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.
Monday through Friday, for work, I usually navigate Minneapolis, St. Louis Park and elsewhere in a car. I commute by bus about once every three weeks, and by bike about twice a month in the summer. On the weekends I often don’t get in a car - I walk to recreation and errands from my home.
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?
Early in my career I was transit-dependent. I lived in Washington DC at the time. More recently, ending about a year ago, I was car-free for ~18 months. Several observations:
(1) I went car-free for environmental reasons, but what blew me away was how much money I saved. That reminded me of what it meant to be transit dependent, and that I had started to take the costs of car ownership for granted as costs of living.
(2) I had everything going for me, and I supplemented my transit use with a car share membership and ride share services, and it was still difficult to make it work. I could use my husband’s car periodically on weekends, I was on a roughly 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, I did not have children to get to daycare or school, I live in a highly walkable neighborhood, I am not a senior, and I do not have a disability. Changes to any one of these factors would have been greatly complicating.
(3) The times I have been car-free or transit-dependent have improved my physical well-being. I’m more active - walking and getting between modes of transit.
3. Describe any past work or accomplishments around the areas of bicycling or walking issues in your community.
(1) I lead Hennepin County’s Active Living initiative, which is a collaboration across cities in the county to further a built environment that supports healthy living and physical activity.
(2) At the urging of myself and my colleagues on the board, the county’s public works department has re-examined the way it considers road safety, and the board is making safety a priority for those who walk, bike and roll in Hennepin County. In 2017 the county hired a dedicated traffic safety engineer, and the 2018 budget includes a $2 million safety fund.
(3) I joined a majority of the board to support adopting the 2040 Bicycle Transportation Plan, which includes more than 170 action items that advance infrastructure, education, encouragement and evaluation. Unfortunately the plan is not fully funded (working on that), but we are chipping away at it, and it provides the roadmap for progress.
4. In 2009, Hennepin County adopted a Complete Streets policy to help guide the County’s work to make streets safer for everyone. Would you support implementation of Complete Streets in the County? If so, how? Please also share how you prioritize walking, transit, bicycling, driving, and parking in your decisions.
I support the implementation of Complete Streets in Hennepin County. I believe it is important to put people first in transportation and community design decision making. Because walking, biking, and transit use are all associated with significant health and environmental benefits -- two very important issues for me in my work -- those modes should be prioritized. And when those modes are prioritized, you simply don’t need as much space for cars. My neighborhood is a great example, where many stores and restaurants have no dedicated parking (because they are in older buildings) but they’re thriving because of very high walking, transit, and biking rates.
Of course not every street is the same, and different streets require different mixes of facilities. We still need to make sure that people can get places by car, particularly as we work to strengthen access by other modes, but our community and street design principles need to be focused on future needs -- and that means walking, biking, and transit. Complete Streets policies are a good start on this path, even though they sometimes feel like an unsatisfying effort to make everyone happy.
5. In 2015, Minneapolis 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 between bikes and cars, and have been shown to be safer and more comfortable than unprotected bike lanes.) The County is finishing a study of protected bikeways this year. Do you support implementation of protected bikeways on some Hennepin County roads even if it could mean losing car parking or traffic lanes for cars in some corridors?
Pedestrians need to both be and feel safe along Hennepin County roads. This is good for the individual (healthy choices) and it is good for the community (the connection that happens is good for the fabric of our culture). Prioritizing pedestrian crash “hot spots” is a priority of mine at Hennepin County, for two particular reasons: (1) I mentioned above my interest in active living, and (2) my district, more than others, is in transition - county roads that used to be about moving cars from point A to point B are now cutting through some of the most densely populated parts of the county. The establishment last year of a $2 million pedestrian safety fund is a start, but is just the beginning. I meet regularly with Public Works leadership and have designed a tracking tool so that we never stop revisiting some of these hot spots, until change comes.
6. Fatal and serious injury traffic crashes in Hennepin County are concentrated in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Pedestrian Crash Study found that 80% of pedestrian crashes occurred on 10% of the streets (110 miles), and 38 of those 110 miles are owned by Hennepin County. See pages C-6 and C-7 for data. What would you do, if anything, to ensure that the County improves safety on these streets?
Protected bikeways offer the separation from cars that many would-be bikers crave. I support the implementation of protected bikeways on some Hennepin County roads, much as happened on Washington Avenue and should have happened on Minnehaha Avenue. To some extent this is a cultural shift at Hennepin County, and I am pleased to be pushing in the direction of this change.
7. The 2018 County budget includes a total of $85.6 million for roads, bridges, and these walking and biking items. It also includes sales tax funding for transitways. The County currently provides $600,000 a year to support bikeways. This is far short of the $1.5 million a year staff have said is needed to implement the County’s 2040 bike plan by 2040. The County currently provides about $150,000 a year to build new sidewalks on County roads (requiring a 75% local match), $300,000 a year for walking/ADA improvements along streets getting repaved, and $1 million a year from the state for other ADA improvements. Last year, a new transportation safety fund was created, which is funding projects for all modes. It was funded at $2 million for 2018 and $1 million for future years. Would you support spending more, the same amount, or less on building and maintaining bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?
The gap between what is identified as bike, pedestrian and ADA funding, and that which is identified for roads and bridges, is alarming (although I have to add that some of that funding for roads and bridges is spent on pedestrian and ADA funding in those road-driven projects). Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender and I recently grabbed lunch together, and talked about the vision of roads being built aspirationally. Wouldn’t it be exciting to build streets to the ideal, beyond the strictures of current traffic counts, etc., and let partners like Metro Transit see that commitment and respond accordingly. When I joined the County Board I wanted to see more spending on aspirational designs for walking, biking, and transit. We established the $2M transportation safety fund, a step in the right direction, and I plan to continue that funding trajectory.
8. Many Hennepin County roads are plowed by the City of Minneapolis through an agency agreement. The County currently compensates the City only for the costs it incurs by maintaining car lanes on County roads and does not financially support clearing for walking or biking. Hennepin County staff are currently evaluating options for winter maintenance of bikeways and Minneapolis 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 bikeways and sidewalks, including county-managed tax forfeited properties?
Especially in winter weather, walking and biking become that much more important as streets become narrower and more slippery. Snowy paths are particularly difficult -- often debilitatingly so -- for those in wheelchairs or those attempting to navigate with a stroller. It makes sense for one jurisdiction to take the lead on actually maintaining winter streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes because county and city streets are intermixed so I support the continued interagency agreement with the City of Minneapolis. On-street bike lanes are covered by this agreement.
Minneapolis should explore the idea that the city take over plowing sidewalks. (Richfield already does this.) It would lead to more timely, and consistent, maintenance quality and would make winter travel much more comfortable (and feasible) for people on foot and bicycle.
9. What do you hope to accomplish to make the County and your district better for walking and bicycling by the end of your term, if you are elected?
-- Protected bike lanes that serve the whole county
-- Housing density, mixed use development, and greening along those streets
-- Filling in our canopy layer as trees fall to Emerald Ash Borer
-- Significant public art as part of the Green Line extension (SWLRT) build-out
-- Recurring opportunities for communities across the county to learn from each other on active living initiatives (urban agriculture, bike and ped infrastructure, pollinator friendly planting, etc.)
Specific infrastructure projects that are top-of-mind:
-- Lyndale Avenue between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue
-- Market Street area near Whole Foods (NW of Bde Maka Ska)
-- Franklin Avenue walk- and bikeability
-- 50th Street on the Minneapolis side of 50th and France
DISTRICT SPECIFIC QUESTIONS:
a) What specific County-owned corridor and/or street in your District 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?
Lyndale Avenue forms the spine of the Minneapolis portion of District 3. In a past project, the county greatly improved the pedestrian friendliness of Lyndale south of 31st Street, both in terms of actual safety at crossings and in terms of welcoming design, with a tree-lined boulevard down the middle. Lyndale remains difficult to cross at most points between Lake and Franklin, however. I’ve seen families waiting to cross at 27th Street (where there is no signal) for many minutes, and the crash counts are high for the odd-numbered intersections (27th and 29th); two or three years ago a car-pedestrian crash was captured on film.
Lyndale is a barrier between neighborhoods and to those who want or need to access parks and schools on either side of the street. In addition, there is increased real estate development along and near the avenue. When people move into these developments it will further exacerbate the problem with both more pedestrians and cars seeking to cross Lyndale. Creating signalized crossings, bumpouts and islands, or, in the interim, stepping up enforcement of existing laws (cars are always supposed to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, regardless of whether they are marked) would help manage Lyndale.
b) Franklin Avenue and Lagoon Avenue are among the County roads with serious barriers in access for people in wheelchairs. Would you support addressing these barriers? If so, how?
I support addressing accessibility barriers along Franklin and Lagoon Avenues. Some of the greatest barriers are linked to inadequate sidewalk space. This is caused both by actual inadequate sidewalk width, old pavement, and by really unfortunate placement of utility infrastructure like lampposts, signposts, etc. I would like to see eventual reconstruction of the pedestrian areas of these avenues with a really strong emphasis on keeping a consistent, comfortable, and clear width worthy of these important urban streets. Where possible, it would also be beneficial to create a buffer between pedestrians and car traffic so that the streets feel more welcoming. In the interim, as special projects or as part of routine maintenance, I would support strategically moving those posts, utility boxes, etc., that create the greatest barriers.