On Thursday (2/28/19), Mayor Suthers attended a candidate forum where the mayoral candidates answered citizen-submitted questions. One of the questions asked the candidates how they would prioritize different community concerns, including bike lanes. Here was Suthers’ response [emphasis added]:
Bike lanes – big controversy. All’s I’m asking is that people get involved at an earlier point in time. The bike lanes — I know everybody thinks the Mayor’s throwing a dart board to decide where the bike lanes are. It’s a master planning process. And people need to participate in that master planning process throughout, including when it goes to the Council for approval and not wait until the traffic engineer is implementing it to complain.
(Video here courtesy of SpringsTaxpayers.)
We have quite a few issues with Suthers’ thought process here.
- People were objecting long before the traffic engineer pushed through bike lanes. In fact, as we’ve documented, citizens have objected for over a decade to road narrowing, and specifically road narrowing on Cascade. It’s frustrating that Suthers discusses the issue as if no one said anything until the City pushed through changes. Once again, it seems the City hasn’t been listening.
- Master plans give general goals; they don’t specify which roads will be changed and how. Master plans let citizens give input on broad ideas (“Do we want better bike infrastructure?”) not specific changes (“Do we want to replace traffic lanes with bike lanes on Cascade Avenue through Colorado College?”). Suthers knows this. During the 2018 injunction hearing, Suthers testified “Master plans are, for the most part, visionary documents, and do not dictate what all subsequent decisions are made regarding the property.” It doesn’t make sense for him to suggest that if people don’t like road narrowing on Cascade, they should get more involved in broad-based master plans–especially since the changes on Cascade weren’t in-line with already-existing master plans anyway…
- The traffic engineer made changes that defied master plans. The ONEN Master Plan called for equitable treatment of roads through ONEN (Weber, Wahsatch, Cascade, and Nevada) and specified that road changes should be taken before the Planning Commission. The traffic engineer instead narrowed only Cascade and refused to bring the proposal before the Planning Commission. How does it help to give more input on master plans if the traffic engineer disregards those plans?
- Suthers said the traffic engineer is free to disregard master plans. Suthers knows the traffic engineer didn’t follow the ONEN Master Plan because he testified in defense of her decision. During the injunction hearing he stated that the traffic engineer isn’t bound to follow master plans and that her decisions should not be reviewable. He went on to state “The notion that folks can run in and enjoin traffic engineering decisions because of some language in a master plan or something like that–that presents all kinds of problems.”
- The City has made it clear it isn’t interested in public input anyway. City Councilmember Jill Gaebler has repeatedly stated that it doesn’t matter if most people agree with narrowing Cascade, because the City decided that’s what’s best. Suthers expressed a similar view during the injunction hearing when he said “Democracy is not going to be a good resolver of traffic engineering decisions. We simply cannot put these things to a vote. The average person does not have the expertise to decide what’s good or not good from a traffic engineering standpoint.”
In other words, Mayor Suthers’ advice to those against road narrowing is to (a) give even more public input than they already have on (b) general goals that don’t address specific objections in (c) master plans he says the traffic engineer can ignore partly because (d) he thinks the average person’s views aren’t that useful anyway.
We don’t consider his answer helpful.
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