2019 Bike Walk Vote City Council Candidate Survey – District 7

Councilwoman Deb Gross

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City Council District 7 Candidates respond to biking and walking issues

Since 2009, BikePGH has been educating our Members and facebook and twitter followers on how committed the candidates are to improving your experience and safety while walking and biking.

We’ve collected questionnaires from nearly every City Council candidate for the upcoming primary election in May. Locally, the primary election is often more important than the general election for determining who will represent Pittsburghers. If you are unsure what district you live in, please see the City’s website.

BikePGH is not allowed to endorse candidates. Answers have been lightly edited for formatting, otherwise these are their words.

Bike Walk Vote the Primary on Tuesday, May 21

What roles do you think City Council can play in making cities safe, accessible and friendly for residents to walk and bike?

Councilwoman Deb Gross

The City of Pittsburgh owns its right of ways, and so we can budget and legislate to make mobility safe for people. That means allocating budget dollars to safety improvements, but also increasing the human capacity. When I was first elected there was only one traffic engineer in the City administration and every traffic calming request I made was turned down (dozens). Five years later, we have created an entirely new department that issue permits in the right of way, and we have seven traffic engineers and now our requests are being granted. Just a few months ago, I pulled 100 previously turned down constituent requests and re-issued them to new Director.

Dierdre Kane

I believe that City Council plays many roles in making our city safe, accessible and friendly for pedestrians and bike riders. In order to accommodate more of a multimodal future, we need to address the need for bike lanes during city planning and development. We also need to ensure that we have safe pedestrian crossings, that are clearly marked and created for accessibility for walkers, bikers and individuals with disabilities. Finally, I believe it is also the role of a City Council representative to help steward the advancement of additional bike lanes and bike riding culture within their districts. As a lifelong resident of District 7 and an advocate for a bike riding culture in our city, I have heard folks on both sides regarding the bike lane issues. Many people are still very opposed to some of the bike lanes that have been created and are distrustful of bike riders. Council needs to play a role in bringing folks together to understand each sides’ and perspective in order to have a thriving and accepted bike infrastructure and culture in our city.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on the expanding bike lane network over the past decade. What’s working? Where can the City improve?

Councilwoman Deb Gross

My constituents ask for more connectivity between the bike lanes and also more infrastructure separating them. A policy that I know our state representatives are considering is to allow the City of Pittsburgh to implement “parking separated” bike lanes. This would make more riders feel safe in the bike lane.

Dierdre Kane

As a bike riding commuter from Lawrenceville to downtown, I can speak to my personal experience of the bike lane network. Although I didn’t agree with the roll out of the protected bike lane down Penn Avenue, it is the only designated bike lane that I feel safe riding on throughout my commute. So it is my opinion that having protected, designated bike lanes, not shared roads with cars, allow for safer bike ridership throughout the city. I believe the City needs to explore how we can move ridership off of Penn Avenue through the strip district onto a designated bike line. As a resident of Lawrenceville, I was very excited with the possibilities of the Allegheny Green Boulevard. This plan outlined a pedestrian and bike lane that would span from Highland Park to downtown and would be an amazing asset to our city. It would move bike commuters off of the roads and provide an easy and safe commute that might entice more people to choose to bike to work. It would also ensure safe ridership for visitors that decide to rent a Healthy Ride bike to explore the east end neighborhoods of the city.

A major campaign of ours, #ExtendPenn, seeks to safely connect the Penn Ave bike lane to the eastern neighborhoods, using any of the available streets or rights of way. Do you support this initiative? How will you as a Councilperson take a leadership role?

Councilwoman Deb Gross

Yes, I have been a vocal supporter of #extendPenn and advocated for infrastructure changes to the Strip planning that would allow pieces of that lane to be connected. Moreover, I continue to advocate for a more extensive multi-modal connection between downtown and Lawrenceville and continuing up river.

Dierdre Kane

I support the #ExtendPenn campaign and would take on a leadership role in order to address this very important issue for our community. I believe we need to work with local businesses and resident organizations to get their input on this very important structural change to our city. In order to facilitate a successful cultural shift we need to make sure that everybody is on the same page and that the goal is clearly understood for everybody that will be affected by this change. If I am elected as the Council representative for my district, I would like to open the discussion about the possibility of the Allegheny Green Boulevard again. I really believe that the plan addressed many of the issues that are issues with ridership and commuting downtown from the east end neighborhoods.

What’s a particularly dangerous problem or location in your district for walkers, bikers, or people with disabilities that you’d like to see addressed?

Councilwoman Deb Gross

So many of the “primary” streets have intersections that are engineered for car commuters without safe crossing times, safe sight lines, or safe infrastructure. I supported citizen advocacy around Penn and Main, for example, and have been seeking budget allocations for major intersections like Liberty and Main where I was successful in allocating $200,000 to change that intersection to be more friendly.

In addition, but unfortunately, way-finding apps have made even residential streets unsafe from speeders and aggressive drivers. I have enlisted the City engineers to visit neighborhood meetings and hear directly from residents about “network” problems, namely in Morningside and Polish Hill.

Dierdre Kane

Four locations come immediately to mind upon reading this question: 40th Street and Butler, the intersection of Liberty and the Bloomfield Bridge, the stretch of Liberty from 39th to the intersection at the Bloomfield Bridge, and Baker Street in Morningside that enters the Pittsburgh Zoo Parking lot. I think it is imperative that we address these locations for safety for all residents. But if given the opportunity, I would look forward to creating a broader list of problem locations by reaching out to the residents and businesses within each neighborhood in my district to understand the needs of each community.

In conclusion, why do you think people who care about walking and bicycling issues should vote for you?

Councilwoman Deb Gross

I have been effective at promoting non-car mobility and safety solutions at both the neighborhood level and at the city planning and budgeting level…helping to pass the Complete Streets legislation, helping to pass the Riverfront Zoning that mandates public easements on the river edges…and I vow to continue to push for creating streets (and steps and trails) that are for people.

Dierdre Kane

One of the main reasons I believe people should vote for me that care about walking and bicycling issues, is because I do commute to work on a Healthy Ride bike throughout the spring and summer, but I also have family and friends that share their contempt for bike riders within the district. I understand both sides and would be looking to bring people together to make sure why moving towards a multimodal future is important for our city. I really believe that there is a way to engage people on both sides of this issue to make sure that we all understand for example that more bikers mean less air pollution due to less cars being on the road. And since Pittsburgh was just ranked 7th in the country for the worst air quality in the country, we need to make sure we are moving in a direction that we are using less cars in our communities. Building a safe bike infrastructure would be very helpful in reducing the pollution caused by passenger vehicles such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and other pollutants that have shown to lead to lung problems and even cancer.

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