Iowa City needs to improve its bike infrastructure.
That was the consensus of five Iowa City city council candidates at a Wednesday forum sponsored by biking advocacy group Think Bicycles.
Kinglsey Botchway II, Rockne Cole, Catherine Champion and incumbent Susan Mims are running for two at-large seats. District B candidate Royceann Porter also attended.
Over 50 people listened to the candidates explain their visions for Iowa City’s approach to bikes. All agreed improving the biking infrastructure – with measures such as adding bike lanes and improving safety education for both motorists and cyclists – would benefit the city.
“I think that every candidate up here is for that vision,” Champion said. “For me, it’s not even a choice. I will support anything we can do to add longevity to our city.”
For Porter, improving bike infrastructure also means improving the lives of the poor.
“A lot of poor people have to ride their bikes,” she said. “We need safety for all people, no matter who. If it’s with the streets, if it’s just adding more bike lanes to make it safe, I’m for it.”
Most of the candidates said while they wholeheartedly embrace improving the biking climate, they would hesitate before committing to funding increases or policy changes.
Kingsley said he would like to see a study showing not only the front-end costs of infrastructure changes but also what the savings would be down the road.
Mims said she’s concerned about tightening city finances in the future. She said while she supports bike-friendly programs, they need to be considered in the wider budget context.
Cole, however, said improving bike infrastructure is a matter of staying competitive. He said bike infrastructure should be considered a core part of the overall infrastructure budget.
“Car infrastructure is expensive. Bike infrastructure is a bargain; we’re talking about paint on a road,” he said. “In these tight economic times, we need to be competitive with other cities.”
Audience member Mike Chamberlain, 36, of Iowa City, said all the candidates seemed generally interested in the improving Iowa City’s bike climate.
“It takes seeing bikes as a part of what’s going on,” he said. “It’s seeing bikes as an integral part of the city’s development, not as some fringe issue.”
Mark Pooley, 29, of Iowa City, agreed.
“What might seem controversial here is actually totally in the realm of possibility, because it’s been done elsewhere,” he said.