What City of Kent candidates say about biking and safe streets

EDITOR’S NOTE: Frank Boosman is a resident of Kent who was curious where candidates for Mayor and City Council stood on biking and safe streets issues (Boosman is also a member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board, but he stressed that this effort was in his capacity as a Kent resident, not as a Board member). After searching for their stances and coming up short, Frank took it upon himself to reach out to all the candidates and ask them a few questions. He compiled their responses and asked Seattle Bike Blog if we would like to publish them. Of course I said yes! Thanks for doing this, Frank. I hope it is helpful to any Kent readers out there looking for city leaders who will make streets safer.

Kent Mayor

Suzette Cooke is not seeking a fourth term as Mayor of Kent, so the position is open for the first time in nearly a decade.

While most candidates responded in writing, mayoral candidate Jim Berrios preferred to speak with Boosman on the phone. The following paragraph is a summary of the whole conversation and was later approved by the candidate, Boosman said.

Jim Berrios: I believe that we should be more bicycle-friendly, but it has to be practical. If we build infrastructure that isn’t practical, it sends the wrong message to taxpayers. I’m totally open to having continued discussions on cycling. I know that we’ve made every effort to address North-South routes. As far as an East-West connector, I think that we need to come together and come up with a real, practical solution. Whatever we do has to make sense to taxpayers. I’d love to sit down with cycling advocates, look at routes, drive them, and figure out what makes sense.

Boosman: What is your opinion of complete streets, the idea that streets “be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation”? Do you agree with this approach to street design and think it should be adopted universally within Kent?

Dana Ralph: I have consistently supported the implementation of a complete streets plan in Kent. We are currently applying this standard to all new construction in Kent. Making Kent bikeable and walkable has to be a priority.

Boosman: Cycling infrastructure—especially protected bike lanes and separated paths—has been shown to improve community health, reduce pollution, and create other benefits that far outweigh the initial investment. What is your approach to expanding bike lanes and paths throughout the city of Kent?

Ralph: I support inclusion of bike lanes in any new street project or upgrade. I know there are connections that are currently missing. I am committed to working with KBAB on identifying and prioritizing these projects.

Boosman: A recent study of protected urban bike lanes in Toronto found that not only did such lanes improve cyclist safety, but that “most merchants reported an increase in the number of customers, most visitors reported spending more and visiting more frequently… [and] customer spending [was] up relative to control groups.” What is your opinion of creating protected bike lanes downtown to encourage more cycling within Kent’s downtown core?

Ralph: I think we have a great opportunity as we work on the Meet Me on Meeker project to build in bike lanes in places it makes sense. I know we are currently meeting with KBAB so the recommendations can be built into the final plan. I support this work.

Boosman: On the bicycle advisory board, something I hear often is about the need for an East-West Connector—a safe way for cyclists to get from the East Hill to the West Hill and vice-versa. What are your thoughts on working towards creating such a protected route and connecting these areas of Kent?

Ralph: East/West connections are critical to connecting Kent. We also hear frequently from transit riders that there is no easy way to get from on hill to the other. If we are going to provide our residents a way to commute by bicycle or even access our trail system (most of which is in the valley) – the east/west connections are critical.

Kent City Council

Two candidates did not respond to the questionnaire, and one gave a partial response. They are noted below.

Boosman: What is your opinion of complete streets, the idea that streets “be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation”? Do you agree with this approach to street design and think it should be adopted universally within Kent?

Satwinder Kaur (Position 2): I agree with the approach of complete streets. I was in Amsterdam recently for a short trip and was impressed with their infrastructure. I would like to see something even half as good and will be thrilled.

Paul Addis (Position 2): I think Kent should look at the best practices for design/development/management/administration of our great city and develop plans to implement them where/how they are most beneficial and possible. I also think safety should come first in all we do as a municipal government. Anything that is ‘more safe’ is a good idea.

Toni Troutner (Position 4): I think ‘complete streets’ are important for communities such as Kent. We have a generation of young people that are looking for other ways to get around, including bicycles. As a runner myself, I see the importance of staying active and using other modes of transportation to get places. The great thing about bicycles is they do no discriminate. Aside from the cost of a bike, it is free and anyone can learn to ride a bike. I would like to see Kent continue to offer/support bicycle use.

Tye Whitfield (Position 4): Did not respond to questionnaire.

Brenda Fincher (Position 6): Did not respond to questionnaire.

Russ Hanscom (Position 6): There are many streets in Kent that still need sidewalks. I’m totally in favor of improving our street infrastructure to support pedestrian and cycles.

Boosman: Cycling infrastructure—especially protected bike lanes and separated paths—has been shown to improve community health, reduce pollution, and create other benefits that far outweigh the initial investment. What is your approach to expanding bike lanes and paths throughout the city of Kent?

Kaur (P2): I am in favor of bike lanes and encouraging residents to get out and bike. As you know, city will be facing some major setbacks in budget so we will need to look at ideas and options to reduce expenses and increase revenues. One of the ideas that seemed doable was an adjustable bike lane idea. Winnipeg has been trying the idea of temporary bike lanes and it is a 9 month pilot program. It is cost effective and city is able to analyse the information along with residents.

Addis (P2): With the fiscal cliff looming, money is tight in Kent. I believe we need to evaluate our options and decide on the best path forward for infrastructure development, including new construction on roads. Some of my proposals, including a Public Bank and a Shared Service Delivery model, would allow Kent to have more funding without raising taxes. If the money is available, I am sure the cyclists in Kent would love to have more bike lanes in the city, but we’ll only be able to accomplish that once we get control of our money.

Troutner (P4): I am encouraged and excited for the expansion of Meet Me on Meeker and the ability for vehicles, bicyclist, and pedestrians to share that roadway between the West Hill and the downtown corridor. I would engage the council to have conversations about other opportunities for expanding bike lanes and paths where appropriate.

Whitfield (P4): D.N.R.

Fincher (P6): D.N.R.

Hanscom (P6): Funding is tight, but if there’s a shown cost-benefit of some streets being improved (how much for how many cyclists), I’m for it.

Boosman: A recent study of protected urban bike lanes in Toronto found that not only did such lanes improve cyclist safety, but that “most merchants reported an increase in the number of customers, most visitors reported spending more and visiting more frequently… [and] customer spending [was] up relative to control groups.” What is your opinion of creating protected bike lanes downtown to encourage more cycling within Kent’s downtown core?

Kaur (P2): There is not doubt in my mind we need bike lanes. I agree with you. I think the pilot program of temporary bike lanes can be tried first in the downtown core. I am open to ideas as well.

Addis (P2): In my visit to Copenhagen in 2010, I was amazed at how well-developed the bike culture and infrastructure is there. They have massive parking lots for bikes and many protected bike lanes, which are heavily utilized. I would want to bring together experts and look at more studies to see if/how protected bike lanes could work for Kent. Planning and funding are the keys, and I’d be happy to support more research on that subject.

Troutner (P4): Again, I would engage the council to have conversations about other opportunities for expanding bike lanes and paths where appropriate.

Whitfield (P4): D.N.R.

Fincher (P6): D.N.R.

Hanscom (P6): See number 2: Funding is tight, but if there’s a shown cost-benefit of some streets being improved (how much for how many cyclists), I’m for it.

Boosman: On the bicycle advisory board, something I hear often is about the need for an East-West Connector—a safe way for cyclists to get from the East Hill to the West Hill and vice-versa. What are your thoughts on working towards creating such a protected route and connecting these areas of Kent?

Kaur (P2): Again funding plays a role in such projects. We can always lobby the state and county to support such projects. We can also partner with organizations such as REI and Amazon.

Addis (P2): Again, planning and funding are the keys to success. I would be happy to bring experts together to evaluate the feasibility for such a project.

Troutner (P4): The Meet Me on Meeker project will be the connection from the bottom of the West Hill to the downtown corridor. I would like to see council continue that conversation on expansion opportunities further up the West Hill and East Hill.

Whitfield (P4): D.N.R.

Fincher (P6): D.N.R.

Hanscom (P6): See number 2: Funding is tight, but if there’s a shown cost-benefit of some streets being improved (how much for how many cyclists), I’m for it.

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One Response to What City of Kent candidates say about biking and safe streets

  1. asdf2 says:

    Jim Berrios’s “it has to be practical” sounds to me like a euphemism for arguing that bike facilities are not worth taxpayer money because they don’t serve cars. I don’t live in Kent, but if I did, I would treat that reply as a red flag.

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