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 walk to work everyday because I live very close to my work office. I am happy to live in Cedar Riverside because there are many amenities within walking distance, unlike other places in Minneapolis. It is an ideal place to walk for errands or leisure.
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 never been transit-dependent but I am very aware of the challenges residents without access to cars face. As the director of the Confederation of Somali Communities, I have helped over 500 people gain employment at Amazon in Shakopee. Many people who have taken these jobs do not have access to a car or another way to get to the Amazon campus. As a result, I worked with Amazon to provide transportation from Cedar-Riverside to their office and warehouses. The bus provides round trips from the neighborhood twice a day. I am very proud of this accomplishment and will continue to work to provide low income residents with sustainable job access. Secondly, I understand that it is important that we develop pedestrian focused environments so that seniors or people with disabilities are able to travel our streets just as safely and efficiently as able bodied pedestrians, bike users, and cars. Not owning or being able to drive a car should not limit one’s access throughout our 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.
Through my short time on the Minneapolis School Board, I helped to implement the Safe Routes to School program which helps establish safe walking and bicycle pathways around our schools so that our children are able to access school safely, consistently, and cheaply. I also helped to develop a training program for teaching children to ride bikes at Seward Montessori School.
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.
Certainly, I wish to help transition Minneapolis away from its dependency on the personal car. This will both save the city and residents money. I will prioritize bolstering our walking and public transit systems first because these systems are the most accessible to all residents of different abilities and incomes. Bicycling will be next in order to help alleviate crowds on the public transit system. Too much space is currently given to driving and parking, often leaving the other forms of transportation to negotiate narrow margins, and the system is also subsidized beyond what we can afford. Because of this, I would prioritize driving and parking last and encourage the design of streets that help more residents leave their cars at home.
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 support spending more on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. We need to be building infrastructure that is safe and welcoming to walk and bike in order to better encourage residents to use their cars less. By doing so, we will decrease the future investments needed for upkeep and repair of our transportation infrastructure because walking and biking do not damage our systems nearly as much as car traffic does. It is also important that we invest more is greener, environmentally friendly forms of transportation and less in those that pollute.
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 would support the implementation of the protected bikeway plan even in cases where parking and traffic lanes are lost. It may appear that the decreased access for personal cars will be hurtful to nearby businesses but in fact, we are able to build more a accessible city when we don’t have to account for the large, disproportionate amount of space that cars require. Biking access has been demonstrated to improve business profits, employee morales, and home values.
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?
Enforcing traffic rules is key to both preventing crashes and making sure that residents understand safe operation of our transportation systems. It is important that we do not discriminate in which neighborhoods we choose to enforce these rules and that we prevent the enforcement from being a lever of institutional racism. We need to ensure that the police force is reformed with a stronger focus on community policing and implicit bias training. We must try to remove any ulterior motives one might have for enforcing a traffic rule to ensure fair enforcement of the rules.
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?
With our climate warming and the increasing number of wet days that hover above and below freezing temperatures, it will be important that we develop a more concentrated effort on keeping our pedestrian pathways clear throughout the city. I would hope to develop a similar snow and ice clearing system to that of the current snow emergency response for our roads. I’d work off of the model currently used by the Downtown Improvement District that keeps the downtown sidewalks clear. It is apparent that depending on individual residents to clear their small segment of property is not working. Many of the plastic bollards used to create protected bike lanes don’t make it through the winter. I would hope to develop a stronger, more permanent form of bike lane protection and develop a snow removal system specific to those bike lanes, not bound by our current treatment of roads.
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 absolutely support the work toward Vision Zero. Deaths from vehicle crashes are due in part to how the transportation system is designed and what choices are incentivized. We can not only increase education around safe walking, biking, and driving, but must also design streets that require safe driving primarily and then safe walking and biking. Because car traffic is the most deadly, we should work to disincentive it.
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 hope to help make taking transit and traveling by bike more accessible to the residents in ward than it is today. This can be done both by better celebrating and making people aware of today’s great transit and biking routes, as well as investing more these alternative modes of transportation. I hope to engage the community in a discussion about what it means to move beyond a car-centric transportation system in addition to helping expand the protected bikeway systems and establish more walking connections throughout the ward and city.
Ward Specific Questions
a) Franklin Avenue is among the least safe streets in Minneapolis for people, no matter how they get around (its crash rate is 2.5 times what engineers consider “critical”). Safety improvements will be made this year from Bloomington Avenue to Minnehaha Avenue. How would you approach addressing safety and access concerns west of Bloomington Avenue?
I would begin by providing more space for and prioritizing the travel of pedestrian and transit users. There are many locations along Franklin, both west and east of Bloomington that could use pedestrian bump-outs to shorten crossing distances, more established pedestrian crossings, narrower travel lanes to slow speeds and updated transit shelters to be better suited against harsh weather.
b) 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?
Where these additions are made will be dependent on engaging the surrounding community. In order to create a safer street corridor for all users while maintaining good access, we must engage residents, users, and other stakeholders in the design, implementation, and education process of building our city. I would hope to reduce travel lanes and remove parking in increments where traffic data shows that it’s feasible. A protected bike lane could be added if a lane of car traffic is removed but I would first focus on improving the pedestrian environment and slowing car traffic. Often, time and money are wasted trying to build all the improvements in concrete. I would use a more “pop-up” style of urban development. Similar to the 29th avenue closure at the Midtown Greenway or the Northside Greenway, I would use cheaper and more flexible features before making a permanent investment in order to test designs, elicit feedback, a make improvements sooner rather than later.