bike lanes incorporate these components (though I recognize that they won’t work on every street in the city). It is those “interested but concerned” people that we can convert with solid infrastructure and I am committed to putting the resources in place to make it happen.
9. Our University district in Oakland is perceived to be the most dangerous areas to ride a bike, yet contains some of the largest numbers of people who ride them. What ideas do you have to make Oakland safe and attractive for bicycling, and what will you do to implement your ideas?
We need to find ways to reduce vehicular traffic through Oakland and to implement some serious traffic calming measures along Fifth and Forbes. These streets shouldn’t be used as high-speed expressways when there are so many bicyclists and pedestrians using the streets. With the implementation of Oakland to Downtown BRT on the horizon I think we can realize some of these vehicle traffic reductions but it won’t be enough to ensure safety. Oakland is basically the perfect test-case for complete streets in the city because all forms of transportation are so well-represented. I would work quickly to identify a few key intersections that can be upgraded to begin to reduce the danger and then start working down the corridor to make additional improvements.
10. 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 is your plan to calm traffic and make our neighborhoods safer and more comfortable in which to walk and bike? For example, on Penn Ave, Liberty Ave, Fifth Ave, Forbes Ave, Baum Blvd, as well as on more residential neighborhood streets.
As I’ve said we absolutely need complete streets and serious traffic calming measures. The Penn Avenue reconstruction will incorporate significant traffic calming measures if I am Mayor to shepherd the project to completion. But it’s not just infrastructure improvements that are important, we also have to get real about education and enforcement. You can institute all the traffic calming measures in the world but if people are still breaking traffic laws without consequence it won’t matter. We have to couple engineering improvements with a public awareness education campaign about sharing the road that is targeted towards cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers and we also have to start issuing more traffic citations.
11. Last summer, Penn Ave saw two fatal bicycle crashes involving unlicensed or suspended drivers. In May of 2012, our intern was nearly killed by a man driving with a suspended license for previous DUIs. There are too many hit-and-run stories against bicyclists and pedestrians to even recount. What actions would you take to keep people from driving who have no business being behind the wheel of a car?
I will work with state leaders and with the judicial system to ensure that the penalties for reckless driving are severe enough to be a deterrent. These hit-and-runs have to stop. It is becoming an epidemic in certain parts of the city and I will not tolerate it. We can’t truly be a bicycle and pedestrian friendly city unless we crack down hard on the people who are making our streets unsafe.
12. What specifically would you like to announce or accomplish in your first 100 days as Mayor to address street safety, biking, and walking issues?
I want to announce a comprehensive complete streets policy that becomes incorporated into the policies and procedures of every relevant department in the city. I want to work with Bike Pittsburgh and national experts to create it.
13. When you appoint a new chief of police what direction or directive will you give them regarding bicycle and pedestrian safety?
First of all we’re going to get more police officers on bicycles and on foot patrols so they will have a stake in bike/ped safety. That alone will help to improve enforcement of traffic laws. But we also have to revisit our police policies and make sure that all of our officers are trained in bike/ped safety laws and the proper enforcement of them.
14. What specific policy recommendations will you implement as mayor to bring the number of pedestrian and bike fatalities to zero over your four years?
A comprehensive complete streets policy. A zero-tolerance policy for hit-and-runs. A significant investment in traffic calming measures. Audible walk/don’t walk signals at major intersections. And a complete audit of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities to identify the most problematic areas and begin focusing on those first.
15. Open Streets are enormously popular events in nearly 80 cities and communities throughout the U.S. Open Streets temporarily restrict motor vehicle traffic on one or more streets so that people can use them for physical activity—walking, biking, running, playing, or dancing. As mayor will you work with us and community stakeholders to make Open Streets Pittsburgh a reality? More info at openstreetsproject.org.
Absolutely. I spent some time studying in Europe to get my Masters degree and was amazed by the emphasis on pedestrian streets and promenades throughout European cities. We need to bring that to Pittsburgh. Not only should we close down streets temporarily but there are probably some streets that we could close permanently, particularly in downtown. Open Streets create a human-scale city and a city that values street-level interaction. They also promote local business and create opportunities for unique features like public art and outdoor dining that are assets that people look for when selecting a new city to move to. I’m enthusiastic about the possibility of creating some great Open Streets in Pittsburgh.
16. What specific steps will you take as Mayor to implement the bike portion of the Allegheny River Green Boulevard plan recently conducted by the URA with $1.5M of funding from federal sources? For more information please visit greenboulevardpgh.com. We can also send you the official executive summary and information about the public outreach component of the plan.
I am a huge fan of the Allegheny Green Boulevard plan. My staff and I participated throughout the process and I’m pleased by how the plan turned out. However, I’m less pleased by the way that the current administration has completely disregarded it when it comes to the proposed development in the Strip District. One of the core components of the plan was a significant green buffer zone between the riverfront and the build-to line of any development, yet that component was scrapped in their proposal. That’s part of the reason why I voted against it in Council. I will require that any development that occurs along the Allegheny riverfront adheres to this plan, especially to the green space buffer that was designed to allow us to construct high-quality bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Creating this infrastructure all the way from downtown to Upper Lawrenceville is a no-brainer. It is flat land that is crying out to be a bike/ped pathway to and from downtown. Imagine how many cars we can get off the streets if we can provide safe access along the riverfront.
17. PennDOT and the County own many roads and bridges inside the Pittsburgh city limits such as parts of Penn Ave, and the Three Sisters Bridges. What will you do to ensure that these streets and bridges are designed in a way that are safe for bicyclists and pedestrians?
I have been able to build a very strong working relationship with County Executive Fitzgerald and I will work closely with him to ensure that our County roads and bridges follow the same complete streets policies that our city roads will when I am Mayor. I also have strong connections with state leaders and will leverage them to do the same.
18. What role do you think the City of Pittsburgh should play in educating its citizens about issues related to traffic safety, infrastructure, and wayfinding?
I think it is a core component of our job function. Keeping our citizens safe should be a top priority and I will do everything I can to find new ways to achieve it. Upgrading our signage and wayfinding with an emphasis on bike/ped users is a big part of that. One model I really like is Walk Your City. This was created by a few entrepreneurs in Raleigh, NC and then adopted by the Raleigh City Council. It involves street-level signage that tells you how far away you are from certain neighborhoods and attractions by foot. For example, a sign might read “You are a 10 minute walk from the City-County Building” or “You are a 15 minute walk from the University of Pittsburgh Campus.” Not only does this provide a real service to pedestrians but it also raises awareness about our car-centric culture. If you’re driving to the City-County Building and sitting in traffic for 30 minutes next to a sign that says “You are a 10 minute walk away” you might reconsider your travel choices.
19. What ideas do you have to advocate on a regional, state and national level for bicycle and pedestrian improvements within the City?
I plan to be an active and involved part of the conversation at the national and international level. I’m genuinely interested in these issues and I plan to attend conferences, meet with leaders in other cities, and learn from what is working elsewhere. I think it is incredibly important that the Mayor and top staff are engaging with experts from around the world on these kinds of issues.
20. In conclusion, why do you think people who care about bicycling and walking issues should vote for you?
I think people who care about these issues should for vote for me because I have always been an ally and I have worked on City Council to push for the changes that you want to see. These issues aren’t new to me. I’m not on a learning curve when it comes to bicycle and pedestrian safety and improvements. I want to have a bigger platform to do the things I’ve been doing in Council in the East End for 12 years and take them citywide. It’s no accident that the East End has the best, most complete bike/ped infrastructure in the city, it’s because I have been able to create such a strong working partnership with Bike Pittsburgh to get these things done. Thank you for your continued advocacy and the work you do every day to make this city a better place for everyone.