Better Mobility Forum injects bicycling (and other) issues into the mayoral conversation

 Six mayoral candidates (and one policy director) spoke up at Thursday night's Better Mobility Forum. (Dena Driscoll/for NewsWorks)

Six mayoral candidates (and one policy director) spoke up at Thursday night's Better Mobility Forum. (Dena Driscoll/for NewsWorks)

Earlier this week, NinetyNine asked the city’s top bicycling advocate what he wanted most from the next Philadelphia mayor. We also checked in with the candidates to gauge their thoughts on one of that community’s biggest platform items: the “Vision Zero” initiative.

The timing was not coincidental, as those issues came to the mayoral-race forefront at Thursday night’s Better Mobility Forum event helmed by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

On hand to cover the event for NinetyNine was Dena “bikeMAMAdelphia” Driscoll, who has written about bicycling-related issues for NewsWorks before.

What follows is Driscoll’s account of the forum:

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Let’s start with a brief recap of impressions left after Thursday night’s “Better Mobility” forum, which was held at the Friends Center in Center City.

Jim Kenney will be an animal fighting against sidewalk construction occupation.
Lynne Abraham is concerned about senior-citizens’ mobility.
Milton Street finds most fat people in cars are angry.
Nelson Diaz has transit cards for every city on the east coast in his wallet.
Anthony Williams wants to raise the Streets Department budget.
Melissa Murray Bailey sounds like every other parent in Philadelphia trying to get kids around by foot or public transportation.
Doug Oliver, who was excited about the city’s bike-share prospects, hopes everybody can learn from accidents caused by reckless cyclists.

Hosted by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and other partner agencies, the forum featured all of the mayoral candidates including the Republican candidate, Murray Bailey.

The only candidate not present was Williams, who was represented by policy director Omar Woodard.

The candidates were asked questions related to a Better Mobility agenda outlined by the BCGP’s Executive Director Alex Doty in a recent interview for NinetyNine.

At the event, which was moderated by Citified editor Patrick Kerkstra, all candidates seemed overwhelmingly in favor of the Vision Zero policy, which calls for zero deaths in all modes of transportation.

They all had particular interests and some non-expert opinions on how best to make Philadelphia (downtown and neighborhoods) safe and more accessible for everyone.

Bike lanes are no longer a Center City commodity, so infrastructure concerns stretch into the neighborhoods, what with the launch of Philly Bike Share.

Oliver and Street noted that some people hold a bias that bike lanes only benefit the affluent; Oliver felt we could overcome that while Street said perception shouldn’t stop us from expanding the network.

Though briefed by BCGP before the event, some candidates remained unclear about the agenda’s infrastructure aspects.

The candidates were asked whether they would support a protected bike lane on JFK Boulevard, a project that PlanPhilly‘s Jon Geeting pointed out has already ready been piloted, studied and found successful by the City, but has gone nowhere.

The candidates’ mixed responses left attendees (myself included) wondering about the levels of understanding about the definition of “protected bike lane.”

Speaking up for parents, Bailey strongly backed alternative methods of transportation. She spoke about taking her own child to school on foot (using a scooter) and the trouble of dealing with broken sidewalks.

Abraham made a point to speak up for senior-citizens’ mobility, as well as the need to ask to SEPTA to take steps to help make women feel safe taking the subways.

And just how did the candidates themselves get to the forum?

Oliver, Kenney, and Woodard walked.

Diaz and Bailey took public transportation.

Abraham drove.

And, everyone was left scratching their heads about how Street managed to talk for 30 seconds without revealing how he got to the Friends Center for the forum.

For more information on the forum, check the twitter tag #bettermobility2015, PlanPhilly or Citified.

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