Where do Richmond’s Mayoral candidates stand on biking and walking?
For the 2016 City of Richmond Elections, Bike Walk RVA administered a candidate questionnaire to each person running for the office of Mayor to see where they stand on issues relating to biking and walking in Richmond. We asked questions on the following five topics, and each candidate’s responses are recorded below:
Note: Sports Backers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Bike Walk RVA’s candidate questionnaire is strictly educational in nature.
Also: Since this questionnaire was administered, candidates Bruce Tyler and Jon Baliles have withdrawn from the race.
QUESTION 1 – TRANSPORTATION EQUITY
Biking and walking not only improves public health, but it is a prevalent form of transportation for people who can’t afford a car and/or gas, are too young to drive, or are not mentally or physically able to drive. According to Census data, nearly 22 percent of Richmond households do not own or otherwise have access to a car. The challenge for Richmond is to increase access to safe biking and walking for opportunities for all citizens.
What measures can we expect your administration to take to expand access to safe walking and biking infrastructure for all Richmond residents?
Jon Baliles: As a Council member, I have added funding for increasing bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian crossing infrastructure as a category in the Capital Improvement budget. As mayor, I will continue to do this. It is essential as more people are biking and walking that we make crossings and streets as safe as possible. I have been demonstrating that, not just promising it.
Jack Berry: Transportation equity reflects a commitment to build networks that serve everyone, not just those who can afford to drive a car. Richmond’s transportation network should be multi-modal and balanced to serve the whole community. More emphasis on biking and walking will have positive benefits in shaping the community, promoting economic development and influencing health. Bike-ped infrastructure must be seamless, convenient and safe. It should incorporate protected lanes, not just lines painted on a street. We should build safe, walking and biking infrastructure that is part of a comprehensive network, not just a series of disconnected fragments. Walking and biking infrastructure is important in attracting the young professionals who will power RVA’s economy in the future, and it is even more important for those residents who do not have access to a car. Richmond’s bike infrastructure has a lot of catching up to do if we aspire to be among the great cities in America. The next mayor should commit to a sustained effort to build out a network of protected lanes, leveraging transportation grants with annual appropriations of local funds. Most importantly, the mayor must be capable of building a strong City Government organization that will ensure prompt execution of approved projects so that thoughtful plans become a reality, not just a talking point.
Bobby Junes: Best communicated as a “Two Way Link” system. Would have the Planning Commission start to enforce or start to acknowledge the Complete Street Resolution. All future individual projects to be looked at as if a link in a chain. How could / can the proposed project add to the inter-city biking as well as walking avenues of travel. Put the horses in front of the cart.
Joe Morrissey: I will challenge both the public and the private sectors to develop a series of “Richmond Moves” walking- and biking-designated routes of varying lengths and difficulty around all areas of the city. For example, Heart Break Hill, would be a short but difficult hike up Broad Street from 17th Street to 12th Street. A Fine Arts Stroll, would be a long but easy walk or ride down the Boulevard from Broad Street to Byrd Park. Patriot’s Passage, a long and strenuous path, would take you from Tobacco Row, up 25th Street to Patrick Henry’s St. Johns Church, and back down again to the Flood Wall. The Veterans Salute would be a long but manageable two circuits of the McGuire VA Hospital campus.
I engage in vigorous exercise at least five times a week. The positive physical, emotional, and spiritual health effects of walking and biking are well established. I personally would challenge each member of City Council and the School Board to lead efforts in their neighborhoods to establish and lead walking or biking groups. Leading by example is a very effective way to encourage behavior change.
Michelle Mosby: If we are to be a multimodal city (and all great cities are) then we must invest in the expansion of initiatives that increase access to biking and/or walking infrastructure. Our City has experienced a significant resurgence and population growth over the past several years. Through our strategic planning and redevelopment initiatives, we can take advantage of the opportunities that are before us to improve our transportation infrastructure that includes bicycle, pedestrian and transit facilities. I think UCI and some of the upgrades made for the event have given us insight into the important role that bike lanes can plan in allowing people to have safe mobility options that will provide everyone mobility freedom. The added benefit to investing in our multimodal infrastructure results in a healthier lifestyle and, for many, these this safe infrastructure is a necessity to their daily lives. You can expect to see improvements on all of our transportation facilities reflected as new development moves forward in our city.
Levar Stoney: The city has done a great job of going after “low hanging fruit.” We need to stop thinking in terms of “the show” and start thinking in terms of the user. In my administration I will work with organizations like Sports Backers, along with neighborhood and civic associations and City Council, to think about where we are putting lanes and work to finish the Bicycle Master Plan. The blueprint is finished, now it’s time for City Hall to get to work. I will find the political will necessary to fully implement the Bicycle Master Plan by actively engaging the community and having a working relationship with City Council. I have experience building coalitions to implement real change — as Mayor, I will use that experience to harness the city’s momentum and put us on par with other cities who are becoming more pedestrian friendly.
Bruce Tyler: First we must start with repairing and replacing sidewalks throughout our city. The current allocation is $300,000 for sidewalks; we need at least five times that amount. I plan to increase this allocation to $1.75 million. Second, more importantly, I will work with Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Coordinator to implement the recommendations from the Richmond Bicycle Master Plan. We must continue to increase bicycle lane miles.
Lawrence Williams: I have been advocating greenway development since the 2004 elections and would like to think my advocacy to make Richmond the most livable city in America has finally paid off. 12 years have past and the creation of bike ways, restored parks and nature trails have become a popular acceptable topic for political discussion.
I have two bikes sitting in my living room as modern decoration, however I do use them to travel downtown from Church Hill. Too hot now however. When neighbors see me ride they feel more committed to ride.
As Mayor, I would work closely with existing groups like yours to establish green way right of ways that would link residential communities to public amenities and downtown. Presently I am a founding board member with GroundworkRVA a successful organization with a proven track record of working with inner city youth, neighborhood associations and city agencies. Like many organizations I would support, GroundworkRVA promotes the relationship between our next generation of citizens and Richmond’s environmental infrastructure.
A city wide master plan and comprehensive rezoning is due for revision in the coming years. As mayor and trained architect, naturally this coordination of land uses will be important to me. My goal is to make Richmond the Most Livable City in America and that is my top priority. Traffic and bike lane safety with public awareness campaigns would be appropriate.
QUESTION 2 – COMPLETE STREETS
In October of 2014, Richmond City Council passed a Complete Streets Resolution (No. 2014-R172-170) that states the City will – within one year – modify street design and construction manuals, codes, ordinances, and standards to reflect that “all transportation improvement projects in the city be planned for, designed, and constructed to provide appropriate accommodation for persons of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit passengers, and motorists, while promoting safe operations for all users.” Nearly two years later, these changes have not been adopted.
If elected Mayor, how would you work to implement the City’s Complete Streets Policy?
Jon Baliles: As a member of City Council that approved this resolution and the Highway Safety Commission, I am very familiar with this policy and embrace it wholeheartedly and will work to implement it. We must work to find a balanced approach for our streets that incorporate these guidelines and promotes all modes of transit on our streets.
Jack Berry: Complete streets are streets for everyone. They are designed not just for cars, but for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete streets give people alternatives to the automobile that are safe, convenient and attractive. Design features often include crosswalks, curb extensions, bike lanes and narrower travel lanes. As the City prepares to update its Master Plan, the Complete Streets policy should be integrated into every neighborhood plan. It is unfortunate that nearly two years after the adoption of the Complete Streets Resolution, the necessary codes, standards and construction manuals have not yet been modified to reflect the broad policy. There is a recurring theme that Council policies don’t always get translated into actual implementation. There must be a commitment from the Mayor’s Office that adoption of policies will be followed by effective execution. That takes a strong organization. Execution of approved plans is what high performing cities do. We should expect no less.
Bobby Junes: Start by composing a “Street Index Sheet”. This document to list Type of street project undertaken, Date Start, Date Complete, District, Cost, and Primary User. Utilize this index with which to priorities planned or missing link street improvement projects. Assign a 2 year conditional clause component with which to start project or require a resubmit of the project.
Joe Morrissey: As so often is the case, City Council recognizes what needs to be done to improve city services and amenities but lacks the political and financial courage to make those changes. If an initiative or Resolution measurably increases the quality of the public health and welfare I will find the money to make it happen – quite possibly by reallocating funds from boondoggles such as the Redskin Camp.
Michelle Mosby: Res No 2012-R69-103 is clear in its intent to make RVA a bicycle and pedestrian friendly city. In order to achieve the intent of our Complete Streets Policy, our City must develop a multimodal transportation system plan that includes all modes of transportation. This multimodal system plan will identify our multimodal corridor and provide a foundation to develop a program of projects that may be developed and implemented in a manner that takes advantage of our economic development strategies, along with our state, federal and local funding resources. Through this multimodal system planning process, we will be able to identify where our multimodal investments will have the most benefits and we will begin to see a connected transportation system emerge that is safe for all users. We will develop and implement multimodal design guidelines that will be supported by our transportation policies going forward.
Levar Stoney: Richmond has developed a reputation for debating, planning, and then not implementing. This is about transforming City Hall. On my first day of this campaign I called for a complete performance review and audit of every city department I want to know who the top performers are and who the under performers are. As Mayor, I’m going to lead from the top down and transform the way the city operates. People pay a premium to live in Richmond, but we are not getting premium services. As Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia and as Secretary of the Commonwealth, I ensured efficiency and accountability. As Mayor, I will do the same. It is unacceptable that some of our residents are unable to experience all our city has to offer because of the design and construction of some of our streets. As we become a more pedestrian-friendly city, we must continue to improve infrastructure and create safe, accessible, and user-friendly options for all of our residents.
Bruce Tyler: It is the Mayor’s responsibility through the CAO to implement adopted papers, even though resolutions are non-binding. I would suggest we take another look at the resolution and codify sections that we can implement via adopting an ordinance which is binding.
Lawrence Williams: Streets are more than infrastructure. Streets are living arteries. To that end as mayor I would focus on two and three dimensional zoning approaches that create strong corridors and sense of place. Corridors are community statements. Corridors worth investing in must have rhythm and massing of adjacent structures arranged to create safe pedestrian first communities. I will encourage this in new planned communities around new schools and commit my planning department to reviewing existing neighborhoods. Safe biking will not have a stronger advocate than Lawrence Williams as your Mayor.
QUESTION 3 – VISION ZERO
Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. On March 7, 2016, Richmond City Council passed a Vision Zero Resolution (No. 2016-R011) that “supports the development of a Vision Zero program for the City of Richmond with the goal of reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries in road traffic to zero by the year 2030.”
As Mayor, what policy steps would you take to improve education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency response with the purpose of achieving zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030?
Jon Baliles: Part of the solution involves working with the state and DMV on the test drivers are required to take to make them more aware while they are on our streets. Along with implementing the complete streets policy and increasing enforcement, everyone deserves to be safe. Over time, this will serve to help us achieve the Vision Zero goal.
Jack Berry: Within our local transportation network, those walking or biking are the most vulnerable. City Council has called for a Vision Zero strategy, but the support resolution will be an empty gesture unless an action plan is adopted and fully implemented. There should be a comprehensive set of policies and a focused plan to coordinate implementation across all City departments. The plan should include educational outreach to teach the public about traffic laws and the importance of yielding. Speed limits should be reviewed and enforcement actions should be coordinated. All of the new roundabouts installed throughout the city are designed to calm traffic and improve safety, but they only work when there is a common understanding about how the public, both drivers and pedestrians, are supposed to use them. Broad policies are an important first step, but implementation is what matters. That takes strong leadership from the mayor’s office.
Bobby Junes: To start recognizing those situations whereby the contributing factor made a difference. Are we stepping toward the goal of Vision Zero – or are we stepping away from the goal of Vision Zero. Those individual whose performance stand out will be publicly recognized, the event highlighted, and number of traffic and serious injury displayed.
Joe Morrissey: As mayor I will call on faculty and staff of the VCU Health System to produce a proposal for Richmond’s Vision Zero program. VCU Health System is one of the world’s premier trauma system providers, researchers, and educators. I would challenge them to develop a Framingham Study-like research and intervention program for Richmond (the Framingham Study, started in the early 1050s, identified the causes and best practices for preventing and treating heart disease.) I would particularly depend on the contributions of Dr. Joe Ornato, Director of VCU Health Systems Emergency Services, and founder and Medical Director of the Richmond Ambulance Service.
Michelle Mosby: Safety is my number one priority on all matters in the City of Richmond. Achieving zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030 will require the city to take on a multifaceted parallel approach by first identifying where the traffic fatalities and serious injuries are occurring now and bring to the table new and innovative methods for improving the conditions in those areas. On a parallel path that will provide a longer-term solution, we will need to develop and implement multimodal system design. Through this multimodal system approach, we can design our streets to accommodate all users without compromising the functionality of the roadway system.
Levar Stoney: I would look for innovative solutions like the ones currently being used in Portland where they have mapped out traffic safety hot spots and use the data to make informed decisions about infrastructure improvements and safety information. Using data driven governance to ensure safety is working in cities across America, and it can work here too. We are living in an Xbox era, but there are people in government still using Ataris. Bikers need to feel safe in Richmond the city has invested in other safety measures and now it’s time to make bike safety a priority as well. This is also an education issue we need to make sure our children understand the importance of road safety from a young age, whether as a pedestrian, a cyclist, or a driver.
Bruce Tyler: As Mayor, I will ask the Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Coordinator and the grant writers look for funding sources to implement safety programs to educate our citizens. I will continue to propose funding in our capital budgets to implement more of the recommendations in the Richmond Bicycle Master Plan. I will ask law enforcement to step up traffic patrol to ensure our citizens operate vehicles properly. As for emergency response time, we have one of the best emergency response teams in the world. I will work with them to help with any recommendations they would make.
Lawrence Williams: I will support continued City engineering studies. I will work with community organizations and through my newly established International Center for Social Research and Development, explore what other cities around the world are doing to create safe streets for both traffic and pedestrians. I will continue to support the Vision Zero Resolution (No.2016-R011).
QUESTION 4 – INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
In May of 2015, the City of Richmond finished work on the city’s first Bicycle Master Plan, which calls for implementation of 135 miles of new bikeways by 2025. By the end of 2016, the city will have 25 miles of bikeways on the ground, all of which have been “low hanging fruit”. However, few if any of our new bikeways connect to each other or major destinations.
As Mayor, how would you grow the mileage of bikeways in Richmond to fill in the gaps and form a connected network?
Jon Baliles: First, find the corridors that are both popular and safe. Then look to try temporary closures and “trial runs” where the impact of biking/pedestrian/running lanes can be measured and receive feedback from those living nearby. We’ve learned that forcing plans on neighborhoods does not create buy-in. Therefore, working with neighborhoods to expand our bikeways network is the best way to grow it in the future.
Jack Berry: The City has an impressive Bicycle Master Plan, but thus far the implementation of the bikeways plan has been slow and disjointed. A policy, plan or project is only as good as its execution. There needs to be a concerted effort across departmental lines to resolve issues and get projects moving. Connecting communities through a seamless network is the primary goal. Every isolated project helps, but the real value comes when they are connected. There should be goals, annual targets and accountability to the community for achieving results.
Bobby Junes: Refer back to question 1 “Two Way Link” system whereby any / all projects presented to the Planning Commission to have additional comment. Similar to current “Environmental Impact” study. Except we consider during the pre-planning what or how any proposed construction project can enhance bikeway travel.
Joe Morrissey: One of the main responsibilities of a mayor is to inspire residents and corporate citizens to work together for their own best interests. I would call on each member of Richmond’s healthcare community (VCU Health System, HCA, Bon Secours, etc.) to each adopt approximately 9.5 miles of bikeway connecters. Their task would be to provide the infrastructure and to make creative use of their connecter for health teaching purposes – I’m thinking of a variation of “Burma Shave” signs. They could also present inspirational quotes and topics suitable for meditation. Each adopter would be responsible for the creation of their connecter and periodic upgrades of their sites. The city would be responsible for day-to-day maintenance of the connecters.
Michelle Mosby: The City has made tremendous strides in improving our bicycle infrastructure over the past several years. With the advancement of our RVA BikeShare program and the strategic placement of the bikeshare stations, we will be able to grow our bike lane network in a more deliberate fashion. Further, with the implementation of a new paradigm in planning for and developing our multimodal transportation projects through a multimodal system planning process, we will begin to see where connections are needed. We will work with all users of the bike facilities as we advance with a strategic multimodal approach to our transportation system.
Levar Stoney: The top priority in terms of walking, biking, and infrastructure needs to be building out a comprehensive, thoughtful, and safe network. We need to move out of phase one and connect the segments and with them connect more cyclists to our communities. We also need to think about diversity of the user and keep safety requirements in mind. This is a priority in terms of continuing to attract tourism and adapting to the more pedestrian heavy city Richmond has become. I have already committed to doing quarterly office hours in all nine districts and to attending City Council meetings. I will engage the community and build the political relationships necessary to actually get things done. As Mayor, I will grow mileage by finding the political will to proceed with the implementation of the plan. The blueprint is complete, what’s needed now is collaboration and leadership to actually add the miles and finish what we have started.
Bruce Tyler: As Mayor, I will ask our Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Coordinator and the grant writers to look for funding sources to help us implement Richmond Bicycle Master Plan. I believe we will see more transportation dollars allocated to alternative transportation models. Also, I propose funding in our capital and operating budget to increase our transportation funding from the current $3.5 million to $20 million dollars. Our proposed budget will set aside 5% to 10% of this funding to increase bikeways.
Lawrence Williams: On my website I illustrate a plan for development of North Shockoe Bottom. Presently I am promoting a greenway link from Eastview Lane Park to Oliver Hill Way and Hospital Streets through an existing City easement. I am supporting the Reedy Creek upgrades and George Wythe, Crooked Creek Greenway development. I have personally championed a new proposed green way link from Whitcomb Court to Highland Park. This mayoral candidate is excited about working with community leaders to improve our natural and biking assets. Let’s get started.
QUESTION 5 – FUNDING
Establishing safe and accessible places for people to bike and walk for transportation will require additional funding for capital projects, either in the form of Federal grants, State revenue-sharing, or the City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). In May of 2016, Mayor Jones proposed $500,000 in the FY2017 CIP budget for bicycle infrastructure – more than any previous fiscal year – in addition to funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, and traffic calming. Furthermore, City Council added $300,000 to fully fund the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, a walking and biking bridge from Brown’s Island to Manchester.
Do you support pursuing additional funding (in the CIP or other sources) for biking and walking infrastructure? If yes, how much?
Jon Baliles: I have done so in my term on City Council, and led the effort to increase funding for the Riverfront Plan money for three straight years ($2.7 million in FY2015, $1.5 million in FY2016, and $300,000 in FY2017). The mayor had proposed zero funding in FY 2015 and 2016. This is a commitment that I’ve already demonstrated is a priority and will continue to do so if elected.
Jack Berry: There should be ongoing funding in the Capital Improvement program (CIP) that ensures that biking and walking infrastructure is a sustained priority. Federal and State transportation funding and special grants often require local matching funds from the locality. The City needs to be ready to leverage local funds to draw down State and Federal funds. The City also must demonstrate a track record of implementing grant-funded projects in order to win additional grants. The City has received funding for over a dozen transportation projects that are languishing. In the last round of grant awards, Richmond missed out on funding because of an inability to execute on previous awards. City Government fails its citizens when it cannot leverage available grant funding because of an inability to execute. It does little good to embrace new policies and plans if the City cannot do the basic job of contract management and project implementation. I will ensure that projects are implemented successfully and that we leverage every available outside dollar.
Bobby Junes: Yes – we have to be cognitive to the number, approximately twenty two percent (22%), of local citizens already restricted from driving or without automobile ownership. I would follow the current trend and propose another $500,000. These types of improvements could also easily be reflects / recorded within my proposed “Street Index Sheet”.
Joe Morrissey: See answer to question 4. I would find it impractical to advocate increased public funding for these efforts when so many basic city service needs are going unmet. This is an opportunity for Richmond’s mayor to use their persuasive “bully pulpit” skills.
Michelle Mosby: I believe that we must first maximize our existing funding sources by leveraging our local funding with state and federal funding. In order to do that, we first need to develop a program of multimodal projects that can be designed for and implemented in a strategic fashion. By developing a comprehensive multimodal transportation plan, the City will be in a much better position to pursue all sources of funding. We first need to properly plan for and develop projects so that they are ready when funding sources or grant opportunities become available. Without a comprehensive multimodal transportation system plan in place, it is difficult to put a dollar value on how much funding should be obligated. My administration would work to develop a comprehensive multimodal transportation system plan, along with an accompanying resource allocation plan that will advance a cohesive program of multimodal transportation projects.
Levar Stoney: Cities of similar sizes are making this investment and Richmond should be too. With the right leadership and vision, outside dollars will be more than happy to invest in projects like these. I have already said that I will be creative and think outside the box in terms of finding additional dollars for the city working to find corporate partners, philanthropic dollars, and bringing the nonprofit, private, and government sectors together to achieve common goals. Right now, City Hall is lacking a leader who is championing all that makes Richmond great. We’re a top destination for outdoor recreation, as Mayor, I will make sure folks know about it attracting investment and tourism along the way.
Bruce Tyler: I anticipate increasing transportation funding from $3.5 million to $20 million dollars a year. I will set aside 5% to 10% of the funds for bicycle infrastructure, crosswalks, and traffic calming measures. We must work together to create Richmond as one of the most friendly alternative transportation cities in Virginia.
Lawrence Williams: “Yes”. Upon review of future budgets $500,000 to $1,000,000 would seem appropriate. Additional bike trails can be leveraged through good urban and regional planning and injcluded in the designated funding for other private sector funding using Special Use and Plan of Development guidelines for all projects involving major land use changes. I look forward to monitoring the possibilities with your organization.