The Democratic primary election for the Arlington County Board is next Tuesday, June 9th. Chris Slatt of Arlington submitted questions to each of the candidates and 5 of the 6 responded. The questions, and their responses (in random order) are below.
1) Do you ride a bike? If so, tell us about your riding.
James Lander: I own a bike and I enjoy leisurely riding, but I haven’t had the opportunity to ride as much as I would like given my work responsibilities and civic engagement. My wife and I have agreed to make time to ride this coming summer, once school ends.
Christian Dorsey: I am a recreational cyclist who uses my bike mostly to ride our local trails and to run errands in south Arlington. I once commuted to work (into the District) on my bike, and while I found that invigorating, I mostly commute via bus.
Katie Cristol: I’m a pretty infrequent rider in Arlington - just the occasional BikeShare rental for a recreational outing. (Although because I work from home, technically most of my transportation of any form is for recreation!)
Peter Fallon: No, but as the parent of a 2yo and 6yo, I am teaching my 6yo to ride her bike. I look forward to when we can all bike to school together instead of walking. For safety, I often take the kids to either Long Bridge Park’s esplanade or our local school’s parking lot.
Andrew Schneider: I ride a Trek Hybrid. Basically, my riding is mostly recreational since I work out of my house. If elected, I will use my bike to commute (some) to the County Offices. I occasionally ride my bike to go to the pool, my parent’s house, or quick errands. That said, I am a “concerned” cyclist and don’t always feel comfortable either solo or with my kids on some of the more congested roads in Arlington.
2) What do you see as the role of cycling in Arlington?
Schneider: There are three primary roles for cycling in Arlington. First, cycling should be a viable commuting option and linkage to our transit system (bus and rail). Secondly, cycling should be a feasible option for short trips and errands around the County; again this keeps cars off the roads. Third, cycling should continue to be a recreational activity for our residents.
Lander: Cycling continues to play an ever-increasing role as a primary means of commuting for more Arlingtonians. As our community seeks to be more creative and innovative in it’s thinking about multi-modal options for transportation, integrating cycling into our strategy should be a focal point for community dialogue. Making our streets and pathways safe for year-round cycling commuters is something that I fully support.
Dorsey: Cycling is both a key component of a multi-modal transportation network and an essential recreational activity for children, prime aged adults and seniors. As such, it is critical that our thoroughfares be made safe for commuting cyclists and that our bike paths be well maintained to facilitate safe, and convenient travel for cyclists, walkers, etc.
Cristol: I see cycling - and transit alternatives in general - as part of an interlocking set of planning and growth strategies. For example, I see biking as a possible driver of economic redevelopment on Columbia Pike (because we know that bike commuters are more likely to stop and patronize local businesses), and even as a possible way of tackling housing affordability in our urban villages in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor (because parking-space minimums increase rent by restricting housing supply, and having more transit alternatives - like bike infrastructure - makes it feasible for Arlington to grant flexibilities on parking minimums).
A robust cycling culture and infrastructure in Arlington also allows us to score high on “livability” indices for groups like young professionals and retirees, and to stand out as the healthiest community in Virginia.
Fallon: I see cycling as both a pleasure/recreation activity and a true transportation alternative to cars. Cycling is ideal for many commuters and for running errands, as local transportation around Arlington. I would like to see cycling become more popular among shoppers along our retail corridors.
3) What should the county do, if anything, to get more people to bike?
Fallon: Arlington should continue participating in the Capital BikeShare program. I would like to add bike sharing stations to hotel site plans to enable visitors easy access. Arlington needs to take steps to make cycling safer by adding bike lanes and improving trail connections. We need to continue/expand our bike education programs. I would encourage a greater role for cycling in our TDM programs. We should partner with APS to encourage more students to ride to school.
Schneider: Here are a few things that the County can do:
- Update the Cycling element of the Master Transportation Plan.
- Improve signage for existing bike routes
- Develop a complete North South bicycle corridor through the County
- Complete the Hoffman-Boston Connector to the 12th Street bike boulevard
- Improve the Intersection of Doom so people are not daunted to ride their bike in Rosslyn.
Lander: As a county our messaging should be consistent, integrated, and holistic with regard to the benefits of protecting the environment and healthy living. Cycling is a valuable component of our values. As a leader and member of the school board, I facilitated opportunities for “Bike to School” days as part of our meeting the needs of the whole child initiative. As your county board member, I will lead an effort to encourage more citizens to bike to work, even offering incentives for cyclist. I support changing rooms, showers, and secure overnight storage onsite for workers who are cyclist.
Dorsey: I think Arlington has already implemented programs that aid in continuing to make biking a viable option for those who choose it. The myriad resources available to cyclists on Bike Arlington allow both novice and experienced cycling commuters to find safe routes, parking and other facilities to aid in their travel.
Complete streets efforts also provide the necessary infrastructure to make cycling safe and convenient.
Arlington’s overall efforts should be designed to ensure all modes provide the user with maximum safety, affordability and convenience.
Cristol: My read is that Arlington currently does a good job supporting those who already have decided to bike (e.g. prioritizing plowing commuter bike trails during snowstorms), and has made some great efforts to tackle some of the barriers to biking - particularly with its investments in Capital BikeShare, which addresses a number of convenience issues that might otherwise keep residents from biking.
To go further, we should pursue protected lanes (where consistent with community vision for redevelopment, as on the Pike or potentially emerging in the Lee Highway Alliance community process), to help encourage less-confident bikers to try a bike commute or take more bike trips for shopping and recreation. Beyond that, I look forward to working with the bike community to learn more about the obstacles they see to biking, and the right planning and policy steps to address them at the County level.
4) How would you approach the decision making process on a project like the Washington Blvd Trail which puts two Arlington priorities at odds? (In this case cycling infrastructure and tree canopy)
Cristol: This is a great question with resonance well beyond just the bike community. In general, I’m always inclined to ask for more context before accepting that there are only two sides or options to an issue and picking one (for example, based on what I’ve heard while knocking doors in the Penrose neighborhood, the Washington Boulevard Trail debate was as much about concurrent VDOT undertakings in the area as about “bikes vs. trees”). As a County Board member, it’s not always possible to knock on doors before every vote, but I do believe Board members can communicate to staff - via the County Manager - that they’d like evidence of broader contextual consideration before deciding on a recommendation. I think it’s also fair to expect that Board members visit sites, walk proposed trails, etc. before making major decisions (as a way of gathering that context and asking thoughtful questions), and that’s a commitment I would make.
Fallon: The county board often needs to evaluate proposals with competing priorities. It is important to listen to all sides, try to identify common ground and find consensus. We are creative problem solvers in Arlington, and we have many knowledgeable experts in our community to help us find the best solution. I believe we can improve safety, while preserving our tree canopy.
Schneider: Through dialogue and compromise. I think ultimately the WB trail in the end saves more trees because of the reduction of cars on the streets. I think we can continue to look for ways to grow our tree canopy through our existing urban forestry program, through our parks, and through residential assistance programs that encourages developing our tree canopy.
Lander: My approach will be how do we accomplish the most for the long term; bike trails, trees, green space all of these things are long term investments. I would want to speak directly to the cycling commission, county staff, and arborists to determine what’s the best path for the trail and how do we preserve as many trees as possible. I would also be interested in determining are there alternative routes that would also provide safety and interconnection to other bike trails. There are often competing priorities when making decisions on how to best serve the community. I will approach each decision with an open mind and respect the opinions of those who differ.
Dorsey: To be sure, the loss of 140 mature trees should not be taken lightly. Even with nearly 150% replacement, it will take decades for the tree canopy to be functionally replaced. However, it will be replaced, and the positive benefits of greater north-south connectivity through Penrose and the other benefits of the trail will make cycling more viable through south Arlington. On balance, for me it is an acceptable compromise
5) Many board members have been supportive of cycling, but few are true champions. Would you be a supportive board member or a champion?
Dorsey: I don’t have a great depth of knowledge about cycling issues, and I feel our current policies for promoting cycling and developing bike infrastructure are appropriate, I don’t think I merit consideration as a “champion.”
That said, my support is unqualified. Cycling is an inherent component of a sustainable multi-modal approach to transportation. There is more for us to do--certainly-- but we must manage our cycling investments among other priorities. Among the areas I would like to see planned and resources committed in the future is a full Arlington Boulevard connection from Falls Church through Arlington.
Cristol: I aspire to be a champion. To me, the difference between support and championship is where an issue fits into a leader’s overall vision for Arlington. And although I can’t guarantee that I will always agree with bike advocates on each issue that may come before the Board, I do see biking as a strategy for economic redevelopment and affordability (as detailed in Question #1) and therefore will actively look for ways to further biking in our community
Fallon: With the help of the cycling community, I would strive to become a champion. The cycling community has many strong advocates, along with dedicated county staff.
Schneider: I am not sure that this is my place to say, but I will say as a member of the Arlington Transportation Commission and an advocate of multi-modal and environmentally friendly solutions, I would aspire to be a Champion
Lander: I will be a champion! I’m not able to commit to becoming an everyday cyclist myself at this time. However, I will be a champion for those who do and encourage those who would like too. I’m also interested in exploring ways to increase donations of bikes to low income families to ensure we are inclusive in our efforts to be true champions for all Arlingtonians!
6) Under what circumstances, if any, would you support removing parking to install bike infrastructure?
Lander: I don’t think we have to make a choice of bike storage versus parking. I believe there is room for both. If forced to make a choice, it would depend on what the conditions, location, and ridership was at the particular location. Difficult to answer hypothetically and without more specifics, but I would seek to create more onsite storage for cyclist as part of a larger strategy to promote biking to work.
Dorsey: I have, on behalf of my organization’s commuting cyclists, negotiated with our building owner to build a secure facility for bike parking and storage. In our case, one space needed to be taken offline. We were successful, largely because the owner found other ways to add that space in our high demand building.
The lesson learned is that it is an easy conversation with a parking owner/operator if it ends up being revenue neutral after a modest initial investment.
Cristol: In some circumstances, I think this could be a good choice. Criteria I’d consider would include:
- Whether there is other mass transportation infrastructure to absorb resident (and worker, and consumer) transit needs to help offset the removed parking;
- Coherence with the land use plans (e.g. sector plans; revitalization plans; neighborhood conservation plans) in the area or neighborhood
Fallon: I would certainly be interested in any project that promoted safety for cyclists or encouraged cycling. In many cases, abundant off-street parking is available, or along nearby streets.
Schneider: Like most tough public decisions, we would have to seriously weigh the public good vs. cost. I could see many instances where reducing parking while increasing bike infrastructure could reduce parking demand due to the increase in cycling as a means of transportation.
7) Do you support "road diets" as Arlington has done in the past on Shirlington Drive and is installing on Wilson Blvd this summer which remove travel lanes on streets to provide accommodations for other modes of travel like bicycles?
Schneider: Yes. I think that these must be communicated effectively and transparently with time for people to understand and adjust. They can’t be viewed as punitive or shortsighted. But, I wholeheartedly support them especially where protected lanes can be incorporated (maybe not feasible on Wilson Blvd but feasible where there is existing parking or an existing unprotected bike lane.)
Lander: I have supported “road diets” in Arlington to remove motor vehicle lanes to create space for bicycle lanes. Essentially road diets help to make streets better able to accommodate all potential users including bicyclists, drivers, transit riders and pedestrians.
Dorsey: I really like that we are pursuing the Wilson Blvd. road diet project as a pilot program. I feel the residents around Boulevard Manor, Ashlawn and Dominion Hills along with complete streets project management staff will benefit greatly from the empirical evidence on how this will work.
The objectives--increasing pedestrian safety, providing routes for cyclists and reducing vehicle speeds are necessary. We will see how that balances with congestion and if any unintended consequences develop so that as we pursue road re-channelizations all along Wilson and elsewhere, we will be able to apply best practices.
The Shirlington Road road diet has been successful, but is not a precisely applicable precedent because the number of vehicle trips is of a different magnitude than on Wilson.
Cristol: I unfortunately haven’t studied this approach in sufficient depth to make a categorical statement of support. From what I understand, however, this technique is designed to accommodate bike and pedestrian lanes on our roads without diverting traffic onto smaller, neighborhood streets - both objectives that I do support.
Fallon: Again, I’d be interested in any project that promoted safety for cycling or pedestrians, and expanded modal choice. Analysis is needed to ensure that vehicular traffic isn’t diverted into neighborhoods
8) If elected, what do you hope to have accomplished to make Arlington a better place for cycling by the end of your first term?
Fallon: I would hope to see an expansion of bike lanes and other infrastructure. I’d like to see us ready to implement a safety project for the Lee Hwy/N. Lynn St. intersection in Rosslyn. I would like to see Arlington continue to be recognized nationally as a great community for cycling, where cycling is viewed by many residents as an integral part of the transportation framework.
Lander: In my first term, I would consider myself successful if I could get the bike trails plowed in the winter months and roads re-surfaced to ensure better safety for cyclist. I would also lead an effort to get families of lower economic status access to bicycles through a low or no-cost program in partnership with the county.
Schneider: A complete system of routes throughout the County, that is well layed out with clear signage, understandable to the lay/interested cyclist, and safe for commuters, recreational and occasional cyclists, alike
Dorsey: I would want to have established empirical best practices from which to determine how and where we establish complete streets in Arlington. If the Wilson project proves successful, I would want that to be fully funded by the end of my first term.
I would also want to find financing to fund a basic trail along Arlington Boulevard into the District.
Cristol: I’ve spoken on the campaign trail about making it easier to “bike the Pike” — I know the County is already laying the groundwork for some of these efforts with the Pike Multimodal Plan, so I hope to build on those efforts and partner with the robust community of Pike advocates, neighbors and business to achieve some of that vision. I’d also hope to help broker relationships between bike advocates and other stakeholders along the Pike — including schools and family groups, and low-income and new American groups — to help ensure that our vision for “bikability” on the Pike addresses some of the obstacles to biking that these groups often experience.
9) Is there anything else you would like to share with the Arlington cycling community?
Cristol: Thanks for the opportunity to learn about your priorities in this questionnaire; I hope we’ll continue the conversation
Fallon: I consider cycling to an integral part of our transportation network. It is a valid alternative to driving or transit for many residents. As a former member of the county planning and transportation commissions, I worked on the MTP for five years. I have a strong record of support for cycling infrastructure, both as community benefits and site plan conditions. If elected, I look forward to working with leader of Arlington’s cycling community to further this agenda.
Lander: My knowledge and awareness regarding the advantages of implementing road diets, including increased economic activity without reduced road capacity is steadily increasing. I look forward to learning more on the subject and promoting policies to encourage cycling, and making it safer to do so in Arlington.
Schneider: I promise I will always listen. I know I don’t have all the answers and that I will rely on the subject matter experts to help me make informed and forward thinking decisions. I will remain committed to funding cycling programs (and oppose proposed cuts) and will work with the cycling community and WABA to ensure we provide our citizens, community, and region a safe and comprehensive cycling system throughout the County.
Dorsey: Thank you for the opportunity share my thoughts about these issues.