Steve Fletcher

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 live downtown. My spouse and I share a car and rarely use it. I frequently either walk, bike, or use public transit for my daily errands and to work appointments throughout the city. I work out of a co-working space downtown and I typically walk to work. I have clients on the Green Line and use that to meet with them.

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. I didn’t own a car from 2003 - 2008. I spent two of those years in Minneapolis, and three in New York City. Today, my wife and I own a car primarily to reach her parents in rural Minnesota. On average, I use our car about 3 days a month. The rest of the time I either walk, bike, or use transit. I’m relatively physically mobile, yet I often still have a hard time navigating due to inadequate sidewalks, unplowed snow, and automobile traffic. I know from my work as a community organizer with people who are restricted to wheelchairs or unable to walk quickly enough to cross wide, busy intersections how challenging our pedestrian environment can be. We must continue to invest in pedestrian infrastructure so that everyone can feel safe and comfortable moving through 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.

As part of our foreclosure work when I was at NOC, we organized a team to report vacant properties whose walks weren’t being shoveled by the banks that owned them. We also advocated, in a couple of instances, for traffic calming on residential streets where drivers were driving inappropriately fast.

As the Executive Director at MN 2020, I published or supervised policy writing focused on expanding transportation options, including public transit and pedestrian accessibility.

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.

I enthusiastically support the Complete Streets policy. By implementing Complete Streets, we can take car ownership out of the cost of living equation for many people. The great thing about building smart density - housing aligned with transit, in walkable, bikeable neighborhoods, close to jobs - is that we can eliminate one of the biggest line items from working families’ budgets, and close the affordability gap for more people in our ward. We also reduce traffic and fossil fuel consumption in the process. For safety, economic, environmental, and quality of life impact, Complete Streets is a great investment for our city.

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 support spending more on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. In the past we have prioritized the movement of vehicles through our neighborhoods. This has led to many streets being unpleasant and unsafe for pedestrians. To compare the benefits of car infrastructure to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, we have to consider the total cost, not just in pavement, but in pollution, noise, and traffic accidents. A city with a comprehensive biking and pedestrian network can lower overall infrastructure costs and improve health and quality of life.

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?

I do support the protected bikeway plan. Many people who have expressed an interest in biking more are held back by a concern for their physical safety. Protected bikeways make biking more accessible to everyone. A network of protected bikeways makes biking enjoyable and practical and increases the number of people using bikes as a form of transportation. We’re going through an important shift to a more pedestrian-friendly city with different expectations about parking, but we haven’t completed that transition. I want to work to find ways to alleviate the very real short-term issues that businesses will face as a result of changes to parking, and will urge everyone to be flexible on timing and specifics to try to ease the pain of the transition and support local small businesses. At the same time, I want to be clear that walkable, bikeable streets are the direction the city is going, and everyone - businesses and customers - will need to make adjustments to their plans and expectations.

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?

Unfortunately, the findings of that study are not surprising, and speak to a need to reform policing in this city. The disproportionate enforcement of many laws in this city has to stop, and I’ll work hard to make that happen. Many of the most effective strategies for improving safety won’t be law enforcement, but will happen in design. The protected bikeway on my block calms traffic and has reduced the number of near-fatal crosswalk interactions my dog and I have on Washington, without any arrests, and I want to focus on those solutions first. That said, it makes sense to me to focus police energy on driver behaviors that endanger pedestrians (like cars passing in bike lanes, etc.) over other less dangerous rule violations, and to de-prioritize citations for bicyclists, who, by virtue of physics, are less likely than automobile drivers to harm anyone besides themselves.

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?

When it snows, our biking and walking infrastructure fail because we don’t prioritize them. For some pedestrians, that’s inconvenient. For pedestrians with more limited mobility, it imposes a severe limitation on their ability to leave their house. I’ll be interested to see the results of the study on city-managed sidewalk clearing. It’s something we should consider, especially in busy corridors, around bus stops and schools.

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’d absolutely support a “Vision Zero” approach. We’re too accepting of traffic deaths as somehow inevitable, and should be working to design a traffic system that is safer and more accessible to everyone. I’m especially interested in design changes that naturally calm traffic, narrowing lanes and adding separated bicycle lanes to naturally discourage speeding. It’s important that everyone who lives in Ward 3, and everyone who visits our Ward to work and play feels invited to drive safely, and can clearly understand the traffic system we’ve built. I also support expanding transportation options that reduce traffic overall, as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce traffic fatality.

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 want to see the Washington Avenue transformation-in-progress come to fruition, and a similarly comprehensive plan enacted for University Avenue SE and 4th Street SE, which I view as the next least safe streets in the Ward.
I want to continue the community conversation that’s begun around restoring Hennepin and 1st Ave NE to two-way traffic, and move forward with a plan that calms traffic and improves bikeability in the Central-Hennepin corridor.
The city doesn’t operate Metro Transit, but I'll use the office of City Council to advocate for improved mass transit options for moving within the Ward, including a route on Marshall serving the new density there, a route that connects Downtown East to the North Loop on Washington without detouring to City Center, and improved East-West routes in Northeast to facilitate less car-oriented lifestyles throughout the Ward.

Ward Specific Questions

a) The University/4th St corridor has been identified by the city as a protected bikeways project in 2018-2019. Do you support these improvements?

Already partially answered above, but I'll reiterate: yes. University/4th Street feel unsafe, are driven too fast, and have lane shifts that are confusing even at safe speeds, especially when snow obscures painted lanes. A complete streets makeover is badly overdue, especially on a corridor widely travelled by students that connects University bikeways to downtown bikeways.

b) The 2016 Hennepin/First Avenue Transportation Study looked at opportunities to improve Hennepin and 1st Avenue NE between Main Street and 7th St. Options include adding protected or unprotected bike lanes, widening sidewalks, and potentially converting to two-way traffic. These streets will be repaved soon, which presents an opportunity to make some changes. What would you like to see done on Hennepin and 1st Avenue NE in this area?

I'm aware that there's a community engagement process happening, and what I most want is for the stakeholders who will live with and use those streets every day to have their voices heard. It sounds like the neighborhood generally sees a value in restoring two-way traffic, both to calm traffic and to enable some re-working of some confusing and unsafe intersections around 6th St and 1st Ave/Hennepin. I would like to see separated bike lanes as part of the plan, to connect downtown to Northeast and Southeast more safely and efficiently.

 

 

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