2016 Election: Ed Harris’ Vision to Improve Bicycling in San Diego

Our board sent a list of questions to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and mayoral candidates Ed Harris and Lori Saldaña who are running to be the Mayor of the city of San Diego. We will be posting their responses here. Below is mayoral candidate Ed Harris‘ responses to our questions. Candidate Lori Saldaña declined to respond to our questionaire as her campaign didn’t have the staff capacity.

Mayoral candidate Ed Harris. Image via Harris’ website.

1. Thanks to your support, San Diego is now a Vision Zero city and we are well on our way to fully implementing our city’s Master Bicycle Plan, yet we still aren’t a world – class city for bicycling – an activity that has multiplier effects on our economic, societal health and social cohesiveness. One of the biggest barriers to safe cycling and walking are the high speed differentials on our city streets. Recently, Cities, including Boston and New York City have lowered the city speed limits.  Would you be willing to sponsor and support state legislation to allow for speed limits on city streets to be less than 25 mph?

Most definitely. The speed law trap needs to be addressed, and policy at the state level needs to be changed to protect our neighborhoods and facilitate more walkable and bikeable communities. There is an issue with the current 85% speed determination. Twenty is plenty! We should be actively addressing that issue, instead of simply saying “We support biking” and then doing nothing as a government to move that support into action. We can tackle safety issues from multiple angles. First, we need to advocate for reducing the speed of vehicles traveling through neighborhoods. Second, we should be advocating for more bike boulevards in neighborhoods, especially those that do not currently have last-mile access to mass transit. Third, I will advocate for stricter legislation towards DUI offenders and distracted drivers, because our current system does not deter offenders enough, and it keeps cyclists in a precarious environment on our roads. I also am in support of the vision zero corridors that aim to keep cyclists safe, so the decision to bike as a form of transit is not limited by the fear of being struck by a vehicle.

2) San Diego is a large and geographically diverse city. Another barrier to safe walking and cycling are the last mile gaps – the missing safe connectivity to bike and transit infrastructure. Land use decisions cause the last mile of trips to intersect with uninviting high speed roads for transit users and bicyclists. How will you work to ensure that Caltrans and SANDAG to invest the funds necessary to minimize and eliminate these last mile gaps as the designated representative on SANDAG board?

As Mayor, I would represent San Diego at SANDAG, and I would install the resources we need as a city within the mayor’s office to move forward towards alternative transit. There are numerous tangible changes we can make as a city to move us towards a bike-friendly city. First, I will establish a transportation (or Mobility) commissioner, like Janette Sadik-Khan, who is fully committed to tackling transit issues within the city. This would be a position that can own the decisions we make towards a bike friendly city, and it would be a position of accountability, so we can actually get things moving forward. Currently we have separate departments working on oversight (Stormwater dept, etc).

Second, I will have a city staff engineer work specifically and directly with CalTrans and SANDAG to work on projects, and seeing them through. We must thing BIG about these issues. Without staff that can be directly accountable for transit decisions being put into action, it is too easy to pass the blame and delay progress. Caltrans is a huge stakeholder for San Diego to become a world class bike friendly city. The highway interchanges present many missing links of our current bike network and are the most challenging and dangerous areas for active commuters. The most dangerous are those highway interchanges that have extremely fast vehicular speeds.

As San Diego is making strides to re-purpose streets after they are resurfaced, the city is missing the opportunity to not have those bike lanes continue through Caltrans row. Bike lanes are being discontinued as they hit Caltrans row and the long process to get approval for paint treatment on Caltrans row is timely and takes allocating staff members to see it through. This is where a city staff engineer would be able to focus on these issues and move the repurposing efforts forward. As new bike corridors (like Adams) are being constructed, we must collaborate with Caltrans to provide for safe access after a rider exits the corridor paths. Having dedicated city staff that focus solely on mobility and transit would also allow for newer safer access to trolley stations like the Midcoast trolley, and others that lack safe access to the trolley via bike.

SANDAG is also an extremely important agency. To move SD forward, we need to commit to the goals of innovative mobility, healthy communities, and a vibrant economy. Bikes mean business and can help support the three SANDAG goals. As mayor, I will provide San Diego with a strong voice for San Diego to change the direction that SANDAG continues to default to. I suggest that we re-look at funding for infrastructure and start implementing our bike networks now, along with the current potential we have for mass transit avenues and last-mile routes through neighborhoods. Big transit projects do cost money, but we can get there. We get there by stopping the typical measures we continue to see (ones that only address the short-term), and change the way SANDAG and the City of San Diego does business. SANDAG should be responsible for implementing complete streets and should be able to design mobility hubs for the new proposed stations (Balboa Park and Clairemont).

3) Too often, our local schools prioritize vehicle drop offs rather than encouraging school children to ride, walk or skateboard to school. How do you intend to encourage more kids to get to school by foot, on a bicycle or other non-automobile means as mayor?

This answer is easy for me to approach, because I have seen the potential for alternative commutes to school first hand. My son Brian was a part of a Dana Middle Bike to school group, and I believe that with city support, programs like this can be created, and existing programs can be vastly improved. The primary issue with our children biking, walking, or skateboarding to work is safety. As a parent, I understand the concerns families have with allowing their children to share the road with dangerous drivers who are commuting to work. We need Safe Routes to Schools for every school in San Diego. If we can provide safe and comfortable access to neighborhood schools, then we will have a great bike network in San Diego. Because safety comes first, we need to prioritize safer routes to neighborhood schools. If bikeways are safe, riders will ride them. To start, there should be protected bike lanes feeding into all avenues of our city schools. Additionally, I will advocate for, and see through the implementation of, more protected crosswalks at schools, like I did while I was a councilmember in District 2. Once safety is addressed, I would encourage our city schools to fund and implement a bicycle education program at the 4th grade level, where our children begin to develop the personal abilities and capacity to bike to school. If we educate children at a young age about the health and environmental benefits of biking to school, we can widely change the way our society views transportation. I would work with the school district to implement education for every 4th grade class, which would fall into the Wellness Initiative that has a tremendous amount of support.

4) As mayor you will be responsible for appointing the second city representative to the SANDAG board. This appointment will influence whether the city meets goals of the Climate Action Plan, Bicycle Master Plan, and the state policy SB 743. What qualifications will this individual have that would make them the ideal candidate to vote on planning and transportation decisions?

Like I mentioned in question #2, I would have a representative that is dedicated 100% to transit and mobility. This person would be a strong, bold, inspiring advocate with a vision to make San Diego a world-class bicycle city—a Janette Sadik-Khan of San Diego. This person would be one that is willing to fight for safety, healthy residents, and a sustainable future. That person would be knowledgeable of the current conditions in San Diego, and would be a user him/herself of the bicycle network in San Diego. San Diego is large and diverse. Every community, from Rancho Bernardo to San Ysidro, has its own needs. To approach these issues, that commissioner would need to collaborate with local advocacy groups. By doing this, we can work with groups to address Vision Zero and how it relates to the goals set forth in the climate action plan. Additionally, Disadvantaged communities have had freeways destroy their neighborhoods, so we must address the issues with equitable priority.

5) San Diego’s parking districts encompass some of San Diego’s densest communities that include Downtown, La Jolla, Mid-City, Old Town, Pacific Beach, and Uptown. Does the city have an obligation to provide curbside parking for residents? How should the city regulate the public space devoted to car storage? What changes do you believe are needed in the city’s current curbside parking rates and policies? Should a bikeway project be built even if it causes a net loss of curbside parking spaces?

Curbside parking is a use of public space, so it is time we go to the table with the interested parties and address the amount of space we dedicate for parking. Parking cannot be the only reason for not providing cyclists with protected bike lanes or facilities. I understand the needs for parking, so it would be naïve to promise to do away with it. However, as we tackle our infrastructural needs with roads, we can be re-allocating and re-thinking our priorities towards making San Diego a place that will function in 10, 20, and 50 years. I am not opposed to alternative parking projects, instead of parallel (angled parking, parking structures where it is necessary). I do not think all drivers are going to get out of their cars and get on a bike, but with a leader who makes these things a priority, there will be a shift in momentum and public understanding for projects that will get us to where we need to be. We must all understand that protected bike lanes provide for more access to a greater amount of people. This is going to be necessary to implement in the future, so it is time we begin the conversation, and start moving forward. With protected bike lanes, businesses are visible, and the fight over a few parking spaces becomes less necessary.

In doing so, we must initiate Collaboration between MTS and bike share to create last mile transit from transit & mobility hubs… Last mile is the most difficult, & that is perfect for it. There is plenty of brainpower and willingness behind an effort to move SD in a bike friendly direction. We just need a leader who is dedicated to putting the right people in the positions to start moving this city forward.

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