As an advocate for biking, walking and transit, I find the mayoral contest a conundrum. While our city has made great strides, much remains to be done, and after scouring the websites of all the candidates, I’m feeling underwhelmed.
Sure, all of the candidates pay lip service to biking and public transit. Several feature photos on bikes and near light-rail stations.
Still, none have bold ideas to reduce car traffic and move the city in a new direction. The conversation that needs to happen hasn’t even started.
Mayoral candidates: What is your goal for reducing traffic in your first term? Is it 2 percent? Is it 5 percent? How many car lane miles will you eliminate? How many miles of cycle track will you build?
The idea isn’t to take all the cars off the streets. It is to make the streets safer and level the playing field for everyone. But no one is committing to the steps that could make it happen. Here are a few:
1) Add smart meters to the dozens of places around the city where the economics warrant. This builds the revenue for pedestrian and bike improvements while nudging drivers to reconsider their habit. Price these meters to meet market demand. As demand goes up, raise the price to capture the revenue.
2) Reduce lanes with “road diets.” Take a lane away from the big streets and add cycle tracks or dedicated transit lanes.
3) Make big investments in bike advocacy and education.
4) Invest in the big projects like streetcars but also in bread-and-butter bus service. More frequency, better shelters, new routes.
5) Ditch the minimum car parking requirement and replace it with a maximum car parking requirement. Actively seek out new developments with no car parking.
6) Minimum bike parking requirements for developments, and incentives/requirements for landlords to provide sheltered bike parking for all residents.
7) Add 20,000 bollards. Separated cycle tracks work!
8) Create new car-free streets, like Milwaukee Avenue in the Seward neighborhood.
9) Double and triple funding for the bike/pedestrian coordinator’s office, giving them real tools to remake the streetscape.
10) Stop listening to county planners who tell us that traffic grows inevitably. It doesn’t. If you build it, they will drive. If you don’t, they won’t. Let’s set real targets for traffic reduction and enjoy a city for people, not cars.
Maybe next election we’ll see some substantial commitments from candidates. Or maybe the winner of this election will surprise us. In the meantime, I have a few days to rank my choices. Sigh.
Jeff Carlson lives in Minneapolis.