For the 2016 City of Richmond elections, Bike Walk RVA administered a candidate questionnaire to each person running for City Council to see where they stand on issues relating to biking and walking in Richmond. We asked questions on the following five topics, and the responses from candidates running in the 5th District 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.
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 opportunities for all citizens.
What measures can we expect your administration to take to expand access to safe walking and biking infrastructure for all residents?
Parker Agelasto: While serving on City Council, I have advocated for additional funding for walking and biking infrastructure. This includes additional funding for sidewalk projects from $600,000 in FY 2012 to more than $5 million over the past four fiscal years. Likewise, I supported funding to complete the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge as well as implement more than 20 miles of dedicated bike lanes. I would like to continue increased funding for sidewalk repairs and for new sidewalks. We need to implement the Bike Master Plan. The Bikeshare program, where 90% of the money is federal funding is a real asset. It should also be noted that I initiated a program where residents can be certified as welders by fabricating bike racks.
Montigue Magruder: Prioritized improvement of existing sidewalks suffering from tree damage and roads in various states of neglect are the measures I’ll be pushing for if elected to City Council.
Garrett Sawyer: The City of Richmond must focus on improving street maintenance. The Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining the surface condition of streets, sidewalks, and alleys throughout the City of Richmond. As I walk through the 5th District knocking on doors to talk with residents, one of the recurring concerns is the condition of our sidewalks and streets. In some neighborhoods in the Swansboro area, tree roots have overtaken the sidewalks causing buckling to occur. This makes it impossible for residents to enjoy walking down their neighborhood streets. In addition, the continuous issue of potholes throughout our city is concerning. As a motorist and cyclist, I cannot count the amount of times I have traveled through the city and needed to navigate around potholes. In addition, we need to push towards the creation of protected bike lanes in the city; establishing protected bike lanes is essential to building a full network of bike friendly routes in the Richmond area.
The City has seen improvements in sidewalk infrastructure since 2014 in Church Hill, the Fan, and the Museum District, but there is much more work to be done to ensure we can safely navigate through our city. In order to improve street maintenance, we must provide the appropriate funding to maintain upkeep of over 832 miles of sidewalks in Richmond. Current allocation to sidewalks is $300,000; however, we need to see the budget grow closer to $1.5 million each year to eliminate the backlog in repairs.
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 to City Council, how would you work with the administration to help implement the City’s Complete Streets Policy?
Parker Agelasto: We need to work closely with the City Traffic Engineer and City Bike Coordinator to facilitate implementing the program. We need to ensure that before anything goes to the Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission, all applicable departments have signed off that the plans comply with the Complete Streets policy. The Richmond Highway Safety Commission should also be consulted in reviewing plans to ensure compliance with the policy until it is fully implemented. This will expedite approval.
Montigue Magruder: We need to find out how much it would cost (overall) to implement the resolution and what finances we have to ensure adoption of the changes. My skepticism is fueled by the financial missteps of the current City Council and Mayor. If elected, I will introduce an ordinance requiring a full forensic audit of all City departments/finances within the first 90 days of taking office so we can find out what financial resources we ACTUALLY have to work with.
The implementation of the Complete Streets Policy needs to prioritize existing sidewalks and roads that are in need of serious repair, and that’s where I’d focus my work with the administration.
Garrett Sawyer: The Office of the City Auditor prepared Report # 2013-11 Audit of the Roadway Maintenance and Capital Improvement Sidewalk Operations. The report showed major problems with the city’s sidewalk program. The Complete Streets Resolution (No. 2014-R172-170) is a good measure to address the issues with usage for all ages and abilities. I will work with the Mayor and my colleagues on Council to push for actual implementation. In order to make progress on this resolution, we must have confidence that adopting such policies, at the Council level, will result in effective execution from the Mayor. To ensure that we are actively working toward complete streets, we should develop a task force or commission to work toward policy implementation. We must ensure that they understand how well our city streets are serving all users and make clear recommendations and timelines for how we will address the feedback from all users.
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.”
If elected to City Council, what additional policy steps would you work to put in place to improve education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency response with the purpose of achieving zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030?
Parker Agelasto: I supported Vision Zero when it came before City Council in 2016. One traffic fatality is too many and it is important to provide safer streets in Richmond. Even before the adoption of Vision Zero, I placed significant emphasis on making W. Main Street, Semmes Avenue, and Crutchfield Street safer. Many of the safety concerns are due to lack of enforcement of speeding and lack of driver attentiveness. We need to educate our populace about the importance of traffic safety and responsible driving behaviors, and the regard for pedestrians and bike riders. We should also consider making sure that mass transit is a part of the solution. By getting cars off the streets, we will have safer streets.
Montigue Magruder: I believe that a comprehensive review of local speed limits is necessary to help achieve a significant reduction in traffic accidents and fatalities.
I oppose the further implementation of roundabouts as they have been proven to have no useful affect on reducing traffic accidents. I prefer the installation of stop signs and traffic signals at intersections.
My work will begin with creating a set of reforms to the state’s current moped laws as they increase danger to moped riders.
Garrett Sawyer: The primary mission of a locality is to protect its residents and visitors. The Vision Zero Strategy is a step in the right direction; however, without developing an action plan and implementing it, we will not make progress in preventing zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Through creation of an action plan, the City of Richmond will be making a commitment to improving street safety in each neighborhood with the goals of: expanding enforcement against moving violations, including speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians; creating better street signs; offering community education opportunities; developing a safety campaign that will be delivered to communities via civic association meetings, mailers, and social media; and reviewing the increase in penalties for dangerous drivers in Richmond.
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 the 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, the Bicycle Master Plan has yet to be officially adopted by Richmond City Council. In addition, few if any of our new bikeways connect to each other or major destinations.
If elected to City Council, would you support adoption of the Bicycle Master Plan? If so, how would you work with the administration to grow the mileage of bikeways in Richmond to fill in the gaps and form a connected network?
Parker Agelasto: I have supported the Bicycle Master Plan and wish to see it adopted. Assuming it is a priority of the next mayor, I would prioritize barrier protected bike lanes, multi-use trails, and contra-flow lanes. We need to work to get drivers comfortable with cyclists on the roads and increase the comfort of cyclists to go between connections when they do not have dedicated bike infrastructure.
Montigue Magruder: Will need time for additional reviewing of it, but I am generally supportive of the Bicycle Master Plan. As long as the Bicycle Master Plan contains no controversial provisions, I will introduce an ordinance supporting its adoption.
Garrett Sawyer: Yes, I would fully support adoption of the Bicycle Master Plan. My love for riding was ignited by renting a bike from Kickstand down near Rocketts Landing and riding along the Virginia Capital Trail with three great friends. As with many city plans, full implementation is key to moving in the right direction. As a councilmember, I will work with my colleagues on Council and with the Mayor to ensure the plan is executed. We must ensure that we are connecting our communities throughout the city. From my experience with project planning, I know that we must establish goals, quarterly and annual targets, and provide updates to our residents on the progress we are making. To ensure we are connecting our city, I will fully support setting up test areas; the purpose of the trial runs will be to determine the feasibility of growing bikeways in a particular community. As with any change, we must ensure we are bringing residents from the community to the table to ensure it aligns with how they envision their community being used.
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 the FY 2017 CIP budget 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?
Parker Agelasto: I would increase available funding for sidewalk repair and installation. I would continue to increase funding for road repair, repaving and maintenance. The condition of many streets in Richmond is dangerous for bike riders, car drivers and pedestrians alike.
Montigue Magruder: This would require additional study before I could determine the actual dollar amount, but I’d like to push for shared bus/bike lanes along major corridors.
I believe we need to prioritize the maintenance of existing sidewalks before proceeding further with new walking infrastructure.
Garrett Sawyer: Yes, for a growing city like Richmond, we must ensure that we are allocating the necessary dollars for biking and walking infrastructure; creating more diverse opportunities to navigate the city through different pathways will entice more people to move into the city. We must ensure that we are managing our dollars correctly and pursuing federal and state transportation funding and grants to help with the expansion of biking and walking infrastructure. If we manage our finances correctly, we can work toward putting the necessary dollars in each budget to grow.
QUESTION 6 – PARKS
Parks and recreation facilities provide opportunities for physical activity and can help people of all ages lead a more active lifestyle. People who live near parks are more likely to be active. However, some lower-income communities and communities of color tend to have less access to quality parks and recreation facilities. While park use has dramatically increased in the City of Richmond, the funding for maintaining the parks has stayed level or dropped.
Do you support the conversion of small parcels of city owned land into parks that serve the immediate neighborhood? Do you support increasing park maintenance funding? If yes, by how much?
Parker Agelasto: Yes, I would support the creation of small parks on unbuildable lots. These small parks would need neighborhood volunteers to clean and maintain them. For that purpose, I would increase the Adopt-a-Park program. More funding is needed for maintenance of the larger passive parks such as Byrd Park and Forest Hill Park as well as the active James River Park System. I have been a leader in improving Richmond’s parks and I will continue to lead and advocate on this issue.
Montigue Magruder: I support the conversion of small parcels of city-owned land into community food gardens that produce fresh fruits and vegetables. They could be incorporated into already existing parks, so I’d support the incorporation of both to maximize the benefits. Parks + Community Gardens = healthier Richmonders.
Obviously, I support increased funding for park maintenance. I also support terminating the City’s lease with the Monroe Park Conservancy.
Garrett Sawyer: Yes, I agree that lower-income communities and communities of color are not exposed to quality parks and recreation facilities. I experienced that growing up in the Southside of Richmond; however, through conversion of small parcels of city owned land, we can certainly erase that problem through creating quality park and recreation space for urban areas. The lack of access to parks in lower income areas often result in physical and recreational needs for urban youth going unmet. The National Recreation and Park Association refer to repurposing of unused land areas as “mini or pocket parks.” These designated areas can serve great use within our communities by offering residents the ability to have events, play opportunities for children in a safe area, and leisure space. The key with this proposed plan is to create accessibility and community building for the residents.
Regarding the increase of park maintenance funding, yes, I would support exploring if we have additional dollars in the budget to allocate toward better upkeep. It is very important that our parks are kept up to a standard that residents and visitors can enjoy. We want to avoid issues similar to Byrd Park in 2014 where funding was not sufficient for upkeep; therefore, a petition was created calling for our city leadership to provide adequate funding.
Want to know how other City Council candidates responded to our questionnaire? Review their answers here!