Andrew Johnson

1. Do you navigate Minneapolis by bicycle, walking, or in a wheelchair? If so, for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands) and how often? Please indicate how you commute to work.

I occasionally commute and run errands by bicycle, but most of my bicycling is recreational. I walk on streets virtually every day, including going for runs and walking to nearby stores and coffee shops. I occasionally commute by LRT, but mostly by car.

2. Have you ever been transit-dependent or car-free? How do you understand the experiences of residents who don't have the option to drive, particularly children, seniors, and people with a disability?

When I walk in the winter, I imagine how impossible it is to get around in a wheelchair given unshoveled sidewalks and corners, even berms of snow blocking alley crossings; I remember having helped a man in a wheelchair who was stuck in the snow, only to see him get stuck again moments later. As someone with glaucoma, I think about getting around in a post-eyesight world, and how overwhelming, full of danger, and difficult to navigate it would/will be. I am physically fit, but can easily imagine being unsteady on my feet and afraid of a fall that may be deadly or result in long-term disability. I believe it’s important as a fully-abled adult to look closely at the world around us and appreciate not only how fortunate we are for the abilities we have, but commit ourselves to making it better for those who are not as fortunate.

3. Describe any past work or accomplishments that you have been involved with around the areas of bicycling or walking issues in your community.

I led an effort to improve ADA-compliance for pedestrians through a city-wide policy change. I worked to secure dedicated bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks on 38th Street from Minnehaha to Hiawatha, and on the reconstruction of 46th & 46th. I am working to get the bicycle and walking paths moved under the 28th Avenue bridge for greater safety as part of reconstruction. I have voted to support better bicycle infrastructure on 3rd Avenue downtown and on Penn Avenue N. I have personally identified impediments to pedestrians and had them resolved (power poles and street signs moved). I have worked to secure pedestrian improvements around schools and a particularly necessary removal of a slip-lane at 53rd Street and Minnehaha Avenue. I have hosted “bike to work” events and participated in “walk to school” day. I also made snow removal on sidewalks a budget priority, resulting in a ten-fold increase of enforcement (and have since been working on additional improvements). I am working with the community to add green-space, better lighting, and public plazas to some of our commercial nodes and corridors, and pushing for traffic-calming features related with development projects and design that promotes walkability, transit-access, and create active public spaces. 

4. Last year, the City adopted a Complete Streets policy to make streets safer for everyone. The policy states: “Minneapolis is committed to rebalancing its transportation network by clearly prioritizing walking, taking transit, and biking over driving motorized vehicles, in a manner that provides for acceptable levels of service for all modes." Will you support the Complete Streets policy? Please share how you prioritize walking, transit, bicycling, driving, and parking in your decisions.

Yes, I will support it, and I was proud to vote for it. I work with the community and affected property owners along a given route to address concerns related to implementation. Most important is having honest and authentic dialogue, and working to listen and understand concerns from all perspectives. At the end of the day, not everyone will be happy with a particular outcome, but if there was a fair, respectful, and empathetic process, and if we work creatively to address as many concerns as we can without compromising on safety or overall community benefits, there will be a greater acceptance and understanding. This is very important in the long-term to ensuring support for continued infrastructure improvements.

5. The 2017 Minneapolis capital budget includes $6.1 million for specific walking and biking infrastructure, which is 9 percent of the total capital streets-related funding. 2010 Metropolitan Council surveys estimated that 15.9 percent of all trips in Minneapolis were done by walking and 5.1 percent by bicycle. Would you support spending more, the same amount, or less on building and maintaining bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?

I think we need to shift more of these investments towards improving pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Not only will this increase safety and accessibility, but it will help strengthen community through the public realm.

6. In 2015, the City adopted a protected bikeway plan that identifies 48 miles of protected bikeways to be prioritized for implementation. (Protected bikeways are a bicycle route where there is a physical barrier of some kind between bikes and cars, and have been shown to be safer and more comfortable than unprotected bike lanes.) Do you support implementing the protected bikeway plan even if it could mean losing parking or traffic lanes for cars in some corridors?

Yes, but as we work on these projects it is important to work with the community and affected property owners to try and address their concerns. It’s easy to get fixated on the means rather than the ends. For instance, small businesses may oppose a bike lane because parking will be lost on a street, but what they are really worried about might be reduced sales if customers find parking to be more of a hassle. If the conversation doesn’t shift to desired outcomes, it’s easy for a community to be divided over the loss of parking on a street because everyone perceives the outcome of lost parking differently. Instead though, if we all agree that we would like both increased safety for bicyclists and increased sales for small businesses, what other changes might we be able to incorporate into the nearby streetscape to accomplish both outcomes? And how might we work one-on-one with businesses to help them adjust in a way that they come out ahead? For instance, could we implement nearby short-time parking to help with grab-and-go customers? Could a coffee shop start serving wine and beer to increase sales? Could we add way-finding to attract new customers?

7. In 2016, we published a report that looked at those stopped by police while riding a bike, and why. We found that it was very likely that police were profiling young black men, and were sometimes using minor infractions such as riding without lights or riding on a sidewalk in a business district as a pretense for a stop. Starting in 2014, Minneapolis police significantly reduced traffic enforcement of all kinds. Traffic violations continue to play a significant role in many biking and walking crashes in Minneapolis. With these factors in mind, how would you, or would you not, change how police enforce traffic laws in Minneapolis?

I have asked MPD leadership to step up enforcement, and I support greater budget allocations to do so. I can’t remember the last time I saw a car pulled over in Minneapolis for speeding or running a stop sign, yet it happens all the time. Personally I think it’s the seemingly absent enforcement which has, over time, made people too lackadaisical about following traffic laws. We could do similar to what Saint Paul did with crosswalks by having a media push coupled with heavy enforcement to help get better compliance. Overall though, our officers are running from call-to-call practically nonstop, so until we get overall staffing up to a better level for addressing all 911 calls expeditiously, I expect we will continue to face pushback from MPD leadership on increasing traffic enforcement.

8. Public Works is currently studying policy options for winter maintenance of both bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. What changes, if any, would you like to see related to winter maintenance of sidewalks and bikeways?

Poor sidewalk snow removal compliance is a major barrier to accessibility in our city. It’s also a public health issue, as countless individuals seriously injure themselves in falls or decide to stay indoors and are less physically active and often less social as a result. As our population ages, this problem will only grow. It only takes one person who does not shovel to make a block impassible for some. Therefore, I support exploring municipal sidewalk clearing as a number of other cities have done in order to have the consistency and maintain the accessibility we deserve as a northern city. Regardless of whether we get to municipal sidewalk clearing or not, we drastically (and immediately) need to improve enforcement of our shoveling ordinances. We should not be operating on complaints only, but also should proactively review sidewalks across the city, prioritizing transit corridors first. We should require alley crossings and corners to be maintained as clear. SLAs for complaints should be moved from 21 days to 24 hours. And we should impose escalating fines like we do for other property violations, not just order a contractor to shovel for a negligent property owner and then send them bill.

9. Since 2010, an average of about 250 bicyclists and about 250 pedestrians have been hit and injured in Minneapolis each year, and about 40 have been killed. A number of cities around the country are taking a “Vision Zero” approach which seeks to eliminate all traffic deaths by taking a proactive approach to improving safety and targeting resources to problem areas and proven safety improvements. Would you or would you not support Minneapolis setting and working toward goals to eliminate traffic fatalities?

Yes. I think this ties into the other answers I have given and is a great comprehensive approach we should take.

10. What do you hope to accomplish to make Minneapolis and your ward better for bicycling and walking by the end of your term, if you are elected?

I mentioned a lot of these in my previous answers, everything from improved snow clearance in the winter and improved traffic enforcement/compliance, to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements along our streets and incorporated into development projects.

Very specifically in Ward 12, I want to see crossing Hiawatha improved, world-class TOD at both at the 38th and 46th Street Station Areas, a solid community vision and steps taken to realize the “Min Hi Line” parkway/bikeway, better safety and facilities on 34th Ave S and 38th Street, safety improvements made around all of our schools, a small area plan for a more walkable and community-oriented Cedar/Parkway area, and public realm improvements at several of our commercial nodes.

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