Candidate Questionnaire on Cycling: Erik Gutshall Responses

Bike to Work Day 2016 at the Rosslyn Pit-Stop

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 that I usually walk, but sometimes I’ll ride to meetings. I ride for pleasure with my elementary school-age kids.

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 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. A 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 gas, 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, a commitment to end all deaths and serious injuries on our streets. We should aim to 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 APS to expand and develop the Safe Routes to Schools program - getting students to bike to school is especially important as our student population grows. And in order to allow everyone to enjoy the public spaces that are our streets, Arlington should host an Open Streets event or Cyclovia.

Arlington County Police play an important role in making cycling safer and more comfortable for everyone. We need to train all 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 on bike patrol in the next fiscal year.

We must include cycling in our long-term planning and in our budget. To do this we must  start with a full, robust update of the Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan. 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 reservations 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 VDOT and NOVAParks to ensure that they maintain the trails under their purviews.

And we must find and build 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.

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.

I believe County government must see itself as a transparent and active learning organization, one that is not afraid to recognize error and pursue constant improvement. Arlington County must have an understanding up front about who might be impacted by a proposal and seek those folks out, instead of waiting for them to notice that a conversation is occurring, or a plan is moving forward.

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 minority 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 it's time. 

5.  Under what circumstances, if any, would you support installing traffic calming measures (e.g. speed humps, narrower lanes, etc.) that would reduce speeding in order to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety?

We need to respect public space for public use, and balance the safety of all, whether in cars, on bikes or on foot as, safely supporting the need to efficiently get around our County. We need a plan to get around that takes travel efficiency and safety into account; safety should have high priority.  The updated NACTO standards are helpful in this regard. For cars, we should look at opportunities to allow traffic to flow at a steady, safe speed, while reducing the maximum speed. We must prioritize safe access to schools: as APS grows, we need to a way to get students to the school buildings without congesting our neighborhoods with traffic.

6.  Under what circumstances, if any, would you support removing parking to install bike infrastructure?

Similar to my answer in 4, we need an open discussion, and should look at the entire situation. It’s not possible to make these sort of trade-offs generically-- context matters tremendously.

7.  Do you support "road diets" as Arlington has done in the past on Shirlington Drive, Walter Reed Drive and Wilson Blvd which remove travel lanes on streets to provide accommodations for other modes of travel?

Yes. When done with full education for the affected nearby communities as well as those who regularly commute on those routes, road diets make a lot of sense. I am interested in hearing from communities who might like to be considered; I understand that some have expressed interest in looking at South George Mason Drive near Wakefield High School. 

8.  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 the Lyon Park Civic Association president, I advocated strongly for better accommodation of biking when the Clarendon Sector Plan was updated in the early 2000s.

9.  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 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.

10.  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.

Encouraging cycling can help Arlington face many of its current challenges--Metro closures, growing population without additional space for roads, growing school population, need to attract business, and constrained County budgets. It is time for Arlington to make this investment.