Council Candidates on Bicycling and Walking in Civic Life

In the week starting on Oct. 22, Albany Patch will publish responses to five questions on cycling and walking posed to Albany City Council Candidates.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.

Question 1: What do you see as the role of bicycling and walking in our civic life?


I am a huge bicycling and walking enthusiast! My family and I walk and bike many places for transportation, for exercise and to spend time outdoors. One of the things I love most about Albany is its walkability. There are many days I can go without driving my car at all, which makes me very happy. As a City Council candidate, my vision is for Albany to be a model for an ecologically healthy city. Safe and accessible pedestrian and bicycle routes are critical to this model and will be a priority of mine if I am elected. Safe biking and walking in civic life benefits personal health, planetary health and community building. It also adds to the charm and vitality of our city and encourages people to stay local, which stimulates our local economy. Walkability has also been linked to higher property values which also increases city revenue.


I believe it was Lewis Mumford who said in effect that one could choose between cities that were designed well for cars or cities that were well designed, but you couldn’t have both. If we are to have a functional and positive urban experience here in Albany, we need to turn away from the auto centric urban design that governed much of the last century. Walking, bicycling and public transit are the key components to this alternative urban design. The term I like, which I got from Christopher Leinberger’s book, The Promise of Urbanism, is “walkable urban”.


The role of bicycling and walking is an important part of our transportation and environmental systems; walking and cycling promote healthy lifestyles for people of all ages and physical abilities. The transportation system needs to include safe access for those with disabilities.


As co-founder of Albany Strollers & Rollers, I believe they are important modes of transportation. Both are forms of active transportation which promote exercise, getting outdoors, and therefore health and personal well-being. Their impact on the populace is to foster people-to-people interactions, and community. Their impact on our infrastructure is much lower than other forms of transportation, and so they should be promoted as much as possible for cost savings as well. We owe it to ourselves to make walking and bicycling around town as pleasant and as easy as possible for all of these reasons.


I don’t see biking as having much to do with civic life. It is an effective mode of transportation and recreation, but almost any recreational ride takes you outside of our small city. Walking, on the other hand, is intimately tied to our civic life. Sidewalks are where we see our neighbors and fellow citizens.
I have been reading Jane Jacob’s classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” She devotes the first three chapters of the book to the uses of sidewalks. I love her perspective on sidewalks. So I am a big fan of a complex network of dedicated pedestrian-only walking paths. Err, sidewalks.
For trips under half a mile, I think kids should walk. It can be a much more relaxing social activity for them than riding a bike. Some kids have longer school commutes than that, for example, high school kids who live in the Pierce St. condos. Bike riding is a good option for them.
I am an avid bike commuter and a hard-riding recreational cyclist and occasional racer. I still maintain my USA cycling racing license (#57955), and I am a member of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club. So far this year I have put well over 1,000 miles each on three different bicycles—my commute bike, and two different road bikes. In the 6.5 years I have been working at UC Berkeley, I have driven my car only once, and that was a sunny day when I had to deliver some art supplies to my office. I am an assertive but legal rider. I have never been doored, although my pannier was once, years ago. I don’t have opinions about dedicated bike/pedestrian trails, because I almost never use them. I find them to be very dangerous. I guess that’s an opinion.
I tend to ride on quiet streets, including those that are designated for biking. I commute to UC Berkeley via Milvia St. I like the Hillegass/Shafter/Webster bike route to Oakland and other routes than I have found using the bike option on Google Maps.


I think these active modes of transport are crucial to a healthy community in many different ways, the health and environmental benefits being only the most obvious. I have always chosen to live in a walkable community. I believe being outdoors and interacting with the community — even if it is just smiling as you ride by — roots one in the community while strengthening that community.
Specifically for Albany, increased biking and walking will be crucial to achieving our Climate Action Plan goals. Reviewing the CAP suggests to me that reducing emissions from transportation will have to make up a big part of our efforts. Albany is already a very walkable city — with its small size, it’s a natural. So it’s a matter of enhancing what we already have.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Albany 2012 Election Guide here.

Robert Smith October 22, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Mr. Barnes, I can't belive how cranky you are. Is cantankerousness a quality we seek in our Councilmembers? Bikes are not a viable form of transportation in our town for less than half a mile trips? That's ridiculous....ah uh ...I'm speechless...
Ross Stapleton-Gray October 22, 2012 at 03:52 PM
That's a ridiculously uncharitable reading of what he said. The point I'd take is that this is an eminently walkable town, and while (and clearly for him) biking trumps driving, there are good reasons to opt for walking whenever possible.
Jim Beller October 22, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Pete Maass is the only candidate whose statement recognizes the importance of public transit in getting people out of their cars. It is the difference between getting exercise and getting stuff done: For instance, with a good public transit system a walker can go grocery shopping and take a bus home - especially an important option in inclement weather.
Lise Solomon October 22, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I am curious to hear candidates comments on specifics such as how to make Target a walkable/bikeable destination.
Robert Smith October 22, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Mr. Stapleton-Gray, his first two sentances are: "I don’t see biking as having much to do with civic life. It is an effective mode of transportation and recreation, but almost any recreational ride takes you outside of our small city." Whether or not he owns a bike or not, that's something a curmudgeon would say. Someone who doesn't recognize that small children get tired after a mile, and that other folks are not as fit as he. It's so far from what a thoughtful person would say, that I had to comment on it. He has one sentence with any substance about walking: "It can be a much more relaxing social activity for them than riding a bike." Do people without cars walk to the store for a 'social activity'? That is pretty elitist.
Ross Stapleton-Gray October 22, 2012 at 05:09 PM
You're struggling to find clouds to wrap around any silver lining you might see. His second sentence is a positive affirmation of biking for transportation; his bottom line is that, given our particular circumstances, walking ends up being better for many things. Albany's geography favors walking (or busing on the major through roads--San Pablo and Solano), which isn't a knock on bikes. I used to bike to AMS (all the way across town) with my older daughter, until the need to transport a cello made taking the car the better option; I now walk my younger one to AMS nearly every school day, and the approx. five miles I log each week day is healthy exercise. And we get to talk, which is a lot less workable when biking.
Robert Smith October 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Maybe it's petty of me to focus on the fact that the candidate seems to think what works for him, works for everyone. I should focus on the issues in making my descision on who to vote for, not his attitude.
Stewart Gooderman October 22, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I would like to hear how the candidates intend to enforce the rules of bicycling in Albany.
Leslie J. Gold October 22, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I'd be interested in hearing about the candidates' plans regarding AC Transit. For example, route 25 did not "replace" the 15, it essentially decimated it, as the run from Solano to El Cerrito Plaza is now only once an hour and very limited hours at that.
Robert Smith October 22, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Sir, the police are in charge of enforcement of Ca. Vehicle Code, including cars and rickshaws.
Robert Smith October 22, 2012 at 09:30 PM
That is a great specific request.
Randell October 22, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I like Michael's statement about being a legal rider. I would like to see more people act responsibly when walking or riding a bicycle. People drive cars while drunk or on drugs. Folks experience physically impairing health problems or mechanical failures while driving a car. The list goes on but the fact is these things happen every day and pedestrians or people on bikes can get hurt if they do not stop, slow down or at least look when crossing the street. In many parts of Copenhagen, Denmark; there are roads where car lanes and bike lanes are separated by a lane for parked cars. Although it seems an ideal situation, it only works because people on bikes all stop at intersections when required by law. When I walk, drive or ride a bicycle through town, I hope to enjoy the experience and not feel as though I am battling people using other means of conveyance. Although there is no perfect road design or set of rules - cooperation and civility will certainly help.
Robert Smith October 22, 2012 at 10:00 PM
It is only a statement. He does not come to a complete stop at every stop sign, count S-T-O-P, and then resume his transit. I SAY that I ride legally, but I roll through stop signs at 1-3 miles per hour when there is no other traffic.
paul1 October 22, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Exactly how much do you think a city council member can do to make bicyclists stop at stop signs? In any case, I certainly hope they don't waste their time trying to figure that out. I'm also not very interested in a candidate who's strongest statement in favor of bicycling as a transportation mode in town is that he himself cycles. Also, the blanket statement that people should walk to their destinations if less than 1/2 mile rather than bike strikes me as unthinking. Think of how busy the average person is, and how much longer it takes to walk than bike. Why should people not save time by riding? Why the "should" at all? Strikes me as really silly, and in fact, belies his lack of desire to promote cycling over, e.g., autos for travel to local destinations.
Dover October 22, 2012 at 11:49 PM
"Also, the blanket statement that people should walk to their destinations if less than 1/2 mile rather than bike strikes me as unthinking." What article are you reading? This is what he actually said: "For trips under half a mile, I think kids should walk. It can be a much more relaxing social activity for them than riding a bike." Hardly the "blanket statement" you describe.
paul1 October 23, 2012 at 12:44 AM
fine, kids then. Still a blanket statement. And only kids should have to walk if it's 1/2 mile or less? An even stranger blanket statement.
Michael Barnes October 23, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Lise, Here is some information on the Complete Streets process. The city will be holding public workshops in early December that will answer many of our concerns. The timing is good, since it is after the Nov. 6 election, but before new council members are seated. http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=18&recordid=1977&returnURL=%2Findex.aspx
Dover October 23, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Did he say kids HAVE to walk under any circumstances? I must have missed that part. It's painfully obvious you don't have any kids. Maybe that's why you are having trouble understanding his opinion.
paul1 October 23, 2012 at 02:03 AM
huh? having trouble understanding an opinion about kids because I have no kids? Nice logic! Would I also not be able to understand opinions about bicycles if I didn't have one of those? Imagine the trouble we'd all be in if your reasoning were correct. It also cannot be "painfully obvious" that I have no kids if in fact I do have any, which I do. But of course, whether or not I have kids is irrelevant to the points raised as well, just like your usual niggling about word choices.
Dover October 23, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I do find it odd that you have kids yet don't seem to understand the social and physical benefits of kids walking to school with their friends or their siblings. Instead, you seem to view it as a form of punishment. It's not. Word choices are very important and you, of all people, should understand why. ;-)
MYC October 23, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Just what we need. It's an obstacle for reason. Please put your money into Albany, not Target.
Peggy McQuaid October 23, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Target is in Albany and pays a large amount in taxes to the City. They also make sizeable donations to the schools and city.
Amy Smolens October 23, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Lise, the Buchanan Street cycling project will include a westbound bike lane and an east bound two-way bike path (to best serve Ocean View students.) Buchanan Street will then be more navigable for bike trips to Target and the Waterfront.
Nick Pilch October 23, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Thank you for the question Lise and thanks for the info Amy. The Buchanan St. path is on it's way, but one even bigger improvement is planned but not funded. As Amy said, over the next year, a new path along the south side of Buchanan will be built and a new signal and crossing is going to be put at Pierce and Buchanan. As part of this, the street that cuts in front of the entrance to the overpass path will be closed, which will make getting to the path safer. Better yet is extending the sidewalk that ends north of Target so it follows up and around to Buchanan at Pierce directly, where it would connect with the new crossing there. This is project 13 of Albany's Active Transportation Plan, adopted last year. You can see a map of all this on page 4 of the pdf at http://albanypedbikeplan.fehrandpeers.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/6-r_Part3.pdf (the file is 6 Mb, so it might take awhile to appear). Look for the dashed red line. This project is in the highest priority category, but there is no funding yet. If elected, I will pursue grants to design and implement this project.
Nick Pilch October 23, 2012 at 06:41 AM
I support restoring funding and restoring service to AC Transit. Measure B1, if it passes, will bring funding levels back up for AC Transit. Albany has the opportunity to lobby for AC Transit at the Alameda County Transportation Commission, at which Albany has a seat. I would take advantage of this opportunity to do whatever possible to protect AC Transit funding, increase it, and restore lost service.
Robert Smith October 23, 2012 at 07:46 PM
C'mon...when my kids ride to school on their unicycles juggling flaming swords between them, they are never more socially and physically close.
paul1 October 24, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Oh I'm sure nearly everyone grasps that platitude. Fortunately, nothing in my posts has suggested I think otherwise. The tactic of attributing to others (me in this case) silly positions they (I) don't hold, or a lack of understanding in something everyone gets, is a frequent approach for you on the Patch, but I suppose vaguely appropriate in this case, since Barnes has lauded such tactics in the past: http://albany.patch.com/articles/column-the-gill-tract-occupation-of-2012-in-context
Sheri Spellwoman October 24, 2012 at 09:29 PM
The City of Albany is having a special ground breaking ceremony next week, including Barbara Lee and Nancy Skinner, to celebrate the Albany Bay Trail Connector (Buchanan/Marin Bikeway Project) that has been in planning for several years. It's 10/30 at 10am. For more info see: http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=18&recordid=2012&returnURL=%2findex.aspx


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