Les Papp Providence City Council Candidate Ward 13
RIBike: Active transportation, such as bicycling and walking and safe bike-pedestrian infrastructure, enhances quality of life and addresses issues such as affordability, equity, access, health, climate change and the safety of our streets. It also helps move our city toward a carbon neutral future. In your view, what can Providence do to actively encourage more people to bike and walk? What would you do to ensure residents have transportation options?
LP: I am a big proponent on education, and I think we can encourage programs in our schools to help promote bicycling and walking, particularly while we try and fight the obesity problem. My wife works for the City of Providence Healthy Communities Office which primarily focuses on keeping our children safe from drugs and alcohol but they have been working more on healthy lifestyles as well. I would like to try and work with existing programs and organizations like yours to try and promote these ideas and educate our students on the benefits of healthy life styles and safe biking. I believe starting to educate our children as well as their parents would be a great way to increase the growth of walking and bicycling for both health of the body and health of our earth.
By continuing to expand bike lanes in the city, will help allow more transportation options. I would like to explore where we can place more bike racks throughout the city so people can safely lock up their bikes in areas throughout the city. I lived in San Jose, CA for a time and I loved the light rail that was in the city, and recently visiting Medellin Colombia, where my wife is from, they also installed a light rail system in one of their more densely populated areas. I don’t know if that would be an option for the city but I think that metropolitan Providence might be able to implement a system that could cover the cities that are within a 10 -15 mile radius of the city along the major road ways.
RIBike: What will you do, as a member of the Providence City Council, to participate fully in transportation decisions made at the state level to ensure the needs of all Providence residents are addressed?
LP: I know many of the Providence state representatives and senators and I would support them and encourage them when legislation comes up before the two houses. I would lend my voice in support of these legislative issues, particularly when these areas affect the city. I would like to push for more street signage or the foam poles in the middle of the streets at crossing walks and bike paths throughout the state, and making sure that markings that fade are always a priority when painting or paving covers them.
RIBike: In light of the tragic death of a small child on the East Bay Bike Path, what measures would you propose to make it safer for children to bike to school and for recreation?
LP: Around the bike paths, which I have ridden on many occasions, we need to make sure that the areas are clearly marked by lights and we may need to add more lights that work off buttons that would cause lights to turn red for safe passage to cross the streets. I know that the other issues that may need to be looked at is making these areas clear of bushes and low hanging branches so that the crossing areas to the bike paths are made visible to drivers and not obscure drivers visions to see those crossing areas. Also we need to enforce no parking areas near these crossing to allow better visability.
What responsibility do you think the City Council / Mayor has to improve access and safety for all road users?
LP: I believe that there is a large responsibility on both the legislative and executive branches of the city particularly when it comes to health and safety of our citizens. We need to examine our intersections to make sure that they are safe visually for both drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. I have heard many people while walking the streets talking about the issues of visibility, people parking too close to corners making it harder to see. The city can do more on marking these areas and push for more enforcement of these infractions which are real safety issues.
RIBike: 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? Give us some insight into your decision making process and how you plan to balance the opinions of residents and business owners.
LP: I believe in some areas we can have dedicated bike lanes where there is ample space on the roads, though many housing locations may not have enough space or no parking for tenants. But I believe there are areas where this can occur. I am definitely for more bike corrals in areas throughout the city which are safe areas for people to store their bikes and that are also protected from cars damaging the bikes could encourage more biking. I would like to examine, with organizations like yours where we can locate lanes and corals that make sense particularly in concentrated areas where bikers tend to be.
RIBike: 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. Additionally, studies show people on bicycles spend more per month in local business districts than those arriving by other modes. What steps would you take to ensure that local businesses in your district benefit from better access by people who bike?
LP: I believe in working with all groups and creating consensus when it comes to areas that can impact people in all sectors, residents, tenants, landlords and businesses. I have been a trainer in Nonviolence based on Dr. King’s principles and steps since 1995, and one of the main areas of Nonviolence is working with all stake holders in any process or movement, even those that oppose our views. When we include everyone in the process we can hear all sides, even the ones we don’t like to hear because all have a piece of truth in their view. When we can state our opponent’s position as well as they can, then we can find the seeds to the solution that will work even though we may not get all that we want or that we think is right. That is my philosophy and what I have trained over 15,000 students in our city.
RIBike: Providence 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? How would you codify and strengthen the city’s position on Complete Streets? Please share how you prioritize walking, transit, bicycling, driving, and parking in your decisions.
LP: I would use the plan that is in place and look at more cities that utilize Complete Streets for best practices. When plans come before the council, I would utilize the road map laid out and make sure that we continue to work with that plan. Too many of our streets are prone to speeding and some of the solutions have not solved the problems and made them worse as I hear from many of the people that live on Messer St in my ward. I would like to work within our neighborhoods to identify areas of concern from our residents, particular when it comes to safety. By looking at other cities and the plans in Compete Streets we can make sure when roads are resurfaced that we continue to follow and implement those plans. As more development happens in the city we can codify that new projects implemented follow the Complete Streets program for safe design of roads and intersections with the ideas of multiple transportation modes in mind.
I would like safe ways for all pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. Our crosswalks would be a priority particularly around our schools, playgrounds and parks where there would be high concentration of pedestrian and bike traffic. We do have many poor in our inner city who rely on mass transit. I think this is always a priority and if we extend and have a more reliable mass transit we can hopefully move more cars off the roads. I have to say, I used to like it when there was no overnight parking in the city as it kept the streets clear at night, but as I stated before there are many housing units without or little parking and I understand the need for parking but we can also accommodate more biking lanes and areas for bikes. So my priorities would be safe intersections for all, second would be focusing on mass transit, as it works in all weather, thirdly would be protecting bikers, while still allowing parking, then roadways, though I do want our infrastructure to be taken care of, the roads and sidewalks are terrible in our ward. I have been walking everywhere, and many of the sidewalks are heaved up as much as 4 inches, but yet, we have handicap curbing, but fail to look beyond the corner.
RIBike: Do you have a biking or walking related story you’d like to tell? Want to go for a ride sometime?
LP: When I was in high school in Pittsburgh, I was a victim of a hit and run accident while on my bike, and it was very scary and sobering, this was in the 80’s and helmets were not prevalent. I did not sustain any head injury but was definitely banged up. This left an impression on me and though I have no children, I have 7 Godchildren who are from Liberia, and I bought them all bikes and of course helmets. We would ride either the East Bay Bike path or the Cranston Warwick bike path almost twice a month during the summer, but I always trained them on how to bike safely. Since both areas have ice cream shops near them, they always expected ice cream on the ride so it became part of our ride. I sure miss those days as they all have moved on to adulthood and most are out of state, but those were some of the best days.
I would love to go for a ride. I love our bike paths and can’t wait for more of them to be connected.