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 enjoy biking several times a week in the spring-fall to get around town and for recreation. My work with the 15 Now Minnesota campaign often required meetings in coffee shops and community events across the city, and I vary my transportation between bike, public transit, and car. I enjoy walking to meetings and events in my neighborhood. Otherwise, I take the bus or drive when necessary (and I frequently carpool).
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 worked as a housecleaner for Two Betty’s Green Cleaning for 3 years. It was a great job, at a local business that pays workers a living wage. However, when my car broke down, I could not afford the repairs. Without a car, I could not commute efficiently enough between worksites, across the metro, to continue at that job. I experienced firsthand how transit can be a barrier to opportunities, perpetuating and amplifying inequity. We need a transportation system that can meet the needs of all Minneapolis residents, with a massive expansion of service and an affordable transit system with free transit passes for all public school students, low-income youth, senior, and riders with disabilities.
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’ve worked with Transit for Livable Communities and the Amalgamated Transit Union 1005 (transit workers) to prevent outrageous fare-hikes, cuts to transit spending, and increased funding for a pedestrian friendly city. A big danger in Minneapolis is that working class people cannot afford to live here, or use the benefits of a pedestrian friendly city. A recent study by CURA at the University of Minnesota found that there is not a single Minneapolis neighborhood where housing is considered “affordable” for a median-income black family. Part of the problem is income inequality, and as the Executive Director of 15 Now MN, I helped build a powerful grassroots movement for a $15/hr minimum wage, which would be one key way to stabilize working class communities, and prevent low-wage workers from being priced out of the city into distant suburbs where reliance on cars is far more likely. The other side is housing.The foreclosure crisis had a similar effect on Minneapolis, pushing working people into suburbs. In response, I organized successful anti-foreclosure campaigns with Occupy Homes MN. By organizing with working class people, our movement for affordable, safe transportation can similarly win victories against fare hikes, increasing access for communities most affected.
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 support the Complete Streets policy. In our priorities, we should focus first on areas with high amounts of bicycle and pedestrian traffic to ensure accessibility for working people who may predominantly bike or walk. We should implement protected bike lanes on all major routes to calm traffic on these streets, and increase safety for automobiles, cyclists and pedestrians alike. These protected bike lanes and pedestrian areas should be connected to major transit routes and business districts.
Affordability and livability are directly connected, and as Minneapolis becomes increasingly unaffordable, it can undermine even the best conceived transit infrastructure. Now more than ever, with the looming threat of manmade climate catastrophe, Minneapolis needs to massively expand bus and light rail service.
To fund these improvements, I will fight for progressive funding sources that increase taxes on millionaires and corporations, not working people. Around the city budget talks, as a city council member, I will propose community, labor and progressive organizations unite in a broad coalition to host a People’s Budget. This can frame and set priorities and goals for using our city’s resources to meet the needs of working people as we work towards walkable, bikeable and livable streets.
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 increasing funding for pedestrian and bicycle-related infrastructure for many reasons. Investment in this infrastructure will benefit the city in the future, as it would increase safety and comfort to encourage more biking and walking. This would decrease the air pollution caused by automobile traffic, which hits poor and working-class neighborhoods the hardest, as they tend to be closest to high traffic roads and highways. Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure do not require as much maintenance as streets that are heavily used by automobile traffic, which make these upgrades smart investments that save money in the long-term.
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?
On a whole, I support the protected bike lane plan for Minneapolis. This is an important investment, even if it may take away lanes for automobile traffic or parking, and if it’s built with the input and interests of the surrounding, working class communities. In many cases, turning a 3 or 4 lane one-way street into a 2 lane street with a protected bike lane does not have a huge negative effect on traffic. The safety increases for bicycles, pedestrians and automobiles alike due to traffic calming and fewer vehicles over time greatly outweigh saving a few minutes on a commute.
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?
The report illuminates the deep structural problems with the Minneapolis Police Department. A similar report in 2009 found strong evidence of racial profiling in Minneapolis traffic stops (Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota). We need a multi-pronged approach to reduce racial profiling while also improving safety. Instead of increased enforcement with no oversight, I support adopting a “Vision Zero” approach towards eliminating traffic fatalities, focusing on infrastructure, environment and policies that will lead to safer behavior, and using community engagement to prevent traffic fatalities. Traffic enforcement should be data-driven and transparent. I support ending all policing tactics resembling “stop and frisk”, which amount to profiling people of color and immigrants. Decriminalize marijuana and other nonviolent low level drug offenses. Implement a democratically elected oversight board over the Minneapolis Police Department with real power, including hiring and firing officers, budgets, launch investigations, and setting department priorities, which would include programs to keeping bicyclists and pedestrians safe.
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?
Winter maintenance of bicycle paths and sidewalks needs major improvement. To start, we need protected bike lanes on all major transit routes, which would increase the safety of those biking during the winter (many of whom do so out of necessity). These protected lanes can be easily cleared of snow and debris - as they are on the Midtown Greenway, current protected bike lanes and around the University of Minnesota - to allow bicyclists to ride separately from automobile traffic. Also, the city of Minneapolis should plow and maintain all sidewalks in the city. Currently leaving this to the landowner, the vast majority of sidewalks are not adequately cleared, which makes walking difficult and nearly impossible for those with disabilities to use the sidewalks in winter.
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?
Yes, I would support a “Vision Zero” approach to eliminate traffic fatalities.
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?
My ward, which includes neighborhoods around the University of Minnesota, is one of the most bicycle and pedestrian heavy wards of the city. We need a first-class transportation system that can fully meet the needs of residents in Ward 3 and across Minneapolis.
I hope to:
- Massively expand bus and light rail service to create a world-class public transit system., and expand Metro late-night service.
- Make transit truly affordable: reverse the fare hikes and provide free transit passes for all public school students and all low-income youth, senior, and disabled riders.
- Use progressive revenue for public transit: pass a business “head tax,” raise the tax on commercial parking lot owners, and other progressive taxes.
- Build protected bike lanes on all major bicycle routes (especially the high traffic areas around the University of Minnesota in my Ward) to make streets safer and help more people feel confident to bike
- Implement pedestrian-friendly planning, focusing especially on dense areas of the city connected to major transit routes
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?
Yes. The neighborhoods around the University of Minnesota have some of the highest concentrations of cyclists and pedestrians in the city, as it connects Marcy Holmes, Dinkytown, East Bank campus and Prospect Park. This corridor also has large amounts of through automobile traffic. The one-way streets mean that cars often drive much faster than the speed limit of 30 mph, endangering other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, which is why this protected bikeways project is so crucial.
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?
The area of Nicollet Island-East Bank will see tremendous growth in density and population in the coming years. As this neighborhood continues to grow, we must look at how we can build streets and infrastructure to accommodate that growth, and prioritize the needs of both students and working people in these neighborhoods. Therefore, I support infrastructure built in the interests of working people in our neighborhoods, in part by reducing traffic. Hennepin and 1st Ave NE are currently both relatively wide one-way streets, which can often lead to cars driving higher than the 30 mph speed limit. Implementing protected bike lanes would make the area safer, especially as density increases, and could encourage more people to bike for transportation instead of driving. Turning the corridor back into two-way streets would calm traffic and improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians.