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 4th 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?
Timothy Grimes: From City Council, I will urge the new Administration to adequately fund safe walking and biking infrastructure. The challenge is finding revenue. The City is in fiscal difficulty. Through relationships I will build with the new Administration and City Council, together we will come up with a plan to increase revenue. We will have to make tough decisions.
Kristen Larson: As Richmond’s next 4th district city councilmember I will advocate for increased trail and sidewalk access within my district, traffic calming measures, particularly along Forest Hill Avenue, and the eventual full funding and completion of the Richmond riverfront development plan. Fourth district residents love their trails and biking infrastructure, and I will seek to expand and protect these resources. Additionally, the district’s natural spaces and tree canopy are threatened by the Reedy Creek restoration project as currently designed. If elected, I will advocate for an immediate end to this project as currently designed.
Larry Olanrewaju: The most optimal outcome is to have sidewalks in all neighborhoods and have bicycle lanes on every road. However, that is not possible due to budget constraints. First, we need to do a better job of maintaining and repairing all of our exiting sidewalks Some of them are crumbling. In addition, I will advocate that we increase the use of crosswalks in order to increase safety. To increase access to safe biking I will support infrastructure that will provide opportunities for citizens’ use of bicycles as a method of transportation.
Jeffrey Thomas: No response.
Johnny Walker: I am a walker myself and enjoy my morning walks through Westover Hills and across the Nickel Bridge to Byrd Park. I often walk to Forest Hill Park and sit by the lake. Walking on city sidewalks is safe in Richmond proper. As I go door to door in neighborhoods in the 4th District that were annexed from Chesterfield in 1971, I am concerned about the safety of neighbors walking on busy streets without sidewalks and deep drain ditches. I would like to see a long term plan (10 yrs.) to add sidewalks to those neighborhoods. The development and implementation of this plan must include input from those neighborhoods.
As for biking safety, we have a real problem in this city with our roads not being bike friendly. As I drive through the city and see so many people riding bikes for exercise/fun or basic transportation, it is clear that we must find a way to make our city roads safer for bike riders. Adding bike lanes where feasible will help but there are many city streets just too narrow for bike lanes. I would look for a city similar to Richmond that has solved this serious concern and use it as a model.
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?
Timothy Grimes: While I have seen some progress with implementation of the City’s Complete Streets Policy, we have a long way to go. The key will be the new Administration and City Council working together to come up with ways to increase revenue for the City.
Kristen Larson: As a city councilmember, I will use by position to advocate for the execution of the Complete Streets Resolution. I’m disappointed that this work has not been executed as intended. One of my major concerns about the current state of our city is that we are not moving forward in a calculated, methodical way. This resolution and its impact is important to all Richmonders, and particularly benefit those who are most vulnerable to unsafe street conditions, such as children and the elderly.
Larry Olanrewaju: Since there is a resolution passed by a duly elected City Council, though not bidding, I will work with the administration for the implementation of the requirements of the resolution. As someone who exercises by walking or jogging on public roads and share the road with other walkers, motorist and bicyclist I will definitely support and encourage any transportation improvements that will create safe passages for all stakeholders. I will require the administration to present to city council a detail plan. Those that are of highest priority will be implements through a binding ordinance rather than a resolution.
Jeffrey Thomas: No response.
Johnny Walker: I clearly believe that these changes need to be adopted for public safety and I will be an advocate to get the ball moving. If it is a funding/resource issue holding things back, at least we can push to get things started on a smaller scale.
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?
Timothy Grimes: Increasing revenue to fund more manpower for Police speed enforcement and traffic calming calming projects is vital to achieving Vision Zero. Both of these issues are very important to the 4th District. Educating the public is another part of the strategy whether through communication directly to constituents or PSAs in local media.
Kristen Larson: The 4th district has had many preventable traffic fatalities, particularly along Forest Hill Avenue. We need increased safe places to cross the Avenue, and traffic calming measures to ensure that vehicles do not exceed safe speed limits that could prevent further crashes. We also need to work to promote consumer safety awareness in our community and that includes sharing the road, bike safety (including the benefits of wearing helmets), pedestrian safety and other important information. Overall, I support the Vision Zero Resolution, but like the Complete Streets Policy, we need to focus on taking steps to implement these initiatives.
Larry Olanrewaju: I am surprised that we need an ordinance to create a safe community. This should be part of the Vision of the type of city we aspire to be today and every day, not by 2030. If elected to city council, I will advocate increased funding for educating citizens about safety, and any other areas necessary to build a safe community for our citizens. Increase funding will not only rely on the city’s operational budget but research other sources of grants funds for public safety.
Jeffrey Thomas: No response.
Johnny Walker: I will support Vision Zero to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030. I have no additional proposals to add at this time.
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?
Timothy Grimes: I would certainly commit to having the Bicycle Master Plan and connectivity as goals at this point. Again, the issue is lack of revenue. As the Administration and City Council come up with ways to increase revenue, we then will be able to implement the Bicycle Master Plan. I would love to see GroundworkRVA’s Reedy Creek Bike Walk Trail be connected.
Kristen Larson: I support the Bicycle Master Plan, and from meeting residents of the 4th district, many residents would feel much safer biking in the city if there was more separate, protected, bicycle infrastructure. From meeting with advocates, I know that one of the major impediments to building more bike lanes is a problem with the way VDOT calculates road funding in Virginia. To that end, I will advocate to our General Assembly delegation to reinstitute the exception for lane-mile funding for bike lanes in the City of Richmond without losing overall pavement funding.
Larry Olanrewaju: One of my visions for the City of Richmond is to have a healthy work/life balance. Having the opportunity to ride a bicycle for recreational reasons, or as a mode of transportation, fits into my vision. I have reviewed the Bicycle Master Plan as adopted. If elected to City Council, I will engage in conversation with colleagues on council and the next administration to bring before council a plan, including a budget, that will allow the city to move towards the implementation of the plan.
Jeffrey Thomas: No response.
Johnny Walker: Making Richmond attractive to bikers is good for the overall growth and health of our City. I will support the adoption of the Bicycle Master Plan to connect bikeways to each other or major destinations.
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?
Timothy Grimes: I do support pursuing additional funding for biking and walking infrastructure. CIP may be tough, but, it’s worth a try. I would propose $500,000. In the short term, Federal grants and State revenue sharing may be a better bet.
Kristen Larson: I support applying for as many federal and state revenue-sharing projects as possible. We need to steadily add bike and walk infrastructure in our city. These improvements are not going to be made overnight, but city residents expect steady progress on implementing the Complete Streets Policy, the Vision Zero Resolution, the Bicycle Master Plan, and the proposed riverfront improvement projects. In my current position on the school board, the district has sought and been awarded several ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ VDOT grants that have helped the district create infrastructure needed for walkable school routes. I look forward to working with the next mayor’s administration in developing a capital project plan that includes comprehensive biking and walking infrastructure. Although I do not have a particular funding number in mind at this time, I think we have a lot of potential to be awarded funding in these areas.
Larry Olanrewaju: Given all the budgetary challenges facing the city, If elected, I will encourage the administration to pursue grants, either from Federal or State sources. However, this does not exclude looking internally for funding for biking and walking infrastructure. The point I am making here is that during periods of budget constraints policy makers have to be financially prudent by considering all available sources in order to fund all its priorities.
I cannot commit to a specific dollar amount. This priority has to be considered as part of the overall Capital Improvement Program, and at this time I do have have adequate information to attach a dollar value to this priority.
Jeffrey Thomas: No response.
Johnny Walker: Yes, I would work with the stakeholders/experts and develop a five year plan with a cost/benefit analysis to present to my peers on Council for approval.
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?
Timothy Grimes: I would support the conversion of small parcels of City owned land into parks to serve the immediate neighborhood. Especially, since there are so many abandoned properties in some lower-income communities and communities of color. Yes, I support increasing park maintenance funding. Just how much would be determined as it would be with other departments. City departments are sorely under staffed and under resourced.
Kristen Larson: I support the conversion of small parcels, often vacant lots, into neighborhood parks. These plots could provide community gardens, a place to sit or walk to, and could save the city money by reducing the need for mowing, security, and dumping prevention by the city. In terms of funding, I know that the parks do a lot of work on a small budget. I understand that an audit was done on the James River Park System that indicated that the department was understaffed. I want to ensure that are parks have the resources they need to stay well-maintained. I would also like to see more parks and recreation programs that encourage and education our residents on our park system. I have seen several new programs come online in recent years, but there is more opportunity for expansion of parks and recreation programming that teachers our residents, especially our children, about the amazing resources we have in our city.
Larry Olanrewaju: One of my campaign points is to envision a city with a healthy work/life balance. Investing in neighborhood parks and green spaces for healthy living, protecting the James River, Therefore, I will support the creation of parks where citizens can have the opportunity to engage in exercises. It will not be financially prudent to come up with a dollar amount given that I do not have all the information related to a budget to determine how much can allocate to such a project relative to other priorities. However, if elected the issue of work/life balance is an important priority that I will pursue.
Jeffrey Thomas: No response.
Johnny Walker: Undeveloped land in the city is scarce. New revenues are needed to fund schools, police/fire, and maintain our parks. If Richmond did one thing right, it was our city parks. There are great parks in close proximity to most neighborhoods. We need to appropriate the necessary funds to keep them maintained.
Want to know how other City Council candidates responded to our questionnaire? Review their answers here!