Tritag is a local advocacy group that promotes transit and active transportation in order to make Waterloo Region a better place to live. They asked municipal election candidates to complete a survey.
Here are my responses to their questions to candidates for Kitchener City Council. I am one of two Ward 3 candidates to respond.
2. Have you signed the #CycleWR “I Bike I Vote” pledge?
Yes (Note: I’m the only Ward 3 candidate who has signed.)
3 (a). What will you do to ensure sidewalks are accessible and consistently cleared of snow in winter?
An important first step is revising the bylaw for clearing sidewalks of snow. Right now it is not enforced until 24 hours after a snow storm but if it snows again within that 24 hour period, the clock is reset. That can happen several times meaning the original snowfall is not cleared. So although the city is testing a proactive approach to enforcement, it may still take too long for that to happen. One possible change is that we could expect sidewalks cleared within 12 hours, but if the city declares a “Snow Event” give the same time to clear sidewalks as the city has for streets.
I supported the staff proposal to pilot different options for the city to take an active role in clearing snow off sidewalks. A decision on these options was unfortunately deferred until spring 2019. I intend to support testing those options.
My February 2017 column in The Community Edition shares some of my pragmatic ideas for addressing this issue.
3 (b). Few gaps in the sidewalk network were closed between 2014-18. What will you do to expedite sidewalk infill on streets that lack sidewalks on both sides?
As someone who regularly walks to get around, I was pleased when the city developed a rating system to depoliticize decisions around sidewalk infill. So I am disappointed if that did not result in an increase in filling in gaps and would like to understand why. It sounds like it may be necessary for Council to direct staff to set targets.
I believe that it is important that feedback on adding missing sidewalks is about how best to do it and not about if it is desired. The city then needs to make sure that people feel their feedback is heard even if it is not incorporated. Where possible though, let’s work with residents on the developing the best design.
I believe street trees are important for the experience of people walking and to encourage more people to walk more often. So I believe that healthy, mature street trees are a reason to hold off a sidewalk infill project.
4 (a). What will you do to ensure new development helps to build walkable communities, encouraging walking, cycling, and taking transit to schools, jobs, and amenities?
I consider The Happy City by Charles Montgomery an excellent guide to building happy, healthy cities and neighbourhoods that include these features.
When this new development takes place in Ward 3, I intend to work with developers and staff to influence this result. I am open to opportunities when it is appropriate and possible for me to work with my colleagues and/or staff on developments in other parts of the city. When that hasn’t happened and it comes to Council or a Council committee, I intend to ask questions related to these features especially if they are absent or have room for improvement.
4 (b). Will you reduce or eliminate parking minimums from zoning bylaws and Official Plans?
I support the reduction and possibly elimination of parking minimums in areas that are highly walkable, have access to a connected network of bike lanes and trails and have frequent public transit. Reductions may also be possible where one or two of those conditions exist.
There may be other ways to achieve the same goal as Vancouver’s former chief planner Brent Toderian has tweeted, “Before urbanists advocate the removal of parking minimums, which I understand in theory, I note that in practice, #Vancouver has used a low parking minimum combined with built-in incentives to get to zero, to achieve the same thing plus extra bike infrastructure, #carshare, etc.”
5. Will you change street and intersection design to prioritize a reduction in the number of traffic deaths? If so, how will you accomplish this?
Safer roads for everyone is a key part of my platform and a top issue in Ward 3.
I embrace the Vision Zero approach to road safety that believes no deaths or serious injuries on our roads are acceptable. If the city adopts that vision it prioritizes safe street design and determining how to improve design when a death or serious injury occurs.
I intend to work with residents and staff on problem areas in Ward 3 such as in front of Wilson School to prevent serious incidents. If one should occur, addressing that problem spot will be a top priority.
We need to have a conversation about lowering speed limits on residential roads. If when people drive at 50 km/h (and faster) they hit someone walking or riding a bike, the odds are extremely high they will die. Survival rates increase at lower speeds. Our streets are designed for the speed limit in place for residential streets so that is why new streets encourage speed. A lower speed limit means we design streets to slow traffic.