Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council ask Mayoral Candidates about Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Issues

BPAC sent the same six questions to both mayoral candidates.  Their responses are printed verbatim below.

  1. Businesses seek locations that are walkable and bikeable. If you are elected, will you champion investments in walking and biking infrastructure in Alexandria to contribute to Alexandria’s economic health?
Justin Wilson:  I have worked to expand pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure throughout my time on the City Council. As we work to implement our Bike/Ped Master Plan and the Vision Zero Action Plan, I will prioritize infrastructure investments that ensure that our streets are safe and accessible for ALL users. Allison Silberberg:  Yes. Walking and biking are fun, and being able to walk and bike is part of a good quality of life, not to mention good exercise.  In addition they are two important ways to reduce traffic congestion, so we want to make those alternatives safe and convenient in order to encourage more residents to choose walking and biking. I fully support funds to increase pedestrian safety by improving our crosswalks. We need to increase connectivity for biking, and we need to choose routes that are safe and are able to be used by trained cyclists and more casual cyclists.

 

  1. Do you walk or bike in Alexandria?  If so, please comment on your experience.
Justin Wilson:  I have been a daily bicycle or transit commuter into my day-job for over 15 years. I rely on Capital Bikeshare, my own private bicycle, DASH, and WMATA to get around most days. Allison Silberberg:  Through the years, I have enjoyed walking and biking in different parts of the city, including: Old Town, Del Ray, Fort Ward Park, Chinquapin, etc. I enjoy walking from my office in City Hall to locations in Old Town. When I walk, I take note of the conditions of our sidewalks and crosswalks and report issues to Transportation and Environmental Services so that any issues may be corrected as soon as possible.

 

  1. Alexandria can combat traffic congestion, air pollution, and childhood obesity, and increase kids’ academic performance at school by encouraging more students to bike or walk to school. If elected, how will you increase the numbers of kids who choose to walk or bike, and make sure they can do it safely?
Justin Wilson:  Both of my children have walked and biked to school since they started Kindergarten (currently 7th and 4th grades). I believe the most important way the City can improve the number of children who choose to walk and bike is by improving the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure adjacent to our schools.

 

I was a strong supporter of the changes made adjacent to T. C. Williams High School along King Street. Those changes slowed traffic, improved bike facilities and provided enhanced pedestrian crossings.

 

Our Safe Routes to Schools program has identified numerous improvements around our City that can encourage the safe access to our schools by students using non-vehicular modes.

Allison Silberberg:  I applaud the efforts of BPAC to promote the Safe Routes to School program with ACPS. A number of schools have already adopted these routes. It was a joyful moment to be at Mt. Vernon Community School when the students went for a special bike ride to promote Safe Routes to School. Charles Barrett also has its Safe Routes to School plan, and other schools are working on their own routes. It is important to promote biking and walking to school, but sufficient training for the children is crucial so that they are confident in their biking skills and understand the rules of the road. As we all know, Alexandria is a densely populated city that experiences a high volume of automobile traffic, especially at rush hour, when students are also going to school. So the routes for biking and walking must be safe and the children must understand their responsibilities as cyclists or pedestrians. I will support BPAC and others who work to provide such education and training for our students.

 

  1. Alexandria’s Transportation Master Plan includes a recently updated chapter that articulates a vision for walking and biking in Alexandria for all users, including people of all ages and abilities; Alexandria adopted a Complete Streets policy to ensure that all streets provide a safe and comfortable experience for all users; and the City Council approved a Vision Zero Action Plan to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2028. However, these policies and plans need continued council and staff support and funding to achieve their purpose. Do you support these policies and plans? Please explain why or why not.
Justin Wilson:  I do support these plans and was proud to vote for each on the City Council. We now must work to prioritize resources and ensure political support for the tradeoffs associated with improving safety around our community. Allison Silberberg:  I am proud that the City Council and I unanimously approved a Vision Zero Plan this year, and Alexandria is one of only three jurisdictions in our region with such a plan. I am proud that we drafted it and adopted it in record time, and community input was crucial to the development of this plan. I am fully committed to the Vision Zero Plan. Public safety is paramount in our city.

 

We are constantly looking at how we can make travel safer for all in our community, and Complete Streets is an important part of this.  We must receive community input as we consider possible changes to each street during the Complete Streets review process.

  1. How would you approach the decision-making process on a Complete Streets project that requires tradeoffs between two important issues? For example, how would you address a proposal that increases safety by making drivers and pedestrians more visible at intersections but requires removing parking spaces? As another example, how would you address a proposal that would improve safety with measures such as installing pedestrian refuge islands but might result in small traffic delays during peak travel hours?
Justin Wilson:  My record on the City Council has shown a willingness to consider tradeoffs associated with improving safety. For generations, our transportation policy has prioritized the swift transport of vehicles from one place to another. While we have been successful in achieving that goal, it has come at the expense of safety and encouraging non-vehicular modes.

 

I do believe we must be willing to tackle the trade-offs in parking and the flow of traffic to ensure the safety of ALL users of our streets and sidewalks.

Allison Silberberg:  Such decisions need to be done on a case-by-case basis. There is not one solution that fits all situations. Removing parking places at the corners has happened in several locations. It might not need to happen if we place a hawk system of flashing lights to alert motorists of pedestrians crossing, as is the case at several locations in Alexandria. Each proposal is different, and at times a pedestrian refuge island is a good idea, but we must also look at each proposal in a holistic way to make sure it works in a specific location.

 

  1. Reducing vehicle speeds is a cornerstone of Vision Zero, and national transportation experts indicate that “Street design is one of the single most important strategies to slow speeds and make streets safe for everyone.” If elected, will you encourage City staff to adopt proven street design measures to reduce vehicle speeds?
Justin Wilson:  During my time on City Council, I have worked to prioritize funding for Complete Streets initiatives that will improve safety by reducing vehicle speed. I have worked to rework road paving efforts to ensure Complete Streets initiatives are ALWAYS part of our road rehabilitation efforts. Allison Silberberg:  I am proud to have supported the lowering of speed limits on Seminary and Quaker, and it has been a success for all. While it might not be appropriate for all streets, it is certainly something we should consider as one of many tools to make our streets safer. As far as other street design changes, I think they must be considered on a case-by-case basis, rather than implementing them on a city-wide basis.

Take a look at Alexandria City Council Candidates’ responses to questions about bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Could a future Alexandria look more like this?

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