Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gary Rides Bikes SM Council Candidate Questionnaire

As I mentioned in my post about tonight's informal meet the candidates night with Santa Monica Spoke (hope you can come), I also sent out some questions to the Santa Monica candidates on behalf of you, my blog readers. Each candidate that replies will get their own post with their answers. For some of the questions I also included some context of existing conditions. In the interest of not making each subsequent post in this series incredibly long, I will only include the questions in future posts, and not the full letter and sentences explaining context. So everyone can see the full letter, I have copied it here below.

Dear Candidate For City Council,

I’m writing to you to offer a unique opportunity to dialogue with the growing community of residents and visitors who ride bikes both for transportation and fun in Santa Monica. This same offer is being given to each candidate running for Santa Monica City Council in the November election. Attached are a series of 9 questions (a few are related multi-part questions) on bicycling and transportation related issues. Some are prefaced with some additional context. For any candidate who offers their responses, I will publish their answers unedited on my local cycling blog Gary Rides Bikes, with a separate blog post for each candidate.

For those unfamiliar with my blog, it’s focused on my bicycling adventures, and opinions on bicycling issues. Sometimes also covering the politics of transportation and urban planning, set primarily in Santa Monica, where I both live and work. Bicycling as a mode may represent a minority in transportation trips compared to driving, but it’s a minority that is growing, and becoming increasingly motivated and engaged. They are seeking out sources of information of cycling issues such as my blog, and want to see improvements made to safety in the streets, through education, enforcement & accommodation in infrastructure design. Making the streets safer for cycling, so more people are willing to try, is also imperative if the city is to meet it’s transportation management goals in reducing car trips.

My readership has steadily grown despite few efforts to advertise. Monthly web views are typically over 2,000 separate visits and over 3,000 page views from over 1,500 unique visitors. There are also over 200 readers who use external applications to subscribe to the blog through the RSS feed, and 232 people follow me on twitter as well. The cities with the highest readership are Los Angeles followed by Santa Monica, with Santa Monica readers spending more time reading and clicking through content than visitors from other areas, and are more likely to be return readers. A number of other local blog writers for transportation and cycling issues are regular readers and also frequently link to and reference material from my posts. Gary Rides Bikes is also syndicated on the national Streets Blog Network of select local transportation blogs from regions around the Country.

Based on the answers to the attached questions, past experiences and some research I’ve already done, I also intend to offer a few endorsements. I will promote the endorsed candidates to my readership with links to their campaign websites on the blog and repeated on Twitter leading up to the election. Many local cyclists have a lot of trust for what I have to say, which is why I don’t take making a public endorsement lightly. When I wrote about some of the anti-bike lobbying AAA has been behind, and promoted Better World Club as an alternative, I had many readers write in to tell me they dropped their AAA memberships and changed service to Better World Club almost immediately. I did a lot of homework before making that judgment call, and seeing the answers to these questions will help me make sure I am aiming my cycling readership in the right direction in November.

Thank you for your time,

Gary Kavanagh
Santa Monica Resident of the Pico Neighborhood

So here we go, the questions (Please return your answers to :

Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

$20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

The recent sustainability report card noted that collisions between drivers and cyclists had increased 78% in the past 3 years, while bicycle ridership grew 11% last year. The California Office of Traffic Safety report from 2008 rates Santa Monica as having some of the highest, and in some cases the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries in traffic collisions for California cities of comparable size. 711 victims were injured or killed in all traffic collisions in Santa Monica in 2008 (212 of which were cyclist or pedestrian involved). Making traffic collisions clearly one of the biggest threats to public safety.

How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

The Los Angeles MTA has recently discussed the possibility of upgrading bike racks on buses to house 3 bikes instead of 2, as some municipalities have done in places of high bicycle ridership. Bike parking is also in high demand at major transit connections, both for major bus stops as well as rail stations, but facilities are sometimes lacking or insufficient to meet demand.

In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Speaking of bike parking, attention has been given to installing lots of bike racks in the downtown area, which still can be overwhelmed at peak times. However, in many neighborhoods in the city bike parking accommodation is completely lacking. I’ve documented on my blog people attaching to trees and even shopping carts at the 99 cent store on Pico Blvd, a street that currently has almost no bike parking.

What will do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

In Santa Monica I encounter less hostility from drivers than most other cities and neighborhoods I’ve spent time cycling in or through in the Los Angeles region. However, even in Santa Monica, cyclists, myself included, have been harassed or intimidated on a semi-frequent basis by drivers who either do not understand, or do not respect bicyclists’ right to ride in the street. Sometimes this harassment takes the form of unprovoked honking, or sometimes shouting from a car window. Or more dangerously, drivers sometimes make aggressive maneuvers with their vehicle toward a cyclist. This intimidation to get off the street results in high rates of bicycle ridership on sidewalks, even though sidewalk riding is illegal in Santa Monica, and puts cyclists into frequent conflict with pedestrians. This puts cyclists in the position of being despised by both some drivers as well as walkers.

What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

The beach bike path through Santa Monica is a crown jewel in the network of bicycling facilities in the Southern California region, and attracts riders both locally as well as from far and wide. However there presently are few direct connections from the street grid to the bike path, and many of them are not especially bicycle friendly, and there is no way-finding signage directing cyclists how best to connect to the beach path. This disconnect is reflected in Google’s “Bike There” mapping feature which often skips the bike path to recommend PCH as a bicycling route because of the lack of bike route and street grid connections to the bike path.

How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

Thanks again for your time.

1 comment:

PlebisPower said...

This is a very useful post! Many cities have elections upcoming in March, and with a bit of advance planning we can rope the candidates into a conversation about cycling and its place in the transportation policy picture.
We'll only get the policies we need by beginning the conversation, right? Then having been introduced, we can continue the conversation throughout the campaign, and then after the election we've got our foot in the door. Thanks for putting a template out there.