Norris and Szakos: We like bikes
Despite such innovative ideas, for a progressive city, Charlottesville gets below-average ratings nationally in its accommodations of bicycle and pedestrian traffic, say the two Democratic City Council candidates.
Mayor Dave Norris and Kristin Szakos unveiled their bike and pedestrian platform at a September 24 press conference, and called for painting the bike lanes green, adding showers at the Transit Center and fixing sidewalks, among a dozen or so proposals.
'This is the issue we hear about all the time," says Norris. "People want to be able to get around Charlottesville without cars."
Szakos points to the crumbly sidewalks around Tonsler Park that are unsafe for wheelchairs and strollers. "People are very concerned about the lack of safe ways to get around," she says.
The two touted a study by the nonprofit BikeWalk Virginia that actually gave Charlottesville a much lower score than Albemarle in its Virginia Active Transportation Index.
Besides green bike lanes, other implementable improvements, according to the candidates, include improved signage, new safety committees, more business-installed bike racks, and a law mandating helmets for bikers 14 and younger.
The duo calls for double penalties for city employees who don't stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, and they suggest better sensors at intersections so cyclists don't fossilize while waiting all day for a light to turn green.
The boldest plank on the platform (also endorsed by the Democratic candidate for sheriff, James E. Brown)–- at least for Virginia–- would be cross-city trails, says Szakos. That would allow commuting by foot or bike and literally get people off the roads. Finishing the Rivanna Trail is another goal.
The Dems dusted off the Charlottesville Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan of 2003. "This is an amazing document," says Szakos.
Nationally, Charlottesville is left in the dust by cities like Portland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado, the latter of which has pedestrian and bike-only trails. "Everyone uses them," says Norris.
Independent candidate Paul Long has made city transit one of his issues, and says the area needs better bus service.
Indy candidate Bob Fenwick calls the Democratic platform a small first step. "Why nibble around the edges?" he asks. "They really could make a difference by stopping the Meadowcreek Parkway."
Ironically, neither of the two Council candidates walked or biked to their own press conference, which was held at the IGA grocery on Cherry Avenue.
"I carpooled," says Szakos. "There's really no safe way to get here on a bike."