On Two Wheels
If there is one thing I know about myself it is that when my speaking time is limited there is always something I'm not able to say. Additionally, I like to think before I speak, so a timed answer on the spot is not always my best work. I'm sure I am not unique in this respect. During this campaign season I'm confident that after every forum I will be haunted by the things I wished I had said in the moment. The Democratic Women's Caucus Forum on Thursday night was no exception. Fortunately (or unfortunately) blogging gives ample opportunity to give a more complete answer.
Q: Bloomington markets itself to seniors as a great place to retire. What are your views of the transportation options in our city knowing that many seniors are not comfortable riding a bicycle or scooter?
The gist of what I said . . .
Bloomington Transit's Access bussing is an option that gives seniors door to door service.
I know there is conflict regarding building additional bike infrastructure, but there doesn't need to be. Not everyone is able to bike, but a large percentage of the Bloomington population is on the younger side and are able to bike. When more bikes are on the road, there are fewer cars out there, which cuts down on traffic congestion and frees up parking spaces for people who aren't able to bicycle. The best cycling streets are not the best streets to drive on, so if bikes can primarily use neighborhood streets and cars can use the larger roadways, then everyone can get where they are going.
Some things I wish I had said . . .
This question sets up a conflict between population groups-seniors vs. cyclists. Even larger-drivers vs. cyclists (which assumes all seniors drive-you know what they say about assuming). First, we don't need to create more conflict in this world. Re-framing the question so it is less of a set up would make it less likely to trigger defensiveness for cyclists or seniors.
Next, setting up the question in this way disregards seniors, like my father-in-law, who are also cyclists. Many seniors enjoy riding their bicycles. It is a great fitness benefit and a helpful way to get around and run errands. Electric bicycles are opening up this mode of transportation to a wider range of abilities. Building good bicycle infrastructure means seniors on bikes can get around safely too!
Climate change is an urgent concern! The more cars we can get off the road, the better in terms of climate issues. The Bloomington Climate Action Plan has very modest goals with regard to shifting modes of transportation, including decreasing single occupancy car trips by 8% and increasing bicycle and pedestrian commutes by 1.2%. It is worth city investment in infrastructure to encourage those who are able to bike to actually bike.
Last, the BT Access bussing option is great, but there are barriers to it's use, which can make it challenging. For example, the application process could prove difficult and having to book your trip 24+ hours in advance with potential penalties for cancellations, might be challenging for people whose condition is not always predictable. These are unfortunate side effects of aging. It is important to have multiple transportation options available for populations who might have special needs, like seniors, and to foster community based support options (volunteer networks, church communities, neighbors, etc.) who can be called upon if needed for errands or trips.
My family is a family of cyclists, but we also drive. Our minor children ride bikes, walk to nearby attractions, and ride the bus back and forth to school. My spouse is an avid runner. We have senior family members living in Bloomington who each have unique transportation needs. I value options that are environmentally sustainable. I am dedicated to making sure that all users have the infrastructure they need to travel safely, whether they are traveling by bicycle, scooter, bus, personal vehicle, or their own two feet.