Council District 7 Candidate: James Wudarczyk
1. Do you use a bicycle (or walk) in the city? If so, for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands) and how often?
On a daily basis, I walk in the city and around my neighborhood for the purposes of commuting, errands, and campaigning. When the weather, is nice, I walk to my place of work in the Strip District. For me, the selling point of my home was that I was close to local businesses and my place of employment, therefore eliminating the need for a vehicle. One of the largest parts of my campaign for city council is walking around the various neighborhoods after work, knocking on doors, and actively listening and participating in conversations with neighbors.
As I previously stated, my home is near the Bloomfield and Lawrenceville business districts. As a supporter of small businesses, I do most of my shopping locally. Because of the convenient location, I can easily walk to my destinations. For me, walking is a necessary part of my life, and I can fully appreciate other people who use this method to commute, for recreation, or for errands.
2. What roles do you think city council can play in making cities safe, accessible and friendly for biking and walking?
City Council has a role in making cities safe, accessible and friendly for biking and walking in a few different ways. First, as I have said many times at debates, in conversations, and on my website, I do not support a budget with cuts in the police force via attrition as proposed by the current administration. With a strong police force regularly patrolling the streets, sidewalks, parks, and neighborhoods, we would see a decrease in crime and a safer environment for our bikers, walkers, and all of our residents. This can also help to cut down aggressive driving, speeding, and going through red lights. I also believe that bikers, like drivers sometimes violate these same laws. To make a safer community, I believe we need a police officer to be watching. It is hard to enforce laws when people know no one is watching.
Another aspect that goes a long with safety is encouraging other members of council and myself to constantly push the Department of Public works to pave and maintain our streets, so they are safe for bikers, walkers, and drivers alike. It is my greatest fear that there will be an accident involving a motorist and a biker or walker because of swerving to avoid a pothole.
3. In what ways can enhanced bicycling and walking facilities and opportunities benefit your district and the city as a whole? Are there any specific projects that you’d like to see accomplished?
In my district, I believe that bicyclist and walkers could be using parks and trails that are already existing. These facilities need to be properly maintained, which presently is doing a lousy job of keeping up many of their parks and recreational facilities.
4. Pittsburgh was chosen to host the 2014 Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference, which is expected to draw 1,000 biking and walking planners, engineers, government officials, and advocates from around the country, the largest gathering of it’s kind. Their focus is on biking and walking as means of getting around, with less focus on recreation. If you could put one project in place to “show off” your district, what would it be? Will you direct your staff to attend the conference to further their professional development?
In August, I was a docent for the Bike Pgh Tour of Allegheny Cemetery, and once a year in the spring time, I lead a walking tour of a portion of historic Lawrenceville. From my interest in local history, I have an appreciation of the vast history of all of the neighborhoods in the district. When the various personnel come to Pittsburgh for this gathering, I would use my experience in the historical community to showcase my district. I would like to have a walking/bike tour of different historical sites throughout the district, to showcase the uniqueness of the architecture of historic cemeteries as well as our business districts. The way to develop such a tour is to partner with various historical societies and experts from each community, station docents at various sites and have a few guides to show participants the proper path.
5. In just about every neighborhood throughout the city, one of the top concerns is drivers driving too fast, aggressively, and not yielding to pedestrians. What ideas do you have to calm traffic and make our neighborhoods safer and more comfortable in which to walk and bike? Feel free to talk about particular problem spots in your district.
Many of our street corners need additional traffic lights or stop signs to remedy the problem of aggressive drivers. This again relates to the issue of a need for a police force equal to its current size. In my own neighborhood, there is a dangerous four-way intersection, which the city refuses to adequately address. No doubt, this is very typical of other areas of our city.
6. Do you support the Allegheny River Green Boulevard? Briefly explain why or why not and what a councilperson’s role is in the project.
I support the Allegheny River Green Boulevard, but I am not sure if this is a viable plan for our city at this time. We are still under Act 47 and we are talking about issuing bonds again in 2014-2015. I believe that before starting new projects, we need to get our financial house in order. After reviewing the master plan for this project, I thought it would be a great idea to bridge areas in our communities and allow a trail for walkers and bikers to enjoy or use to commute.
Years ago, a trail was developed under the Washington Crossing Bridge in Lawrenceville. When it was first completed, people were excited to walk along the river, bird watch, bike, etc. Through the years, because of a lack of maintenance and police protection, residents who once enjoyed this area, found trash lining the trail, broken glass, and a place they did not feel safe because of mugging.
We are too eager to develop areas without giving serious consideration to police protection and proper maintenance of these areas. Given the financial straits of our city with its underfunded/unfunded pension systems, pothole ridden streets and neglected parks, further development of trails and public areas is not feasible.
7. What do you think is the number one risk to walkers and bicyclists both in your district and the city as a whole? What will you do as an elected official to remedy it?
The number one risk I believe comes down to poor maintenance of our streets, our sidewalks, our parks, and our trails. I firmly believe that we have got to get away from pet projects and studies, and put more money into infrastructure. I believe that with my experience in business, I can bring to the table the skills necessary for budget analysis.
8. What are your ideas for securing funding sources for biking and walking projects?
I firmly believe that before we talk about securing funding for additional projects, we must make sure that we have adequate resources to maintain the facilities currently owned by the City of Pittsburgh. We do not need more neglect.
9. In conclusion, why do you think people who care about bicycling and walking issues should vote for you?
People need a councilperson who is like them and can relate to them. As a 4th generation life-long Pittsburgh Resident, I am invested in our communities. Also, I would like to see the mayor, members of council, top level management staff, and other city employees show by example their support for walkers, bicyclists, and those who take public transportation by practicing what they preach. In other words, the top dogs of our administration should forego their cars, bike, ride buses, or walk to work, shop, and for recreational purposes. As your councilperson, I can assure you that you will see me walking around the neighborhoods, or taking the bus into Downtown Pittsburgh. One cannot say they care about making the city pedestrian and biker friendly unless they do it themselves.