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. Paul Steinke’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. Reducing traffic fatalities of all types – pedestrian, cyclist, and driver alike – has to be our top priority when it comes to transportation infrastructure. The Vision Zero approach, especially as implemented in New York and San Francisco, lays out a wonderful blueprint for Philadelphia to follow to make our streets safer.
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?
Yes. The budget for Fiscal Year 2017 will be the first budget I am able to address as Councilman. Given all of the needs of the City, particularly our schools, I cannot make any ironclad guarantees about specific budget increases for any Department or function. That said, repaving our streets is a priority, and I will seek to increase funding for it as much as I can.
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. As biking increases as a major method of transportation, so too do safety concerns. Protected bike lanes – particularly on major thoroughfares – are a must if we are to continue to make Philadelphia a bike-friendly city. More standard bike lanes are also needed, and we must ensure that these bike lanes reach into new neighborhoods and not just Center City. Finally, our bike lanes must form a coherent network. Cyclists shouldn’t have to weave in and out of traffic lanes because they’re forced to switch back and forth between roads that have bike lanes and roads that don’t.
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. As long as the plans are still considered valid by the Streets Department and the transportation community, then I will support those bike lanes.
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?
Yes. I believe that we need to make Bike Share not just physically accessible, but also financially accessible to individuals in all neighborhoods. Working with those neighborhood communities will be vital in determining the best way to implement such an expansion.
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. As with any City regulation, we must first look at enforcement to see if the problem is inadequate laws or inadequate adherence to those laws. This will become an even bigger problem as bike lanes are installed in more streets, since closing sidewalks can push pedestrian traffic into bike lanes and bike traffic into traffic lanes. As Councilman, I will work to ensure that our ordinances adequately protect pedestrian and bike traffic in and around construction areas.
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 would support the moving such functions into MOTU and making MOTU a permanent office by charter.
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?
Yes. This program should also include public transit education for older students and their parents, as many older students must travel far across the city to reach their schools.