City Council plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety of its citizens while using Philadelphia’s streets. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia prepared a questionnaire for all 2015 at-large and District Council candidates. These responses serve as campaign commitments to Better Mobility in 2015. Helen Gym’s responses are in italics.
- Adopt and Implement a Vision Zero Policy. Many cities including New York, San Francisco and Seattle have adopted “Vision Zero” goals and policies to reduce the number of crashes that kill and injure people. Will you support the adoption of a Vision Zero goal to reduce traffic deaths and injuries? Will you support the appointment of a Vision Zero task force of city and community leaders to examine the 30 most dangerous intersections to develop and implement safety improvements in order to reach the Vision Zero goal?
Yes, I support the vision and goals of Vision Zero. I support investing in planning and streetscape improvements to ensure that no matter how Philadelphians get around, they can travel safely. I will embrace “Vision Zero” goals of minimizing harm to pedestrians, and will encourage the redesign of dangerous intersections and frequent crash sites. I believe we should further fund our growing network of bike lanes, and create Philadelphia’s first protected bike lanes to ensure that riding is easy and pleasant for cyclists of all ages. I know that investing in bicycle infrastructure will benefit both new and old residents, from the immigrants biking to work from South Philly, to the entrepreneurs headed to our tech corridor on N. 3rd Street. I will also be an advocate for bringing new state and federal resources to upgrade our crucial public transit systems.
2. Streets State of Repair. The budget for improving our streets has fallen behind. This year the Streets Department has plans to replace 60 miles of roadway. To maintain a state of good repair the Streets Department needs to rebuild or resurface approximately 130 miles of roadway each year, and this does not account for the 900-mile backlog, which is approximately 35% of the city’s roadways. Will you vote in favor of doubling the paving budget in the capital budget to reduce the 900-mile paving backlog?
I agree that the paving backlog is a problem and I would look for ways to provide more funding to address the safety issues created when our Streets Department is not able to keep up with the demand for repairs. Additionally, I would work to ensure that neighborhoods that are typically overlooked are provided their due share for repaving and repairs.
3. Protected Bike Lanes: The city has over 230 miles of bike lanes but does not have a single mile of a physically protected bike lane, which is now the best practice among bicycle-friendly cities. Protected bike lanes provide physical separation, which can be accomplished by simply moving parking lanes over to provide a physical barrier. Would you support the installation of 30 miles of physically-protected bike lanes over the next five years and 15 miles of standards bike lanes annually?
Yes. It is important that when we expand bike lanes in our city we adopt best practices for both safety and ease of travel for all our residents.
4. In 2012, two important pieces of policy and legislation were adopted and passed. The City’s Planning Commission adopted the Pedestrian/Bicycle Master Plan, which identifies the streets and locations that need improvements for new bike lanes and sidewalks. Under Councilman Squilla’s leadership, Council voted unanimously to pass a Complete Streets bill to improve the safety of all streets for all users. Do you support the Streets Department installing bike lanes called for in the Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan when streets are repaved?
Yes. When streets are already being repaved it makes sense to get it right the first time and install bike lanes where possible.
5. Expand Bike Share: Philadelphia is inaugurating bike share in 2015. The Bicycle Coalition has partnered with Bike Share to provide community outreach. We believe making bike share as accessible to all neighborhoods in Philadelphia where there is demand and opportunity is important. Do you support the expansion of Bike Share to all Philadelphia neighborhoods after 2016?
Absolutely. Bike Share won’t be successful, or serve its intended purpose, if it merely exists as a recreational attraction for neighborhoods near Center City. My vision for a connected city provides greater access to bike lanes–including Bike Share–and public transportation so that residents aren’t trapped in their neighborhoods and can easily commute to their jobs and access public spaces across our city.
6. Securing Sidewalk Safety: Philadelphia is going through a construction boom and while this is a good thing for the city, too often contractors close sidewalks making passage dangerous for pedestrians. Do you support stronger policies and regulations to ensure that contractors maintain a safe passage during construction?
Yes, it is important that contractors respect pedestrian safety.
7. Create an Active Transportation Office. Philadelphia cannot be a leading city for bicycling, walking and traffic safety without a dedicated office and staff. Will you support the creation of an office that is tasked with implementing the 2012 Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan and other measures to make Philadelphia’s streets and sidewalks safer?
I believe that transportation and mobility should be a major priority and I would explore this area more deeply during my term in office.
8. Safe Routes to School. Philadelphia has 162 elementary schools with roughly 100,000 students. The City of Philadelphia has a very small Safe Routes to School program that provides biking and walking curriculum to students and conducts walkability audits to identify how routes can be made safer to encourage more biking and walking to school. Do you support the Health Department having a robust Safe Routes to School program to reach as many students and schools as possible?
I’ve fought for 20 years to improve the quality of education in our city, and creating safe spaces for our children. Ensuring that children and families can safely get to and from school is part of the broader conversation about education and the health and well being of our children. I would support the Health Department developing a robust Safe Routes to School program but feel it must be in conjunction with multiple departments and the School District itself. I was a critic of the City’s poorly thought out work around the mass school closures, resulting in a chaotic and ultimately unmonitored process during the first weeks of school. Safe routes are just one part of a ensuring students’ safety to and from school. The School District of Philadelphia has a door to door safety policy for students. We have to work with the Philadelphia Police Dept., Town Watch, SEPTA, and our neighborhoods to ensure safe passages. I would be a strong leader in this area to improve safety and care for young people.