About half of the candidates in Alexandria’s upcoming mayoral and City Council elections say they believe Alexandria should do more to be a safe place for people to walk and bike. Here’s who they are, and some detail on the policies they’d back if elected.
The Alexandria’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) sent a survey to all the candidates, asking for their views on issues that people who walk and bike often face.
The survey questions covered street use and safety as well as walking and cycling issues. Specifics included quesitons about committing to a Complete Streets policy and expanding Capital Bikeshare.
Current mayor Bill Euille (D) is running for re-election as a write-in candidate after losing the Democratic primary to Allison Silberberg, the vice mayor of the City Council. While Euille’s responses make clear that he wants Alexandria to be more walkable and bikeable, Silberberg did not reply to the survey questions.
All six City Council spots are up for election. Respondents from that race include incumbent candidates John Taylor Chapman (D), Tim Lovain (D), and Justin Wilson (D), and Council challengers Monique Miles (R) and Townsend “Van” Van Fleet (D).
On making Alexandria’s streets safe for everyone
A few years ago, Alexandria passed a Complete Streets policy, which is meant to ensure the city’s streets provide a comfortable experience for all users: people who walk, people who bike, people who drive, and people who use public transportation. But this policy needs continued council and staff support to achieve its
Lovain and Miles gave the most detailed answers when asked how they would push Complete Streets forward. Lovain noted that he is a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, which helps promote Complete Streets policies throughout the US, and that he has pushed the Transportation Planning Board for the National Capital Region, which he will chair next year if re-elected, to follow Complete Streets principles.
“I can promise that, if I am re-elected, I will make sure that Alexandria continues and enhances its focus on Complete Streets in the years ahead,” Lovain said in his survey response.
Miles says complete communities make places healthier, happier, and more sustainable, and that Alexandria should continue to make obvious repairs to the transportation system. She adds that organizations like Alexandria LocalMotion and, with resident involvement, the Transportation Commission and Urban Design Board, are crucial parts of design in Alexandria.
Miles also stresses the importance of small area plans, saying that they should constantly revisit and study the Complete Streets criteria. “An example of this would be to focus on the upcoming implementation of the Beauregard Small Area Plan and ensuring that important road safety measures are included,” she said.
Chapman says he would continue to fund Complete Streets, and push for staff to work with neighborhoods on local projects.
Bill Euille says that as mayor, he would push the policy forward through “education, communications, outreach and advocacy,” and notes that the initiative passed under his administration. Townsend Van Fleet says he would endorse the policy.
On walking and cycling to Metro
Alexandria currently has four Metro stations within the city boundaries, and making it easier for people to walk or bike to them is key to helping to cut surrounding vehicle traffic.
Lovain suggests building a tunnel from the new Potomac Yard Trail to the Braddock Road station. He also says Alexandria needs “to proceed with the multi-modal bridge connecting Cameron Station to the Van Dorn Metro station.”
Van Fleet wants to make it safe to walk and bike to Metro, and ensure bike racks are available at stations. Bill Euille wants to add bike lanes and wayfinding. John Chapman wants to continue to push WMATA to redevelop stations, which he says would make access easier. Justin Wilson wants better trails and sidewalks.
Looking beyond walking and biking, Miles suggests that the city should explore “creative solutions” like the Old Town Trolley for areas outside of Old Town. “We must extend our reach beyond the half mile around a Metro station and ensure shuttles and other forms of transportation offer all residents the opportunity to have easy access to Metro stations,” she said.
On Union Street, where people on foot and bike often travel
Union Street near King Street is a popular place to walk, and Union Street is also a primary north-south bicycle route through Alexandria that connects to the Mount Vernon Trail. At times, especially on weekends, Union Street can become quite congested, challenging the users to share the road safely.
Solutions for the King and Union Street intersection include better signage, crosswalks and sidewalks, along with making sure people know about traffic laws and that they are enforced.
Lovain suggests exploring “an alternative north-south bicycle route through Old Town, such as on Royal Street,” noting “any such bike route should be implemented carefully in close consultation with the neighbors.”
Van Fleet calls for more law enforcement on Union Street, especially during peak travel times.
Wilson supports changing the road way to allow people who walk, bike and drive to safely operate in the corridor.
Euille sees better street design and police enforcement as holdovers until the pilot pedestrian plaza approved in 2012 is completed.
On expanding Capital Bikeshare
Alexandria currently has 16 CaBi stations, located in Old Town, Del Ray and Carlyle. There are also 16 more on the way next year. Most of these stations will be added on the eastern side of the city. With the National Science Foundation coming to Alexandria in 2017 and the Transportation Security Administration following in 2018, the city will need to continue to expand Bikeshare, especially in its north and west sections.
Wilson, a regular CaBi user, says he supports bringing in more stations as part of completing an “overall transportation picture”. Lovain thinks expansion should be done “strategically,” focusing on adding stations that are close to other stations. Chapman wants to see more stations in neighborhoods that don’t have them but “have infrastructure to support it.” Euille says he’ll seek grant money and other ways to support expanding bikeshare.
While she says she’s against “one bike rental company receiving city subsidies,” Miles says she wants more bikeshare options in Alexandria.
Van Fleet does not want to spend “any city funds on bikeshare, as it is a money making corporation”.
On walking and biking to school
Alexandria has over 14,000 students at 16 schools throughout the city. While some students walk and bike to the schools, the majority arrive either by bus or in private vehicles. If it encourage students to walk or bike to school, the city can combat traffic congestion, air pollution and childhood obesity and increase kids’ happiness and effectiveness in the classroom.
Townsend calls for “schools and parents to educate the children regarding safe practices when walking and biking” and wants “those who chose to break the law” to face consequences.
Wilson supports “expansion of the City’s Safe Routes to School efforts to improve the approaches to our school buildings.” He also believes “that biker and pedestrian education efforts need to be part of school curricula.”
Miles did not address walking and biking in her survey response.
Chapman “would work with the Alexandria City Public Schools to see if they consider pushing out the radius for bus service… but also make walking and biking a more explored option for families”. He also says he would “work with the school system to provide more crossing guards, as well as work with the PTA to provide parent volunteers.”
On calming traffic in neighborhoods
Drivers who are aggressive, speed, and don’t yield to people on foot are problems for most Alexandria neighborhoods.
Euille calls for “proper funding” for Alexandria’s Safe Streets and Complete Streets initiatives.
Wilson “strongly supports changes to the road space that are designed to force vehicle drivers to operate their vehicles more safely”. He also supports making Vision Zero happen in Alexandria.
Lovain says aggressive driving and disregard for pedestrians are serious problems in Alexandria, and points to Complete Streets principles as a way to promote safety.
Miles wants to assemble a “safe roads commission” to look at how to make Alexandria safer. She also says she’d like to address Alexandria’s street challenges with a “holistic approach” that accounts for how the city fits with the entire region, what’s financially feasible, and what residents want.
Van Fleet says traffic safety is “a law enforcement problem.”
On achieving goals laid out in the city’s transportation plan
Alexandria is updating the bicycle and pedestrian chapters of its transportation master plan to reflect changes that have occurred since 2008. The new chapters should go before City Council late this year.
A recent city audit of its own performance revealed that parts of what the 2008 plan called for, particularly regarding pedestrians and bicycles, hasn’t gone into place.
While acknowledging that funding has been a factor in missing the goals, Wilson says he is “committed to the vision of the 2008 plan, and will work to provide the resources to see it to completion.”
“We should also prioritize unfinished efforts to make sure the resources are available,” Lovain says.
Euille and Chapman are committed to the plan, with Euille calling for “adequate funding” and Chapman saying he’ll work with city staff to “determine a plan.”
Miles says there is “no reason that the 2008 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan should not have been completely implemented.” She further adds that “City Council and staff revisited the plan in 2014 and spent more time studying and updating the plan before the original plan had even been completely implemented.”
The elections are next Tuesday, November 3. If you live in Alexandria, make sure to exercise your right to vote for the candidates who support your views.