It's election season again, and SVBC has been working with our local teams to prepare questions for candidates running for office in our area. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, SVBC cannot and does not endorse any candidate, but we can ask them for their thoughts on promoting the bike for everyday use and share the answers.

Our San Mateo County Committee reached out to candidates running for city, county, and state offices. The responses will be published as they are received.

From Catherine Carlton, candidate for Menlo Park City Council:

1. Where do you see bikes fitting into the overall transportation plan?

Bicycles are an integral part of the transportation in Menlo Park. This includes people riding bicycles for fun and exercise, as well as adults riding bicycles as alternative to automobiles and children riding bicycles when commuting to school.

The city council and the commissioners and staff who work on the transportation plans should consider bicycles a vital and fundamental part of the transportation system in Menlo Park, and should plan and act accordingly.

2. If elected, what are three things that you would do to improve cycling opportunities for your constituents?

Menlo Park must improve our infrastructure and our education programs to enable and encourage more residents to ride bicycles. In terms of infrastructure, providing safe and well-marked bike lanes, under-road crossings, safe walking areas away from bike lanes, etc. will help encourage more people to ride bicycles.

I am a big fan of bicycle safety/ road rules classes and events for both children and adults, to enable people to ride more confidently, more frequently, and to ensure fewer accidents. I encourage non-profits and schools, with the appropriate support from the city, to provide bicycle safety and road rules classes for children, to ensure fewer accidents and to give parents more confidence in their safety.

Parents might also be inspired to encourage their family to ride bicycles by the communication and marketing of “success case studies.” For example, if a family bikes to and from school about ½ mile each way, covering about 10 miles over a school year, this not only results in a healthier family, but they also save on gas and car maintenance, and will lower their carbon footprint for the community. In this example, each family would save a total carbon footprint of almost 100 pounds of CO2 emissions, or the equivalent electricity of a family home for almost two full days each year.

Some of the education and marketing that promotes bike riding can be achieved in programs like Bike Safety Week, Walk and Roll Week, and through classes that are appropriate for the audience’s age level. It is important to remember that bicycle safety classes are important for the parents as well as children, so that adults can give the correct safety guidance and ride safely themselves.

3. What have you done or worked on in the past that shows your record of being involved in bicycle, active transportation, or road/trail improvement campaigns?

While I have not served on a commission that directly deals with transportation, I am on the Parks and Recreation Commission. In that capacity, I have worked to protect parks, bike trails and services that support bike riding in Menlo Park.

I also am proud to say that both of my young children love riding their bikes! My daughter and I ride bikes to her school almost every morning. With my husband, our whole family loves to go on bike rides to and around the park on the weekends, too.

I also purchased an electric bicycle recently, which is really great fun as well as being very practical. Electric bikes are great for riding to meetings, as well as an alternative for driving a car to longer distance locations. I have been using it to get around extensively, and actively promoting these bicycles. I recently did a video about electric bikes. We hope to use that with an interview of Joe, who runs Street Bike Named Desire, so that we can promote these bicycles to people who might not otherwise ride bicycles.

I look forward to serving on the city council, where I will be able to support and effect even more changes that will support and encourage safe bicycling in Menlo Park.

4. With dedicated funding for cycling projects under fire on the regional, state, and federal level, what would you do to keep those dollars flowing?

There is funding available for cycling projects through various grants and through public-private agreements, though the most important factor is to ensure that the city is fiscally responsible so that the funds are available to continue support for cycling projects.

As an example of finding funding in various places for the safety of both people who are now walking in “bike lanes” where there are no sidewalks and for the cyclists themselves, the council or staff might investigate the utility company’s program to install sidewalks in some neighborhoods when they bury electric cables underground. This is something that may be to be further investigated for the neighborhoods that would like sidewalks.

It is important to remember, though, that the most important factor to ensure the continued funds to support cycling projects is the fiscal responsibility of the city council. This includes both cutting costs, streamlining services to take advantage of economies of scale, as well as improving the city’s ability to encourage and support measured development that will both create more revenue for the city’s general fund, as well as create a more bicycle-friendly infrastructure itself.