Daily Camera (Boulder)

Cycling queries receive answers

Organizati­ons host inaugural bicycle-themed candidate forum

- By Annie Mehl Staff Writer

Boulder City Council candidates were quizzed on their cycling knowledge Tuesday night during the city’s first cycling-themed City Council candidate forum.

The forum was hosted virtually by area cyclist organizati­ons the Boulder Mountainbi­ke Alliance, Community Cycles and Cyclists 4 Community.

Bill Rigler, a Cyclists 4 Community board member and former Boulder Transporta­tion Advisory Board chair, said more than 150 people registered to tune into the forum, making it the largest candidate forum this election cycle.

City Council candidates in attendance Tuesday were Tara Winer, Matt Benjamin, Nicole Speer, Jacques Decalo, Michael Christy, Lauren Folkerts, David Takahashi, Dan Williams and Steve Rosenblum.

Incumbent Councilmem­ber Mark Wallach was unable due to attend due to a conflictin­g City Council meeting.

According to one question posed Tuesday, “right turns on red and unprotecte­d left turns account for more than half of Boulder’s serious and fatal bicycle injuries.” Candidates were asked if they support the city’s no right turn on red ordinance and what they would do to make the streets safer for people walking or biking.

Williams said right turns are a huge safety hazard. He added the city will need to study the problem to decide if right turn lanes should exist at all.

“Really, what I want to do is follow the data,” Williams said. “We have a city staff, and I think we need to unleash them to experiment

on our streets and see what makes the biggest difference for bike safety. I want us to look at all of these things, put them all on the table, analyze them and see what makes the biggest difference to make cyclists safer and bolder because that's the goal.”

During the night, candidates were asked about bike theft in Boulder and what they will do to work with police, city staff, the justice systems and social services to eliminate bike theft.

Benjamin said education is vital in combating bike theft. He spoke about registerin­g bikes and making sure people remember to lock them before they leave them just like they lock their cars.

“We should also be thinking about how to improve or even some subsidies and incentives for people that are lower-income and don't have the means for stronger and safer bike locks,” he said. “This is an opportunit­y for our community to really look at property crime that affects all of us.”

Christy addressed Boulder police's staffing shortage and said if he is elected he will work with Boulder Chief Maris Herold to recruit new officers.

“Unfortunat­ely, our jails are closed to criminals committing property crimes, so we don't have the leverage we need as a city,” he said. “We need to be working with (Boulder County) Sheriff Joe Pelle to open up the jails. Having them closed I believe is doing our community advocates a disservice.”

City Council candidate Speer was asked what she will do if elected to ensure all multiuse paths are safe and accessible for everyone.

Speer said there should not be homeless encampment­s in the city's parks, but added those areas are not the areas she feels are unsafe. Rather, it is where multiuse paths intersect with cars.

“A lot of these safety hazards we can solve by designing our transporta­tion systems for modes other than cars,” she said. “This doesn't mean eliminatin­g cars. It just means prioritizi­ng the safety and comfort of the people who are walking, biking and biking around town.”

Rosenblum addressed the issue with growing homeless population­s seen not just in Boulder but in other Colorado cities. He said the city needs to invest in services and organizati­ons that can better assist people experienci­ng homelessne­ss to make residents feel safe while recreating.

“It's an epidemic of mental health and drug addiction, and we need to get people the help they need and just as a community agree that what's going on is unacceptab­le,” he said.

When asked if she supports increased funding for improved bike infrastruc­ture such as protected bike lanes, Winer answered “absolutely.”

“I have a vision, and I think all of us candidates do too, which is exciting for increasing our bike culture,” she said. “As far as infrastruc­ture, we need to put that first because that's what we all want,” she said. “I believe in balance, (and) we can balance, and I actually think we can please everybody.”

One of the final questions of the night asked about bicycle “chop shops” in Boulder and what solutions candidates have to apprehend and charge bike thieves or trafficker­s.

Williams said in order to address the issue, the city needs to invest in strong detective work and take a new approach to ending the crimes.

“If these bicycle parts are going to bicycle shops, the owners need to be prosecuted for selling stolen merchandis­e; if they're going to pawn shops, same thing — we need that stopped and prosecuted for that,” he said. “We need to work upstream to eliminate this problem.”

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