Mayoral Candidate Jorge Elorza Responds to Questions about Biking and Walking in Providence
Jorge Elorza (D)
1. How do you feel about the current conditions for biking and walking in the city of Providence? Should you become Mayor, what are your top three priorities to improve biking and walking in the city, including safety, enjoyment, and/or connections between the urban core and greater Providence?
Providence has significant room for improvement in bicycle and pedestrian access, and making those improvements will improve the health and quality of life for our residents and commuters while making our city more welcoming to tourists.
As Mayor, my priorities will include:
- Expanding the network of bicycle routes with protected bike lanes where appropriate to connect recreational bike paths to downtown and our neighborhoods,
- Aggressively pursuing making streets in all neighborhoods more walkable and bike-friendly by prioritizing the creation of more Complete Streets,
- Integrating pedestrian walk signals into regular traffic light cycles,
- Collaborating with neighborhood organizations and parent teacher organizations to expand walking school busses and identify needs for street repair and improvement,
- Including parking requirements for bicycles in new development projects,
- Providing education about bike safety for both bicyclists and drivers, and
- Supporting the cityWALK initiative to link Fox Point to Roger Williams Park via a bike- and pedestrian-friendly path.
2. According to the League of American Bicyclists, the U.S. bicycle industry contributes approximately $133 billion annually to the U.S. economy by supporting over 1 million jobs; generating nearly $18 billion in federal, state, and local taxes; and providing nearly $47 billion for meals, transportation, and lodging purchases during bike trips and tours. How can Providence take advantage of the increasing interest in bicycling?
My administration will fully support the Providence bike share program to be launched in 2015, which will be a significant boon to promoting bicycle-based tourism in and around the city. We will also make the City’s website a better resource for cyclists by providing maps of bike routes throughout the region. And I will continue to host Cyclovia events around the city to promote biking and recreation in our neighborhoods.
3. Many cities, businesses, and universities participate in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly America program. What steps would you take, if any, to earn the city a rating above Honorable Mention? What steps would you take to encourage businesses and universities within the city to participate and earn recognition?
Implementing my priorities listed above will significantly improve Providence’s rating as a bike friendly community. As Mayor, I will work with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission to develop outreach strategies to engage the businesses and institutions in the city to participate.
4. Please comment on how you will carry out the recommendations made by the new Providence Bicycle Plan. What, if anything, would you suggest to improve the bicycle plan?
I support the Bike Providence plan’s approach to integrating the five E’s: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation to make the city more bike friendly. As Mayor, I will direct my administration to identify appropriate and necessary investments in bicycle infrastructure, especially protected bike lanes and parking, and implement a plan to make those improvements.
5. How do you feel about replacing on-street parking with bicycling facilities such as dedicated bike lanes, protected bike lanes, bike corrals, and so on? As Mayor, how would you work with local businesses to change their attitudes toward bike parking and bicycle infrastructure such as protected bike lanes?
In some cases, adding bicycle parking along with other safety measures will help to reduce demand for on-street parking. As Mayor, my administration will work closely with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission to build community support for the implementation of investments in infrastructure noted in the above question. Studies have shown that businesses along bike lanes see an increase in traffic and profits. As we develop specific improvement projects, we will coordinate public engagement strategies to understand and address concerns from all sectors including businesses, residents, cyclists, and pedestrians. There are also simple, grassroots things the Mayor can do to raise awareness and change attitudes. For instance, I would periodically lead groups of City Hall staff and anyone else who is willing to join us on group rides to patronize local business districts. Nothing will convince local businesses that bike traffic is a boon quite like the Mayor showing up on a bike with dozens of paying customers.
6. A bicycle sharing program has been announced for launch in 2015, pending sponsorship. Do you support bike share in Providence, and what would you do as Mayor to aid the success of such a program?
I fully support the Providence bike share proposal and look forward to the launch in 2015. As Mayor, I will work closely with the bike share vendor, Alta, to define and implement the necessary city infrastructure support for the convenience and safety of bike share users. I will also publicly champion the bike share program to encourage residents, commuters, and visitors to make use of the program. I know that finding a sponsor has been slow; in order to entice a sponsor to sign on, thereby speeding up the launch, I would be even willing to declare the launch date official “SPONSOR NAME HERE Bicycle Day” in Providence. Again, one of the most effective things a Mayor can do to give a project a boost is simply to put a spotlight on it.
7. With less available federal transportation funding for biking and walking projects, how do you propose the city of Providence acquire the necessary funds needed to make the city more bike/walk friendly?
As Mayor, I will work with the City Council to designate Community Development Block Grant funds toward implementing bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects. Additionally, my administration will seek philanthropic support by presenting a bold vision for transforming the city through bike and pedestrian access.
8. What will you as mayor do to participate fully in transportation decisions made in the state so that the needs of Providence residents – not just commuters – are addressed?
As Mayor, I will direct the Planning Department and the Department of Public Works to work closely with Statewide Planning and the RI Department of Transportation to review transportation plans as they are in development and to foster public participation in the development of the plans. I will also advocate for the Mayor of Providence to sit on the Board of Directors for RIPTA. The Mayor of Warwick currently chairs that board, and Providence should also have a seat at that table.
9. City Council passed a Complete Streets resolution in 2012. How do you propose to ensure that Planning, DPW, and RIDOT fully utilize Complete Streets designs when working on city streets? Would you consider supporting a new ordinance to codify and strengthen the city’s position on Complete Streets?
Yes, I would support an ordinance strengthening the City’s implementation of Complete Streets policies and direct my departments to make it a priority. I also believe that the lack of a permanent Director of Public Works is holding back the implementation of Complete Streets; that department has had an interim director for more than two years. As Mayor, I will conduct a nationwide search to hire a permanent director within my first 90 days in office.