Gaebler: “I don’t think it matters” whether most people want road narrowing.

The agenda for the 12/11/18 City Council meeting did not include road narrowing, but so many citizens spoke so forcefully on the issue the Council ended up discussing it for 90 minutes (which inspired local news coverage from KOAA 5 and KRDO 13).

We were pleased to get some supportive feedback from City Councilmembers Andy Pico, Don Knight, and Tom Strand. (If you haven’t already, please email them to thank them for listening: apico@springsgov.com, dknight@springsgov.com, tstrand@springsgov.com.)

We expected resistance and disagreement from City Councilmember Jill Gaebler. We were a little surprised, however, at how she distorted our remarks.

We asked the City to do a poll on the specific long-standing controversial issue of replacing traffic lanes with bike lanes along Cascade Avenue. One of our commenters noted the City seems to prioritize Colorado College students (who are typically temporary members of the community) over the permanent residents building homes and raising families in the area.

Jill Gaebler asserted that it was ridiculous to claim the City is trying to narrow every single road (we didn’t claim that), pointed out that polling every single administrative decision is a slippery slope (we didn’t suggest doing this), and lamented that she had heard so many derogatory comments about CC students (we had literally one comment about CC students and it was not derogatory). She doubled down on the claims that the City gathered “robust public input” before implementing the bike lanes, that Kathleen Krager listens to citizens before making decisions, and that narrowing Cascade Avenue was a matter of life and death. Most importantly, Gaebler stated that whether most citizens support narrowing Cascade doesn’t matter because it’s what’s best for us.

You can watch the videos of her comments, read the transcripts, and read our detailed responses below.

Jill Gaebler’s response to Mark Huissman:

First off, I can’t remember your name, but I appreciate your presentation today. It was very thoughtful and well said. I just want to correct a couple of the statements that you said that I think don’t give enough credit to the folks in the city who have done a lot of work in advance before they added bike lanes to any of our downtown or adjacent streets to downtown. A lot of the information that you provided in your comments occurred in 2016, 2015, and there were actually three Old North End meetings that occurred to talk to residents about the idea of narrowing any and all lanes in that area, which are again all residential lanes, not arterial lanes. There was of course also a lot of and very much robust conversation and input provided before the Bike Master Plan was approved by this body back in 2017 and further there was significant and robust public input for the Experience Downtown Master Plan which was approved by this body after going to Planning Commission, after going to CTAB, after going to Parks Board. That also included a lot of information and guidance and recommendations for implementing bike lanes in all the places that you see bike lanes now. So to suggest that there was not robust conversation, to suggest that any person on City staff–Kathleen Krager–anyone did anything without hearing first from the citizens is simply not true.

And let’s be clear that these are administrative decisions. The Planning Commission, the City Council, we don’t weigh in on administrative decisions. These are decisions the Mayor makes. We don’t do polls for every decisions we make about adding a stoplight or a left-hand turn. Should we poll on everything? No. These are administrative decisions the Mayor makes. And if it turns out they’re not working, the Mayor often pulls them out. But to suggest that City staff just does things willy nilly, is not listening to the Mayor, is not listening to City Council, is simply not true.

So I think you can hear today that there are a lot of different sides to this issue. A lot of people support bike lanes. Some don’t. You can say a lot. But this issue is moving forward well and I see a lot of people on those lanes and I’m gratified with the work the City’s done. So thank you, and thanks to the Mayor.

Jill Gaebler’s response to Ed Snyder et al:

In regard to polls I feel the desire to try to get this voice from our community but I really think along with staying in our lane that it’s a really slippery slope for the executive side of the house to say they’re going to start polling on administrative decisions. Again, this is something our executive branch does because they think it’s in the best interest of the city. Whether it is supported by 60%, 70% of the city, 40% of the city–I don’t think it matters. What matters is that the Mayor and the transportation staff are doing what they think is the safest thing for the majority of our community.

Let’s be clear when I think it was Nard spoke, he was clear that less than 1% of our roads have bike lanes. Less than 1%. It was actually far less than 1%. The goal is to create a connectivity of lanes through our city. Very few streets. So that cyclists can ride safely on our streets. So that they can commute by bike. That doesn’t mean we’re going to try to road diet every street, so to suggest that is ridiculous. To suggest that we should poll on every one of those issues doesn’t make any sense. And let’s be clear that polling is very expensive if it’s going to be unbiased and done in a very democratic way–$20 or $30,000 on every administrative decision that the people come here and tell us that they don’t want. And let’s be clear, I don’t think that that’s dismissive.

I do think that the folks that have reached out to me–many of them have been very, very rude, and I think Mr. Snyder just said a kind of threatening thing: that they’re going to get more aggressive if they don’t get their way. So I find that threatening. Should I not consider that that is maybe not the best tact to try to get your way? I think you need to continue to talk to us, continue to work with us, but trying to poll, trying to be aggressive, trying to suggest or hyperbolize this issue, making it sound like we’re trying to road diet every road is ridiculous. We are trying to protect the few people out there–I don’t know how many there are–who are trying to commute by bike. Who are trying to ride safely.

And when you bring up Colorado College–goodness gracious, I heard so many derogatory words about those students today. What? “Transient?” “Not from here?” “Scary?” These are kids! These are kids who have been hit by cars, so suggesting that Kathleen Krager is hyperbolizing or acting out of turn when she says this is life and death–it is life and death! These are kids! And I don’t care if they’re looking at their phones or doing something that isn’t legal. They still will die if they are hit by a car. So should we not as a City try to do what we can to protect them? I don’t see that as wrong. We should be trying to protect all of our citizens. All of them, whether they’re transients, whether they’re from here, whether they live in Old North End. And Ms. Porter, I respect what you said, but you don’t live in the Old North End! People from our city care about all of our roads! I care about all of our roads. So try to work together. Don’t be threatening. Talk to us. But to suggest that the Mayor should poll on every administrative decision is just not a workable solution.

We have quite a few issues with these comments:

Gaebler wildly exaggerates our points while simultaneously chiding us not to hyperbolize the issue.

“We don’t do polls for every decision we make about adding a stoplight or a left-hand turn. Should we poll on everything? No.”

At no point did we suggest polling every administrative decision. All together our commenters spent perhaps 20-30 minutes discussing the specific controversy of road narrowing on Cascade. We provided each councilmember with documents (news coverage, letters to the editor) showing the long history and strong feelings around this fight specifically to narrow Cascade. We asked for a poll to determine once and for all whether citizens support replacing traffic lanes with bike lanes in ONEN.

Despite our efforts, somehow Jill Gaebler heard only that we want to poll every stoplight, left hand turn, and other minor administrative change the Mayor makes. It’s almost as if she wasn’t listening. (Thankfully Don Knight pointed out that we don’t have to poll every administrative decision—we could just poll the most long-standing controversial ones.)

“That doesn’t mean that we’re going to try to road diet every street, so to suggest that is ridiculous.”

At no point did we suggest this either. We’ve focused almost entirely on road narrowing along Cascade Avenue, while occasionally also mentioning the problems with narrowing Pikes Peak Avenue and the backlash that happened when Kathleen Krager narrowed Research Parkway. No one commenting said anything about the City trying to narrow all roads.

“And when you bring up Colorado College–goodness gracious, I heard so many derogatory words about those students today. What? ‘Transient?’ ‘Not from here?’ ‘Scary?’”

Literally no one referred to the Colorado College students as scary. In fact only one of our commenters even mentioned CC students, and the sum total of her remarks were: “It’s just astonishing to me that the transient students at Colorado College with no investment in the community are preferred over the permanent residents with families building homes in this area.” She was contrasting the temporary nature of CC students’ stay in Colorado Springs to the more permanent nature of residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. I’m unclear why Gaebler considers that observation derogatory, but either way it’s a far cry from “so many derogatory comments,” much less our side saying CC students are “scary.” Once again, Gaebler seems to hear whatever she wants, regardless of what we’re actually saying.

Gaebler parrots the same tired, unconvincing City talking points.

“To suggest that there was not robust conversation…is simply not true.”

Gaebler again points to the three Old North End meetings as examples of the City having a “robust conversation” with citizens before Krager forced road narrowing in ONEN. The reality is that only a few dozen ONEN residents voted on road narrowing during a January 2018 meeting that most residents didn’t know was happening. There are reasons so many people feel blindsided and manipulated by this process. Gaebler also talked about the importance of public input in master plans, but she fails to address a point we’ve raised numerous times: the Mayor has stated Krager can ignore master plans and do as she pleases. We’ve talked about this before.

“To suggest that any person on City staff–Kathleen Krager–anyone did anything without hearing first from the citizens is simply not true.”

If Krager “hearing from citizens” just means she is physically present for some citizens to speak and then she proceeds to do whatever she would have done anyway, then Gaebler’s statement is technically correct. However, if Gaebler is implying that Krager values citizen input and forms her plans accordingly, then this is a bizarre claim for several reasons.

  • We’ve uncovered emails from Krager saying she isn’t looking for “full support” from citizens but simply “a reduced amount of dismay.
  • We’ve uncovered emails in which (1) Gaebler specifically cautioned Krager to get sufficient public input, (2) Krager ignored Gaebler and instead asked Colorado College what they prefer, and then (3) Krager follow CC’s directive to push ahead with road narrowing.
  • Krager has overtly told us it doesn’t matter how many people disagree with her, she has to go with the “data.”

Despite all of this, Gaebler still manages to suggest in all seriousness that Krager cares about public input.

“These are kids who have been hit by cars, so suggesting that Kathleen Krager is hyperbolizing or acting out of turn when she says that is it life and death–it is life and death!”

Our commenters presented the statistics showing that over a 12 year period, fewer than 0.0004% of pedestrian crossings on Cascade at Colorado College resulted in a pedestrian-vehicle collision. None of those collisions were fatal, and only one of them involved the “hidden car” phenomenon that Krager has claimed she must prevent through road narrowing. This is the situation Krager and now Gaebler call a matter of “life and death.”

Our commenters pointed out that Krager has done nothing about Nevada Avenue, which is considerably more dangerous than Cascade. We also pointed out that Krager refuses to consider pedestrian underpasses or overpasses for Cascade—even though such measures would fully decouple pedestrians from motorized traffic—because those changes would ruin the “look” of the campus. In other words, pedestrian safety on Cascade is supposed to be so dangerous that it’s a matter of life and death, but it’s not so dangerous that it would be worth changing the “look” of the campus to protect people. Gaebler responded to none of these points. She simply reasserted that if someone gets hit by a car, that person could die, and thus this is a matter of life and death.

But if all it takes to call something a matter of “life and death” is any nonzero chance someone could die, then putting cyclists next to motorists is easily a matter of life and death. Gaebler has asserted the bike lanes will “greatly increase the number of cyclists on our roads,*” which of course means many more opportunities for cyclist-vehicle collisions. It’s strange that the vanishing safety concerns of Colorado College pedestrians are a matter of “life and death” while the increased interactions between cyclists and cars are apparently not.

Gaebler doesn’t think it matters if most citizens oppose road narrowing, even if only a few people commute by bike.

“We are trying to protect the few people out there—I don’t know how many there are—who are trying to commute by bike.”

Here is one of our few points of agreement with Gaebler: there are few people using these bike lanes. Certainly there are not anywhere close to as many people using the bike lanes as people who used the traffic lanes before they were removed.

“Whether it is supported by 60%, 70% of the city, 40% of the city—I don’t think it matters.”

This is the key quote, right here. Gaebler is by far the most vocal supporter on City Council of bike infrastructure through road narrowing. She has tried to make the case that she cares what most of her constituents want** and that, conveniently, most of her constituents want road narrowing.*** So when Gaebler advocates for road narrowing, she implies she isn’t pushing her agenda and “mother-knows-best” mentality on the rest of us; she’s simply representing us! But during this City Council meeting she finally admitted what we have suspected all along: Gaebler doesn’t care if most people don’t want this, because she believes it’s what’s best for us.

poll doesn't matter 2

Notice, by the way, that the people who want road narrowing for bike lanes are the same people who don’t want a poll or reliable measure of public input. Cycling advocates (both on the ONEN Board and from other neighborhoods) have touted the same “robust public process” line Gaebler keeps pushing, but when we’ve asked them to join us in requesting the City do a poll, they disappear (see the discussion under this Springs Taxpayers FB post). We suspect the other side believes as much as we do that most people don’t actually want road narrowing for bike lanes, but they’re hoping once they push their agenda through anyway, everyone will get over it. Do you think that will happen?

*In her November 2018 call for people to tell the Mayor they love the bike lanes, Gaebler stated “Providing even a few bike lanes that connect our streets greatly increases the number of cyclists on our roads.” You can see her email here.
**In the Gazette article “Slimmer Cascade considered,” (June 10, 2016), Gaebler stated “I want the voice of the people in my vote decision.” In more recent Twitter conversations she’s emphasized that “most voters” know bikes make cities better and that she represents all her constituents.
***Gaebler makes equivocating comments, such as her earlier statement during this very Council meeting that “a lot” of people support bike lanes while only “some” don’t. In the Gazette article “Old North End group wins injunction halting work on Cascade Avenue” (May 19, 2018), Gaebler referred to those objecting to narrowing cascade as a small but vocal minority, saying “It’s disappointing that a few neighbors are fighting the will of the majority.”

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