Jillia Pessenda

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 travel in Minneapolis on foot, on a bicycle, on transit and by car. I have walked, biked and taken transit as my commute to work. I bike and walk for recreation, and to get to local businesses in Northeast.

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?

Yes. While a student at the University of Minnesota, I lived in Minneapolis without a car; I also lived car-free in Seattle, Washington for economic and environmental justice reasons. I have heard from many people in Northeast that they don’t just want better options for walking, biking and transit, they need them. I view provision of a safe, comfortable, high-quality network of walking, biking and transit facilities as an equity issue. Not everyone can drive, or can afford to drive, I know this firsthand. Our city needs to make it possible for all kinds of people to get around in all seasons, using whatever transportation mode makes most sense for them.

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

At California Street Farm, the urban farm I co-founded in NE Mpls, we worked to ensure that the north end of the farm was accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists and open to all community members. I’ve also participated in Open Streets in NE and critical mass bike rides.

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 support the Complete Streets policy. In my decisions, I would truly prioritize walking, biking and public transit over continued overbuilding of infrastructure for cars.

I have been disappointed to see the Council take several actions - on 3rd Ave S, Glenwood and Penn, among others - that I do not believe were consistent with the Complete Streets policy. In many of these cases, for example 3rd Ave S and Glenwood, the “trade-offs” for cars would have been minimal (according in some cases to the City’s own professional staff), safety would have improved for all road users, and the resulting streets would have been greener, more comfortable, and more vibrant. Had I been on the Council, I would have voted differently on these projects. I have also been disappointed in substandard planning for bikeways in Northeast, including the 18th Ave bikeway, which misses some important opportunities for innovative, bike-friendly, forward-thinking design.

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 would spend more on building and maintaining walking and biking infrastructure. I would also prioritize street reconstruction projects under the $20 million annual street funding where there is a good possibility to make streets better for people on foot on and on bikes. If the City is truly committed to the goal of increasing biking trips to 15% of the total and reducing vehicle miles traveled as Minneapolis grows - as the adopted Climate Action Plan lays out - we need to put our money where our values are. And we need to stop missing opportunities that we won’t get again for decades on individual corridors like Glenwood.

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. I support building out the protected bikeways shown in the protected bikeway plan, and concurrently planning for the next round of protected bikeway investments. This plan was never intended to include all potential protected bikeways, but to be the first start at building out a network. It’s also important to me that we build the highest-quality protected bikeways we can; bollard protected bikeways are a short-term start, but ultimately we need more physical protection and greening. And I’ve been disappointed to see the City miss opportunities to build out the best possible protected bikeway during reconstruction projects, as I believe is happening on 18th Ave NE.

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 believe that traffic enforcement is important, but that the goal must be to address the real dangers that result in crashes, injuries, and death, rather than to racially profile people of color. It is a good step that the police department is finally tracking the demographic information of the people stopped by police. Just measuring this may have an impact on officers’ behavior.

As the 2013 crash report indicated, driver failure to yield is a leading cause of crashes. But though virtually every driver violates the state statute requiring cars to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, very little enforcement is done on failure to yield. And we know that the speed of a car is one of the most important factors in whether the crash will be fatal. I would advocate that the MPD direct resources to these real problems, rather than minor infractions by bicyclists.

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?

I would support greater dedicated resources for winter bikeway and sidewalk maintenance, and would be open to new approaches. Winter has been used as an argument against protected bikeways; I see it differently. Protected bikeways are much easier to reliably clear than on-street bike lanes adjacent to parking. I would support faster and more consistent enforcement of shoveling rules, and exploring City clearance of sidewalks in some locations, such as identified pedestrian priority corridors. I would support creating a priority winter biking network that people on bikes can rely on. And I would support much better, more reliable transit options to provide a necessary “backstop” for people who bike for transportation in the summer but may not be able to continue through the winter.

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?

I support a “Vision Zero” approach. Crashes, including fatal crashes, are not “natural” occurrences that we must accept, they are the result of car-centric designs for our streets. I believe that such an approach may have prevented the City Council from choosing a less-safe option for the southern portion of 3rd Avenue South in downtown. We know that four-lane roads are less safe than three-lane roads, yet the Council majority, including the current Ward 1 CM, voted with powerful business interests and against advocates for walking and biking to keep a fourth travel lane that the City’s professional staff had found unnecessary. This decision also resulted in the loss of greening, and wasted an opportunity to showcase a truly visionary protected bikeway. I would also not defer, as the Council has repeatedly done, to less safe, suburban-style designs.

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?

In Ward 1, I would push for a much more innovative vision for 18th Avenue NE that connects to Johnson St. and aligns with the Windom Park small area plan to prioritize pedestrian and bicycle safety. It is disappointing to see the lack of people-first design elements on 18th that have been used in many other places, including speed tables at intersections with low-volume residential streets to indicate a priority for bikes and slow traffic speeds. I would also push MnDOT to revisit the design for Central Ave to make it a truly functional north-south bike lane.

Citywide, I would advocate for updates to the pedestrian and bicycle master plans, building out the protected bikeway network and planning for its next phase, building more reliable transit options, and fully implementing the Complete Streets policy not just in the design phase but when we maintain and operate streets as well.

Ward Specific Questions

a) What specific corridor and/or street in your Ward do you feel is most in need of improved pedestrian and/or bicycle infrastructure? What kinds of improvements would you envision, and why is this particular connection important?

I agree with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s priority that “the final details of the design for 18th Avenue NE live up to the neighborhood's vision for a great bikeway.” I am concerned that the details do not live up to that vision. When this project was presented to the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the BAC recommended more separation between people on foot and people on bikes, and safer intersection treatments like raised crosswalks. None of these ideas made it into the final design, though they were made back in August of 2015. As the Ward 1 Council Member, I will champion the good ideas brought forward by our subject matter experts on walking and biking, because I believe their input will help build safer, more comfortable streets. I hope it isn’t too late to incorporate some of these good ideas into the 18th Ave NE project.

b) Marshall Street Northeast has been identified in the protected bikeway plan as a future protected bikeway, and Hennepin County is currently studying details around a reconstruction of Marshall. In addition to community support for a bikeway, there have been some concerns brought up potential parking loss to make space for a protected bikeway. Would you support a protected bikeway on Marshall Street? How would you approach community conversations around a design for Marshall?

I support a protected bikeway on Marshall Street NE. I believe that a protected bikeway will be good for the businesses on Marshall, just as high-quality protected bikeways have been shown to be good for local businesses in other parts of our city. While I understand the concerns about loss of parking, I believe that parking problems can be mitigated and that businesses will ultimately benefit more from a high-quality bikeway than they will suffer from the loss of some parking spaces. This is one of many places where truly believing in and supporting the adopted Complete Streets policy helps guide my positions.

 

 

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