Zachary Wefel

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 navigate Minneapolis by biking and walking on a regular basis. I walk and bike to work, to buy groceries or to make a Target run, and for my dogs. I walk or bike on a daily basis, usually a minimum of four miles if I have no errands to run and I'm just going to work and taking my dogs out.

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've never been completely transit-dependent or car-free but my wife and I have downsized to a single car in the last year. I understand the inconvenience of infrequent bus service, metro passes that sometimes fail to work, and problems with on-time busses during winter. In addition, I've spoken with members of our neighborhood that do rely on MetroMobility and our sidewalk infrastructure because of their disabilities, and have seen how poor maintenance and design has limited their freedom and curtailed their safety.

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 am currently president of my neighborhood organization, Windom Park Citizens in Action, and am chairing the Small Area Planning committee. We are developing a plan that prioritizes walking and biking infrastructure. The repeated complaints about the unsafe nature of Johnson Street (which has a supposed Safe Route to School crossing it at 22nd) provided the impetus for us to develop this plan.

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 will support the Complete Streets policy. I consider walking and biking to be preferable to transit, and transit to be preferable to driving. We need to prioritize safety, health, mobility, and the environment in making our infrastructure decisions. I will require data-based evidence of the effects of infrastructure decisions, and will not make my decisions based on unsupported assertions. I believe we should reduce or eliminate parking minimums, and support the creation of parking benefit districts to provide pricing for parking. Parking is a limited resource and should be priced to reflect that, instead of providing parking through a hidden subsidy.

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. The more interconnected and robust our walking and biking infrastructure, the easier it is for people to make trips by walking and biking. To meet our climate change goals we will need people to switch from driving to walking and biking.

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. All policies come with tradeoffs, and more biking infrastructure is a great trade for reducing lanes or parking.

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?

Our traffic laws should be designed to encourage safe practices, not to catch people for minor infractions. I would encourage evaluation of changes in our laws that could make biking safer (such as permitting the Idaho stop) and having police focus on safety related infractions, such as ensuring drivers provide enough space when passing bikers and enforcing speed limits. Given the MPD's past discriminatory enforcement and how difficult they've made it to successfully file complaints in the past, I support regular collection and review of traffic enforcement data and ongoing discussions with the MPD regarding how their priorities achieve our public safety goals.

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 support increased penalties for non-maintenance and shoveling of our sidewalks, hiring additional inspectors (we only have two currently), more rapid responses to 311 complaints (many snow and ice issues melt before the City responds to them), and identifying new funding sources for regular maintenance, such as revenues from parking benefit districts. In the long-term, I would support review of public sidewalk plowing services, like those Toronto has, to determine if it is the most economical way to achieve our minimum quality of sidewalks that we require.

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 working toward elimination of traffic fatalities. As a regular biker and walker, I'd be insane not to! I support advocating for a lower residential speed limit, red light and speeding cameras, and better street design to that end.

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?

At the end of my term I hope to have established winter design guidelines so our streets don't create wind tunnels during winter months, prioritize walking by eliminating beg buttons and making crossing signals automatic, rapidly implementing the City's plan to add more bike lanes, create better shoveling enforcement and maintenance of our sidewalks, establish parking benefit districts, lowering the residential speed limit (with state action), substituting some traffic enforcement to red light and speeding cameras (again with state action), and voting for best design practices with respect to rebuilding our streets so they are narrower and calm traffic.

 

 

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