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’ve always walked and biked and I’m bicycling much more as we make improvements. In some ways my own personal trajectory for bicycling has tracked with the City’s ever-increasing embrace of bicycling. For many years, I successfully advocated for bicycling while simultaneously being someone who personally has to push herself to bike to work downtown because of safety concerns around car traffic. As a cyclist I still mostly ride for recreation, exercise, and to run errands in my neighborhood during the spring, summer, and fall. But, in addition to transit and driving, I can now commute to work by bicycle more often because we have made improvements to accommodate riders like me. As Mayor, I have often pushed back against the stereotype that every bicyclist is “young, fearless and male.” I believe part of why I have been successful in making Minneapolis better and better for bicycling is because I bike despite concerns; in large measure we are now creating bicycle amenities for people like me, folks who are willing to do more but they need the way to be safer. I’m one of the riders our policies are designed to encourage, and I know it’s working more and more.
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. During the time I was car-free, I used the bus, car-share, biking and walking. That experience reinforced the need to be truly multi-modal in our approach. More people can successfully be car-free or car-light if there is a system of options. That includes children, seniors and people with a disability. The lack of choices for residents who don't have the option to drive is part of what holds us back from becoming a more equitable city. Decades of structural decisions that had differential impact on poor communities and communities of color have resulted in policies, processes and infrastructure that, left unchecked, replicate and worsen gaps in outcomes for those communities. To overcome that history and advance environmental justice, we must challenge old ways of thinking:
a.) transit criteria that prioritize new riders over current riders or people who have choices over people who rely on transit, and
b.) the false narrative that transit alone is a subsidized social service as opposed to legitimate transportation with a lighter footprint and no greater subsidy than the subsidy for roads.
These challenges should drive us to make sure pedestrian, bicycle and transit advocates are working together and supporting common goals.
3. Describe any past work or accomplishments that you have been involved with around the areas of bicycling or walking issues in your community.
This is not new work for me. I’ve been a proven leader on improving walking and bicycling in Minneapolis, since before I became Mayor. As Chair of the Budget Committee, I worked with Mayor Rybak to shepherd money for bike/ped projects, including the Dinkytown Greenway, the Hiawatha Extension next to the stadium and the Cedar Lake Trail. I was also a leading advocate for NiceRide, establishing the Bike/Ped Coordinator position and of the reorganization of the Bicycle Advisory Committee to empower community voices.
But we’re just getting started. Minneapolis is now on the cusp of a revolution in street design, which I have led as Mayor:
➢ In my first budget, I created a new Transportation Planning Division to prioritize walking and biking.
➢ I helped advance the Complete Streets Policy described in question #4
➢ I hired a new Director of Public Works to lead the department towards our vision.
➢ I led in passing our Historic 20 Year Plan to invest Park & Streets described in question #5
We must not stop this progress. Together these choices can transform walking and biking Minneapolis.
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 strongly support the adopted Complete Streets Policy, which my office helped write along with Council Members Gordon, Bender and Reich. Our policy is on the cutting edge in part because it recognizes that to design vital, livable streets that safely accommodate all users we must consciously correct for how many years street design was skewed in favor of fast, auto throughput at the expense of any other consideration. The sad reality of post-WWII street design is this: Those users with the smallest impact on the community in terms of environmental impact and use of right of way, pedestrians, were often the least considered by planners and engineers. Worse, when the cars drove faster, engineers changed street design to accommodate those speeds, which encouraged even faster driving. The result was a downward cycle, which made us all less safe and our communities less livable. Some of our neighborhood commercial corridors, which should be vital destinations in and of themselves, were turned into raceways out of town. That is why our policy prioritizes pedestrians first and then bicyclists and transit riders next. The result will be increased safety for all users, and a more livable and vibrant 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?
As I described in Question #3, I have been delivering more resources to pedestrian and bicycle improvements for many years. I have delivered more City dollars to these improvements than any other Mayor. We have also leveraged other projects including Orange Line BRT, Southwest LRT and Bottineau LRT to include key pedestrian and bike improvements. Much of the $30 million dollar SWLRT mediation agreement with Met Council is to improve bike/ped access including a protected lane on 7th Street North. But all our current and future work would have come undone if we had let our streets deteriorate due to lack of funds. Politically, financially and physically, our pedestrian and bicycle plans would have unraveled. That is why the Historic 20 Year Plan to invest in Park & Streets is so critical. This generational investment will provide $33 million in funding each year for up to 20 years. This great outcome was not a forgone conclusion. Some were willing to make promises without real funding – or to leave street repair out of the package entirely. I insisted this package of investments be backed up with real dollars because our parks and streets are essential to our 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?
In 2013, I committed to deliver the funding necessary to build 30 miles of protected bikeways. I fulfilled this promise in my first budget as Mayor and am very excited that we’re now dramatically exceeding our initial goal. I’m committed to completing this vision and I’ve proven that I will support the best and safest designs, even if that requires taking parking.
My leadership on protected bikeways includes the 3rd Avenue Redesign Project which will be completed in 2018 with greening and more bollards. This project, which finally provides a safe north/south route through the downtown core would not have happened but for my direction to Public Works and my 2014 Budget.
We must not allow progress on protected lanes to be derailed, because:
1. Protected bikeways open up bicycling for a much broader portion of residents who are not otherwise willing to contend with car traffic.
2. Protected bikeways are safer for all users. We have been criticized for unfairly having bicyclists “win”, but that misses the point. It’s not that bicyclists are more important, it’s that they are more vulnerable. When there is a car/bike collision, the bicyclist always loses. Nobody wants collisions, and protected bikeways prevent them.
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?
Nobody should ever be profiled or treated differently by any officer because of their race or ethnic background. That is why our work towards 21st Century policing and transforming police–community relations is so important. Here’s some of the progress I’ve led: I kept my promise to put body cameras on every police officer. In my budgets, I funded new training on implicit bias, procedural justice, and crisis intervention. We’ve made it easier to file and track complaints against officers. We’ve created new diverse classes of Community Service Officers, which is the best pipeline to diversify the department.
We’ve invested significantly in community policing, one of the pillars of building trust with the community. This is part of a larger body of work in city government, fundamentally reorienting it toward achieving racial equity in our city. Read more about it at www.BetsyHodges.org.
Seeing the difference that new training in MPD can make should guide us as we work to increase traffic enforcement to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe from both current dangers and the increasing problem of distracted driving. New training is needed and I commit to work with community and advocacy organizations to develop a traffic enforcement and safety curriculum.
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?
It was my honor to participate as Mayor in the 2016 Winter Cycling Congress which we hosted here in Minneapolis. That experience was both a reflection of how far we’ve come and a learning experience about what more we can do. In my very first proclamation declaring Jan. 3, 2014, Winter Biking Day, I wrote: “Minneapolis’ winter bicyclists, like Minnesotans in general, are more resilient, more hearty, more ‘Die Hard’ gritty, just plain tougher and much better looking than bicyclists from all those wimpier cities.” This isn’t just a boast. It’s part of a strategy to embrace, not run from, our glorious winters and winter recreation when we pitch Minneapolis as a destination.
In my budgets I’ve included new funding for a.) snow clearing on priority pedestrian routes, b.) dedicated staff for bikeway clearing and c.) new plows and equipment specifically chosen to clear protected bikeways. Another of our lessons learned is we needed to make improvements to inspections and enforcement of sidewalk clearing, which residents are responsible for. The time between complaint and snow clearance was too long, so we made procedural changes that are working. We need to keep moving forward with both key investments and procedural improvements.
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?
No death is acceptable. And the growing problem of distracted driving should drive us all to never accept the status quo. To that end, I directed our new Director of Public Works Robin Hutcheson to form an internal working group which includes the City Attorney and key Council Member. This work is underway. The goal is to lay out a plan for eliminating traffic fatalities, including policy changes, education, enforcement and every tool at our disposal. We are still at the beginning of this work, but we are taking the systematic approach to ensure success including gathering data on our biggest challenges and reviewing best practices from other cities. This includes the Vision Zero approach and more. This work won’t be completed overnight and will require real choices to implement, but I’m confident we have the right people in place to make it happen. This is a critical component of our work to make Minneapolis a safe and welcoming city for walkers and to continue to earn and deserve the title #1 Bike City in America.
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?
From my answers above you can see my vision of walking and biking. I’m proven progressive leader who has made real choices and gotten results. Now, your voice is crucial for two reasons:
First, we could go backwards. Make no mistake: in both the mayor’s race and council campaigns, the progress we are making is on the ballot. The impact of our work on auto driving has been exaggerated by some who resist these changes. But our responsible, data-driven, best-practices approach to building a safer city for all users shouldn’t be controversial. For example, when we make mistakes like with striping on First Avenue N, we acknowledge it and learn from it to improve future projects like Hennepin Avenue.
Second, there is much more work to do. Infrastructure is important, but so is education, enforcement and Smart Cities system integration. Coalition-building with transit advocates is essential to get a multi-modal transportation bill passed the legislature – no matter how long it takes. While we have made great progress, North and Northeast Minneapolis continue to be underserved. The list goes on: Complete Streets, Vision Zero, winter biking, environmental justice, 21st Century Policing, Smart Cities, protected bikeways... Let’s keep moving forward!