Lisa Bender

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.

Yes, I bicycle and walk frequently, both alone and with my family which includes two young children. I bicycle to work almost every day, year-round. I take transit the days I am not on bicycle. My family of four has one car so we often walk, bicycle and take transit for recreational trips and errands as well.

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?

I have been car-free during a number of years as an adult and this experience informs my work. One of the reasons I am so passionate about building a complete protected bikeway network is because I know first-hand what it is like when you can’t really get where you are going without going on a street that feels unsafe. I know how scary it is to try to cross a busy street with two small children on foot, hoping that cars will slow down around turns. And I know what it is like to try to get to work and back and pick up children with a transit system that could be more frequent and reliable (though the service to my neighborhood is relatively good). I also know that mine is one perspective and have an open door and proactively work to hear perspectives and experiences from my constituents and others around the city.

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

My career has focused largely on supporting walking and bicycling in many communities. I have worked as a non-profit organizer, as the state’s safe routes to school coordinator, and was a co-founder of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. In these roles, I have worked on policy change that supports integrating walking and bicycling fully into transportation planning and infrastructure investments. As a City Councilmember, for the past several years, I have authored the Complete Streets policy, ensured adoption and funding for our protected bikeway plan, ensured funding for pedestrian safety was not cut in proposed 2014 budget cuts, supported using our Complete Streets policy and racial equity criteria for our 20 year street maintenance funding ordinance and championed the first shared street in Minneapolis on 29th Street and many other individual projects. There is more to do but we are growing in momentum and have made a number of policy changes that will continue this momentum.

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 was proud to be an author of our Complete Streets policy and insisted that our policy include this prioritization. This needs to be applied to all planning and infrastructure decisions in the city. We need to make sure we aren’t asking open-ended questions about whether or not to include modes on identified corridors in our bicycle network and pedestrian network. Our comprehensive plan update, which I am leading as chair of our Zoning and Planning Committee, will include transportation system policies that build on our Complete Streets policy and we need to update our Access Minneapolis plans to include a system plan for pedestrian safety improvements. I also think we can build on the work of the Downtown East public realm plan and do a better job of requiring or encouraging development to provide transportation safety improvements when they are constructing new projects, which often include sidewalk construction. Moving forward, we need to continue to build on our policies, continue to support the movement of staff toward supporting all modes in projects, and to make sure our policies are implemented in each decision.

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 have supported increases, including the first real dedicated funding for protected bikeways, and would strongly support spending more funding in the future. We are also doing a much better job of integrating pedestrian safety into existing projects and that is a huge opportunity to use our existing funds for maintenance in a way that also increases bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

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 – these decisions are all a balance but at the end of the day we need to actually implement the plan city wide and we can often do so in a way that has minimal impact on traffic patterns or even improves safety for all users, including drivers. Parking is a sensitive issue in my ward but I know that sometimes it is necessary to take out parking to implement a complete system of protected bikeways and have and will continue to support building our system.

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 we do need to have stronger enforcement of traffic laws, but am concerned about the impacts of potential racial profiling of black men or others by our department. The Mayor and Police Chief have been working on a number of reforms supported by the council to reduce profiling, including racial implicit bias training, which I have strongly supported. I know that this issue of balancing enforcement with concern about profiling has been an issue in other cities that have used a Vision Zero approach. I would work together with advocates for traffic safety and walking and bicycling, along with racial justice advocates and our police department to work toward solutions that achieve the goals of enforcing unsafe vehicle traffic and not creating more situations of profiling.

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 think we need to do a much better job of winter maintenance. I support a more aggressive and effective plowing of our bikeways in the winter, which are the city’s responsibility. As a winter rider, I know how hard it is to navigate bike lanes that have been neglected or piled with snow. Our sidewalks also need a new strategy. We generally rely on 311 complaints to enforce sidewalk clearing rules. I think we could strengthen our rules, raising expectations for how quickly property owners should shovel – knowing we do have property owners who need assistance – and building on some different approaches to enforcement that have been tried in some areas. I look forward to staff’s recommendations about this following the study.

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 would support a Vision Zero approach for our city. I think we need a more proactive plan for our most dangerous intersections and would strongly support prioritizing them for planning and funding.

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 am proud of all that we have gotten done in this term and I feel that we will have even more support and momentum next term. Over the next four years, I will ensure the adoption of a forward-looking comprehensive plan that includes a greening and stormwater plan (in progress) and the next steps on Access Minneapolis. I will continue to support funding to implement our protected bikeway plan and support and encourage my colleagues to implement the plan citywide, not leaving some neighborhoods out of our system. I feel we have the most work to do on pedestrian safety and, again, will work to ensure the comprehensive plan and Access Minneapolis give us more of a specific plan for pedestrian improvements and funding. I also know that many other elements will help support bicycling and walking, including signal timing improvements, supporting education and encouragement activities, Open Streets and more. I am excited about the potential to build on what we’ve done and include more on-street greenery and stormwater management as well. Overall, I am thrilled that, together, we are building support for ensuring people of all ages and abilities can get around our city however they choose.

Ward Specific Question

Ward 10 has a number of busy corridors (including Franklin, 26th Street, 28th Street, Lake, Lyndale, 35th Street, and 36th Street) that have safety concerns related to walking and biking. What concrete steps, if any, will you pursue to improve these streets for people who bike, walk, and use transit?  

Many of the busiest corridors in my ward are County roadways and we will need to work in partnership with the County to ensure that Lyndale, Franklin and Lake become better places and connections for walking, bicycling and transit. In my ward, 26th and 28th are getting protected bikeways this year, and I advocated strongly that those improvements be made before the 35W transit access project construction begins to ensure safe space during construction which will include increased traffic through our neighborhoods. I supported the protected bikeway on 36th in my ward and we are working with the park board and others to improve that facility and to plan for the connection to the east. Generally, I know that these arterials and busy corridors play a lot of different roles in our system but believe strongly that roads that connect and that have many destinations need to be safe for all users, if not on the roadway itself (in the case of transit or bicycling facilities) as a system.

 

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