Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you get around Asheville?
My mode of transportation in the city is my automobile, more commonly named the “Puppy Mobile”. I originally purchased it to transport both therapy dogs and Golden Retriever rescues. Since we travel frequently together to opposite ends of the city, county, and region many times, this is our main mode of transportation. Sorry, but I haven’t found an easy way to transport a 70 pound Golden Retriever on a bike or scooter!
When we are at home in South Asheville though, our mode of transportation is our two legs and four legs, and we try to get in at least 2-3 miles of walking per day. It’s our way of relaxing and enjoying the mountains
What do you consider to be the most significant transportation advancement in Asheville and what impact does it have on our community?
I think the most significant transportation advancement in Asheville is Project SOAR, the 64 million dollar Asheville Airport construction project building a new runway that will last for the next 50 years. This is the largest and most significant project since the airport was built in 1961. The current runway, built five decades ago, has outlived its life. The new project began in 2014 and is scheduled for completion in 2018. Sixty-four million dollars is a significant expenditure. What’s really nice about this project is that the airport is not funded by local taxpayers, so no local tax funds are involved in this project. Rather, it is being underwritten by the FAA and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), thru grants and airport funds. More importantly for the citizens of Asheville, it will sustain itself for another five decades, long after many of us are gone.
The significant impact of this transportation project is greater than any other transportation effort undertaken in years. Why do I feel this is the most significant project? First, the project will meet the growing air service needs and will carry both Asheville and Western North Carolina into the future. Secondly, the airport contributes a major impact in the economic growth of the City of Asheville, and as our air service grows, so does the economic impact to the area. And finally, the airport is the Gateway to Asheville and Western North Carolina. It is the first place many business travelers and tourists see upon touching down here for the first time. Now that is a plan with a long-range impact!
Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. What did you learn from this experience?
I come from a city where jaywalking is illegal and citizens – even elderly ladies – are ticketed. So, I am comfortable and use to waiting at traffic lights before entering the crosswalk or crossing the street. Unfortunately, jaywalking in Asheville has become more of the norm than the exception. This is an issue for me, because this past July a friends neighbor was killed by a car while jaywalking and texting on her way to work. How many members of the Asheville on Bikes have had near accidents because of jaywalking? Jaywalking doesn’t just effect automobiles and pedestrians but also effects the many bike riders in the city.
Since I am downtown with my dog a lot, I make it a point to set an example for children and adults around me to wait until the signal blinks “Walk.” Waiting gives me the opportunity to chat or point upward to have people discover and enjoy some of the beautiful architecture that makes our city so unique. Sometimes, I am the lone person who won’t jaywalk when the signal blinks “Don’t Walk,” but I still feel it’s important to set an example. One may never know if there is a child nearby watching. For these reasons, I support Asheville’s attempt to cut down on the amount of jaywalking in the city.
As a member of the retail/hospitality industry, I am often in conversation with out of town visitors and encourage them to park at one of our several downtown parking garages and walk this beautiful city. I also encourage them to ride one of our exciting trolleys and learn things about Asheville that no one thinks to tell you about and that even many natives are surprised to learn about as well!
I personally benefited learning more about bike safety from the riders themselves. I coordinated Best Buy’s participation as host of one of the AID stations in the recent Gran Fondo Asheville race. I heard first hand the stories, experiences and challenges that riders face on the road on a daily basis.
What do you consider to be Asheville’s primary transportation challenge and how do you propose to fix it?
Before we could ever drive, ride a bike, rollerblade, or skateboard – we learned to walk. While many people cannot drive, ride a bike, rollerblade, or skateboard, most people young and old can enjoy walking. One of the main challenges I see around town is our city sidewalks, or should I say lack of city sidewalks? I am amazed at the number of sidewalks and bikeways throughout the city that abruptly end or lead to nowhere. This is poor planning. The conditions of many sidewalks in need of repair are a problem for residents and the city. As your City Councilman, I will do what is in my power to stop this nonsense and put us on the road to having a city where everyone who wants to walk or ride a bike can do so, easily and safely. We need a 10-15 year plan, complete with funding, to serve main arteries and those neighborhoods wanting and needing sidewalks and non-motorized facilities. It is apparent that many of our sidewalks are in need of repair and a liability to the city. Under existing conditions, it is not a matter of if someone is going to be injured it is a matter of when.
In my former hometown, we did a long-range plan to reconstruct the city sidewalks from the center of town outward and build continuity in the city that connected parks, trails, shopping centers, and schools for the citizens. Some people said it was impossible, but we did it and it benefited everyone in the city, young and old. I have participated in making sidewalks a welcome reality before and I can do it again here in Asheville.
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