Phillipe Cunningham

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.

When I have more flexibility with my time, I walk for recreation or to work-related events as often as possible. I commute to work with my personal car; however, I would ride my bike for commuting purposes with more safer bike routes establish and with support to become more comfortable with city bicycling. I will admit I have always wanted to be more of a bicyclist because it better aligns with my values than driving, but I will fully own that I have a pretty big fear of biking in traffic, so I welcome any coaching or lessons for how to work through that!

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, I have been transit-dependent at different points in my life. I commuted by bike for a period, but mostly relied on public transit while unfortunately living in cities with much less efficient transit systems than here in the Twin Cities. In other cities, I have seen buses barrel past folks in wheelchairs just to avoid the perceived inconvenience of letting down the ramp. Public transit is exceedingly hard for families.

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 have not yet had the opportunity to get involved with active transportation advocacy, but I am excited for the opportunity to engage in expanding biking and walking infrastructure and culture in our community on the Northside.

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 definitely support the Complete Streets policy. Having a modal priority framework and process-based policy centering the needs of the most vulnerable street users is a sound, transparent way to intentionally invest in building a city that prioritizes safer active transportation. In my decision-making process as a City Councilmember, while collaborating with stakeholders, I will follow the framework of working from walking to biking and transit to driving. I will be engaged as a Northside leader committed to measurably moving our neighborhoods towards reaching the Complete Streets vision for folks to be able to travel safely regardless of modalities.

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?

There are two specific reasons I support increasing investments on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, particularly in North Minneapolis. First, there are many residents in my community who lack access to a vehicle. It is important for us to have a community and city that ensure they can get around efficiently and safely. As we look to grow our city and bring people back to North Minneapolis, making the 4th Ward more open and appealing to those who cannot or choose to not drive is a great opportunity to bring folks back to the community. Finally, the investment will help move our community towards decreasing the amount of carbon emissions from cars in North Minneapolis.

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?

While it may be a inconvenience for some drivers during the initial transition, I definitely support increasing protected bikeways in our city. I know I speak firsthand that if there were more protected bike lanes to increased safe bike safety in traffic As our bicycling continues to grow as a primary mode of transportation in our city, it is imperative we are proactively doing what is necessary to keep our bicyclists safe. We have spent the past 60 years in this city increasing access and safety for cars. It is time we now put the same time and intentionality for bikes.

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?

While there are obvious dangers from biking at night without lights or on a sidewalk with pedestrians, it is imperative that the City does not use bicyclists, particularly young Black men, as a way to make money and in so doing, disincentivize active transportation as an alternative mode of transportation. There are more effective ways to promote adherence to laws meant to increase safety. For example, there should be increased access to and visibility of free bike safety classes and interventions that redirect unsafe bicycling behaviors through offering free bike lights and helmets rather than citations.

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?

As more and more members of our community become bicyclists, we cannot continue making policy decisions with the assumption that biking and walking are just spring and summer activities. We are seeing the numbers of people who commute by bike to work and errands grow. This City Hall elected leaders need to ensure that we properly maintain our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure for year-round use to provide a safe commute for all our residents. 

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 will absolutely support any and all efforts by the City to take leadership on eliminating traffic fatalities. We cannot continue to accept that traffic deaths are just a thing that will inevitably always happen regardless of what we do. I am please with the City’s current effort to build more protected bike lanes, as well as the North Minneapolis Greenway, which will provide a protected bike corridor in North Minneapolis. That said, we need to be proactive in figuring out what more we can do. I will definitely be willing to listen and work with groups such as Vision Zero and other advocacy groups to hear new ideas for how we can improve bike and pedestrian safety in our city.

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 hope to reflect back on my tenure as a City Councilmember and feel proud of my role in helping to build a culture of active transportation in North Minneapolis. Additionally, I hope to have long gotten over my fears and comfortably commute on bike and lead by example.


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