Arlington County Board Candidate Questionnaire on Cycling
Erik Gutshall Responses
Oct 5, 2017
1) Do you ride a bike? If so, tell us about your riding.
Yes. I ride for fun and to get places. I live in Lyon Park, which is a great place to ride. My office is so close to home that I usually walk, but sometimes I’ll ride to meetings or events in the R-B corridor. I ride for pleasure with my family, usually on the Custis, Lubber Run, and Four Mile Run trails. We recently enjoyed the Keenan Garvey Memorial Ride to raise funds for Phoenix Bikes.
2) What do you see as the role of cycling in Arlington?
Cycling is an important part of the transportation network. We need cycling to be seen as a safe, viable transportation option for many people as our population grows. Cycling is the cheapest form of mid-distance transportation available! In these times of competing priorities for the County, bicycle network investments have the lowest costs, but deliver the biggest returns. Making cycling safer makes our transportation system more equitable.
Improved bicycle accessibility improves the transportation network for everyone. For people in cars, each person on a bike is a person not sitting in a car in front of them. Each bike parked at a rack frees a parking space for someone in a car to use. When cycling is accessible, people have options when Metro is not serving their needs.
Bicyclists are eyes on the street - building community, supporting local business, and providing a deterrent to crime. Getting people to use bicycles improves public health, further decreasing costs to the County.
Cycling is an important catalyst for economic development. A strong cycling culture attracts the creative class of workers whom developers and employers are seeking. In this highly competitive region, our bike network in itself is an economic development incentive and part of our allure for employers like Nestlé or Amazon. A comprehensive transportation network that works smoothly attracts businesses. In fact, research shows that people on bikes shop and spend more locally than automobile commuters do.
Cycling also plays an important role in our discussion of affordability in Arlington. The two largest costs for many households are housing and transportation. Because riding a bike does not involve the costs of car insurance, car repairs, car storage and fuel, biking reduces household costs. When families in Arlington can get where they need to go without a car, Arlington becomes a more affordable place to live.
3) What should the county do, if anything, to get more people to bike?
Arlington should focus on making cycling safe and comfortable for everyone, and should become part of the Vision Zero movement, with a commitment to end all deaths and serious injuries on our streets while increasing mobility. We should become a League of American Bicyclists Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community. Arlington County should adopt and incorporate the Bicycle Access & Networks Standards of the National Association of City Transportation Officials into the Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan and ensure that all Arlington engineers receive the appropriate training to implement these Standards.
From an infrastructure perspective, we should start with an explicit commitment to “8-80 design.” When we think about whether a streetscape works for biking, we shouldn’t think about people like me, who are cycling. We should think about whether an 8-year-old can safely bike to school. We should think about whether an 80-year-old neighbor feels comfortable cruising to the library on a bike. We already have a popular, robust, and comfortable trail network, but we must make trail maintenance a priority; and, we need to make the trails easier to use. We also need to look at adding more protected bikes lanes and more neighborhood bikeways or bike boulevards. In the long run, our bike network investments should ensure that there is a network of safe, comfortable well-signed routes that take people where they want to go throughout the entire County.
But these programs and investments are not all about asphalt. Education and encouragement are important tools to make cycling a transportation option for more people. We should continue our support for BikeArlington, Arlington Transportation Partners and Capital Bikeshare. The County should work with the Arlington Public Schools (APS) through the Joint Committee on Transportation Choices (JCTC) to expand and develop the Safe Routes to Schools program - getting students to bike to school is especially important as our student population grows. We also need to educate those who don’t bike that investments in cycling infrastructure benefit the entire transportation network.
Arlington County Police play an important role in making cycling safer and more comfortable for everyone. We need to train all Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) officers to ensure they know the laws that keep cyclists safe, and to work with ACPD to get officers on bikes. We could, for example, have one FTE-equivalent officer on bike patrol in the next fiscal year.
We must include cycling in our long-term planning and in our budget. To do this I will fully support the Master Transportation Plan Bicycle Element Working Group for a full, robust update of the Bicycle Element. We must update our signals policy to make sure people can move efficiently through our intersections-- whether on bike, on foot, in a bus or in a car. We also need to include a budget that would implement the long-term vision of the Bicycle Element, and enable quick fixes that will make biking better (e.g. improved signage or curb cutouts).
We must work with our neighbors and the Federal agencies and residents in Arlington to improve the network of destinations accessible by bike. We must find a solution for biking through or around Fort Myer, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. And we must continue working with the GW Memorial Parkway administration to improve the Mount Vernon Trail and other areas under their jurisdiction. We need to work with DC to improve bike access to all the Potomac River bridges, and with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and NOVAParks to ensure that they maintain the trails under their purviews.
Finally, we must maintain pressure on VDOT to secure a construction contract for a solution for the intersection of Lynn Street, Lee Highway and the Custis Trail. We cannot tolerate an “Intersection of Doom” on our trail network one more year.
4) How would you approach the decision making process on a project which puts two Arlington priorities at odds? For instance, a proposal to build an important trail connection which would require cutting down a large number of trees or a proposal to build an important bike lane connection which would require removing a large number of parking spaces?
Arlington has a legacy of visionary leadership willing to make the tough decisions that require balancing competing priorities. I believe we reach the best decisions when we rely on accurate data, transparent and impartial analysis, and fair consideration of all viewpoints. It is the chief responsibility of the County Board to create the environment of trust needed for good decision-making by ensuring our county government conducts every transaction with our community in a totally honest, transparent, and open manner. Residents should never feel that an answer was already baked into a process.
Evidenced-based decisions are at the core of a progressive community. Of course, we all recognize that perfect information is not possible. Therefore, we must subject our decision-making processes to an open dialogue, recognizing the role that is played by each priority within our larger community plan. After we bring all those concerned together, we need to conduct a fair, open, respectful process in which questions are fully explored and resolved to the greatest extent possible, resulting in thoughtful, balanced advice that can be presented to the County Board. While the opinions of any stakeholder must be treated respectfully, the County Board must ultimately exercise its authority to resolve competing priorities. In a complex society like Arlington, it is not possible for these tough choices to be decided in advance; each decision must be weighed and evaluated in its context and its time.
5)What work have you done in the past - as an elected official, member of an advisory body, or as an advocate – to promote or support cycling as a mobility option?
I have advocated for a safer, more inclusive cycling network through my work on the Planning Commission and the Transportation Commission. In every site plan, I have advocated for cycling accommodated by providing bike parking, bike lanes on nearby streets, Capital Bikeshare, and safe ingress and egress for bikes.
As a representative of the Lyon Park Citizens Association in the 2000’s, I advocated for better accommodation of biking in multiple Clarendon redevelopment projects and when the Clarendon Sector Plan was updated in 2006.
6) If elected, what do you hope to have accomplished to make Arlington a better place for cycling by the end of your term?
By the end of my term on the County Board, I would hope to have: updated the Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan; have a program for maintenance and further development of our trail network; have a program for implementing both low cost, quick improvements the cycling network as well as longer term Capital Improvement Program funding to make the Bicycle Element goals a reality; and have Arlington designated as a League of American Bicyclists Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community.
7) Arlington doesn’t currently have a dedicated program or pot of money to build new, high-priority bicycle infrastructure. Would you support the creation of such a program, dedicated to the most-needed protected bike lanes and trails, in the Capital Improvement Plan?
I would expect the updated Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan to include an implementation framework that identifies projects for funding in the CIP and I will support that funding. As already discussed, investments in cycling infrastructure are among the highest rate of return in total benefits per dollar invested. Even in an era when Arlington must support a regional funding model for Metro’s long-term viability, we should not allow cycling to be second-class transportation. The recent funding of the Custis Trail/Lee Hwy improvements (“Intersection of Doom”) provides an appropriate model and I will support dedicated funding in the CIP that leverages developer community benefit contributions, and state and federal grants to build out a 21st Century cycling network.
8) Is there anything else you would like to share with the Arlington cycling community?
Arlington has been a leader in this region at making cycling a transportation option for so many, but our neighbors are catching up. We have picked most of the “low-hanging fruit,” and it is time to show real commitment and investment in cycling.
Having Danish family, I have visited Denmark periodically throughout my life. I have seen first hand the substantial benefits of a community built around cycling as a daily option. Kids have more freedom to safely explore their world. Parents need not spend precious time as a taxi service. Daily errands are more accessible and enjoyable and less of a chore. Commuting is cheaper, safer and healthier. The very young and the very old have mobility. And, as we see here in Arlington, you are just more likely to stop and chat with a neighbor and build those bonds of community that are immeasurable when you are cycling. Arlington has come a long way in this vision. I look forward to an opportunity to help us with the next leap forward.