20 Questions with Mayoral Candidate Jake Wheatley
Jake Wheatley (D)
1. What role do you think Mayors play in making cities safe, accessible and friendly to biking and walking?
A mayor has the ability to set priorities and an agenda for transportation needs within the city. We must be cognizant of the needs of the casual commuter, the car commuter, the walker, the biker and the commuter that relies on bus or T transit.
As mayor, I will work with the departments and stakeholders that deal with transportation in our city to make sure we are improving the overall quality of life for the average citizen, regardless of their mode of transportation.
I recognize that being open to new forms of transportation like biking, or promoting walking, is a great way to make Pittsburgh a more liveable city for all. We need to make our roads and walkways safe for bikers and walkers, as well as help our drivers become accustomed to sharing the road with bikers.
2. It is important that everyone has access to safe streets for biking and walking. What will you do as Mayor to ensure that everyone who lives in the City is within a half mile of interconnected bicycle facilities that can take them from where they live to work, to shop, and to green space without fearing for their safety? There are many gaps in the pedestrian network as well. How will you address this as Mayor?
I would like to begin by encouraging community stakeholders, experts and citizens together to discuss and brainstorm the most immediate needs in safety, but also discuss access to bikes, safe routes and walking paths.
I’ve heard that other cities have established a bike share program that gives people access to bikes whenever they need them. I understand that this program is coming to the city, but I’d like to find the best way to foster this program and guarantee it’s success. It would be great to see Pittsburgh take this step forward and join cities like Washington DC, Chicago and even London in providing this service to citizens.
Having citizen participation in this planning process is key. It’s important to remember that we can no longer rely solely upon those working in city government to supply us with innovative ideas. The citizens of Pittsburgh must be a part of the process.
3. Last month, a new bike sharing program was announced that will add 500 bikes in 2014, similar to programs in other US cities. Do you support bike share in Pittsburgh? The City has been allocated about $2M in the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) for start up costs through the federal Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) program.
I absolutely support this program! This is precisely the kind of entrepreneurial and creative idea to encourage good health, alleviate traffic and generate new revenue that we need in Pittsburgh.
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 its kind. Their focus is on biking and walking as means of getting around with less focus on recreation. What type of projects would you like in place to “show off” Pittsburgh? Will you direct your staff to attend the conference to further their professional development?
There are several projects that I would like to show off during this event –
The first would be new land use projects. As a marathon runner, I like to be challenged during my runs, but not because I’m dodging dangerous traffic or jumping over obstructed pathways. I would like to see our City create new ideas for land use that provide safe pathways designed for recreation. This may include partnering with Pittsburgh-based organizations like GTECH, an organization that focus on transitioning land into useful parcels. GTECH already partners with the Pittsburgh Marathon to “ReClaim the Route” – transition blighted properties along the race route.
I would also like to see a way to provide alternative energy to supply well-lit pathways so that those of us who run or bike in the early morning or at night have increased safety. If we utilize technology such as those developed by Loopwing for example, we can provide quality, safe lighting that is aesthetically appealing, all while keeping costs low.
5. PennDOT has set a goal of 5-10% of trips in Pittsburgh’s CBD, and 5% of all trips less than 3 miles be made by bicycle. The City’s draft primary mode share goals out of MOVEPGH are similar – 4% bicycling and 16% walking by 2020. Do you endorse these goals? What will you do as Mayor to realize or surpass these goals? This goal is located in the City of Pittsburgh Bicycle Plan.
Yes. I would push the initiatives described above, as well as provide information to drivers on how to share the road with bikers and walkers.
In my opinion, realizing these goals begins with access. Bikes must be available to citizens. Bikesharing will help with these, but we also need a marketing campaign letting citizens in the City know that biking and walking should be considered viable options for getting around Pittsburgh. Spreading the knowledge about this new form of transportation is key.
6. In 2010, the League of American Bicyclists acknowledged Pittsburgh as a “Bronze” Bicycle Friendly Community. What directive will you give to your directors in order for Pittsburgh to move from Bronze to Silver and beyond? More info at bikeleague.org/programs/bicyclefriendlyamerica/communities.
I believe that if the ideas I have presented previously are incorporated, we can certainly improve our standing in the future.
7. Very poor data exists in the City regarding crashes that involve pedestrians and bicyclists. The numbers are generally underrepresented, and don’t allow City staff to plan accordingly for improvements. What opportunities do you see to better use data to make our streets safer for everyone?
As a plank within my Innovating Infrastructure policy, I am advocating that we open up government and challenge those within our high tech community to create new systems that can make services and planning more efficient and effective. This seems like a perfect opportunity and place to have that type of high tech civic engagement.
8. Leading cities for bicycling are implementing innovative bicycle infrastructure (a.k.a. cycle tracks, green lanes, intersection enhancements, bicycle boulevards, etc.) to encourage people who are “interested but concerned” to ride a bike. During your administration, will you implement these types of innovative bicycle facilities to attract even more Pittsburghers to ride bicycles? A number of recent plans have emerged in Pittsburgh that promote these types of bikeways including Oakland 2025, Allegheny River Green Blvd, Downtown Retail Strategy, and we expect MOVEPGH will as well. NACTO.org’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide also gives guidance on this.
I will do my best to improve and meet these needs in a feasible way. We have to implement a process where we don’t just build bigger, but build smarter. This may involve conversations with other cities to explore how they have built up their bicycle culture.
9. Our University district in Oakland is perceived to be the most dangerous areas to ride a bike, yet contains some of the largest numbers of people who ride them. What ideas do you have to make Oakland safe and attractive for bicycling, and what will you do to implement your ideas?
As I see it, Oakland is a complicated space due to very limited land use possibilities to increase biking safety while not impeding current traffic. We’ve all experienced congestion on Forbes and Fifth Avenues in Oakland and I am open to all ideas for how we can change that. Hopefully this can be a focus at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference.
10. 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 is your plan to calm traffic and make our neighborhoods safer and more comfortable in which to walk and bike? For example, on Penn Ave, Liberty Ave, Fifth Ave, Forbes Ave, Baum Blvd, as well as on more residential neighborhood streets.
As mayor, I will be a strong advocate and supporter of our public safety and police so that they can have a vigilant presence on our streets.
I also think that increased signage is important. We must have signs that alert drivers to pedestrians and bikers. This visual is important to helping drivers learn how to share the road.
11. Last summer, Penn Ave saw two fatal bicycle crashes involving unlicensed or suspended drivers. In May of 2012, our intern was nearly killed by a man driving with a suspended license for previous DUIs. There are too many hit-and-run stories against bicyclists and pedestrians to even recount. What actions would you take to keep people from driving who have no business being behind the wheel of a car?
Unfortunately, it is near impossible to prevent certain individuals from making very poor decisions like driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But as I stated in my answer to Question 10, by having an increased presence of police, especially in those high traffic areas of the city, we can hopefully deter or at the very least detect these incidents prior to anyone being unnecessarily hurt or killed.
12. What specifically would you like to announce or accomplish in your first 100 days as Mayor to address street safety, biking, and walking issues?
As I addressed in Question 2, I think the first thing I can do is to give experts and advocates the public platform they need to present a comprehensive plan.
13. When you appoint a new chief of police what direction or directive will you give them regarding bicycle and pedestrian safety?
This will begin with my leadership and commitment to make sure the new Chief of Police has the resources they need to increase public presence so that the community at-large will know we are serious about public safety of all kinds. I will make it clear that biker and pedestrian safety is a priority and is something that we must continue to understand and enforce as our biker and walker population grows.
14. What specific policy recommendations will you implement as mayor to bring the number of pedestrian and bike fatalities to zero over your four years?
Once again, I believe this begins with increased police presence on our streets. Additionally I would like to see my previous mentioned enhancements to our pathways implemented, as well as proper signage on streets.
15. Open Streets are enormously popular events in nearly 80 cities and communities throughout the U.S. Open Streets temporarily restrict motor vehicle traffic on one or more streets so that people can use them for physical activity—walking, biking, running, playing, or dancing. As mayor will you work with us and community stakeholders to make Open Streets Pittsburgh a reality? More info at openstreetsproject.org.
16. What specific steps will you take as Mayor to implement the bike portion of the Allegheny River Green Boulevard plan recently conducted by the URA with $1.5M of funding from federal sources? For more information please visit greenboulevardpgh.com. We can also send you the official executive summary and information about the public outreach component of the plan.
I will look for ways to make sure that the proposed land is safe and clear from obstructions and to ensure that the city is acting as a proactive partner with the project to mitigate any bureaucratic red tape.
17. PennDOT and the County own many roads and bridges inside the Pittsburgh city limits such as parts of Penn Ave, and the Three Sisters Bridges. What will you do to ensure that these streets and bridges are designed in a way that is safe for bicyclists and pedestrians?
I will take the recommendations of the working group I mentioned earlier to the state and county officials and be an advocate for their implementation.
18. What role do you think the City of Pittsburgh should play in educating its citizens about issues related to traffic safety, infrastructure, and wayfinding?
It starts with making a commitment to infrastructure, as I have done already throughout this campaign. The public will never realize the importance of these issues unless there is leadership.
19. What ideas do you have to advocate on a regional, state and national level for bicycle and pedestrian improvements within the City?
As a current state Representative, I already know which doors to knock on in Harrisburg to make sure our city is not only getting the necessary resources it needs to thrive, but to advocate for the ideas we as a city formulate. I’d like to see the City of Pittsburgh become an example of how to implement bike and pedestrian policy.
With that I think one of best things we can do on a regional level is to make a concerted effort to cut red tape between municipalities so that pathways, such as Rails to Trails can be created without bureaucratic delay. This is where organizations like the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) can help.
20. In conclusion, why do you think people who care about bicycling and walking issues should vote for you?
As an active member of the running community and a father, I have an appreciation for the needs of the bicycling and walking community, especially on the need for safety.
One of my strongest motivations to run for public office has always been to open doors for citizens to communicate and participate with their government. I will use the office of Mayor as a platform to continue the conversation surrounding bike and pedestrian advocacy. Pittsburgh must be accessible and safe to all people – regardless of their mode of transportation.