Ryan Dorsey, Candidate for City Council- 3rd District

In an effort to educate voters, we will be posting responses to our candidate questionnaire. Questionnaires were emailed to each candidate running for City Council, President of City Council, and Mayor. Candidates have until March 4th to submit. We are publishing results in the order they are received. 

How frequently do you us=e a mode of transportation other than your car to navigate the city? Based on your experience, where should the city prioritize resources for transportation?

RD: I ride my bike more frequently than most, but not nearly as much as I would like. I am admittedly a fair weather rider, but I prefer my bike to my car. I can get to work faster on my bike. I take my bike to social engagements in all parts of the city, and during this campaign I have even biked to canvass in areas of the 3rd District. Our priorities should be placed in anything that moves us away from the dominance of private automobiles, makes us a safer and healthier city, and builds transit equity for people who actually live in Baltimore City. Every person in Baltimore City and the region should be acutely aware and appalled that two thirds of our city’s daily workforce is non-city residents and that two thirds of our daily workforce is driving to their job in a car without a second person in it. We need to vigorously pursue every measure that puts the most basic modes of movement first - walking and biking. This means overall reduction of the amount of land we cede to cars, and the expansion of all manner of accommodations for cyclists, pedestrians and mass transit users working together with advocates of interests that cross over with transportation - health, environment, inclusionary and affordable housing, public safety...

My top three priorities: protected bike facilities, bus shelters, and crosswalks. Every person who would even consider cycling should be able to ride anywhere in the city with the utmost confidence in their safety. Bus riders should be able to wait and transfer out of the elements, and preferably in really beautiful spaces that make any neighborhood more attractive. Pedestrians, especially students walking to school, should be able to cross any road in safety with little hesitation. All of these, plus the removal of parking requirements from zoning and building approvals, are part of a vision for a more livable, less car-centric city.

What role do you believe biking and walking improvements can play in creating a safer, healthier, more livable Baltimore?

RD: Objectively these are more healthy ways of moving than driving, both for the individual and those sharing our environment. And objectively fewer people driving cars amounts to less of the inherent safety risks that cars pose. But there’s more to this still. Prioritizing cycling and pedestrian safety, particularly along mixed use but primarily commercial roads like Harford Road, flanked by entirely residential neighborhoods, amounts to improving all aspects of life, an across-the-board positive, big-bang-for-your-buck investment. And I use this particular one as an example in my campaign every day. I argue that it could be developed into a model for other similar corridors leading from the county into downtown.

Reduce the road from four lanes to two by creating parking-protected cycle tracks on both sides of the street, creating angle parking on one side to also increase parking space. This effectively creates pedestrian safety on both sidewalks and shortening street crossing distance. These things improve retail business support. Well supported retail districts become more attractive for new businesses who would fill vacancies. Safer, more compelling commercial areas help attract and retain families and residents who would walk from nearby homes. More people walking side street to patronize these businesses means more eyes to help stave off crimes of opportunity (a common concern in neighborhoods where the most frequently reported crime is larceny from auto) without increased police patrolling. This all amounts also to job creation and accessibility, and would-be cyclists and walkers being able to better hold jobs because feet and pedals are way more reliable than MTA.

Often road redesigns that improve the safety for people on bikes or people walking do so in a way that removes priority for single occupant vehicles. This can look like removing lanes for travel or decreasing available street parking. Can you describe how you would manage public expectations during project implementation, and handle any backlash from constituents that don’t share in the City’s vision for complete streets?

RD: First of all, persistent and regular communication with residents is vital to ensuring that any project implementation is successful. No matter what project the city is planning to pursue, be it the addition of a cycle track or the repair of a major bridge, it needs to communicate with residents about the schedule of the project, its impact on the neighborhood and the benefits residents will see as a result. It also needs to listen to residents’ concerns and input up front. One major issue we’ve had with the implementation of cycling infrastructure is that it is not swiftly, or even fully implemented. In the 3rd District, it took months for the city to install flex posts on the Walther Blvd. bike lane. In addition, signage for the lane was never installed and very little enforcement by the police occurred. As a result, motorists continue to use this lane as a second travel lane, endangering cyclists and other motorists. The city sends mixed messages to both cyclists and motorists when it does not fully finish the bike infrastructure projects it starts. Motorists see poorly implemented bike lanes as a nuisance, while cyclists see them as a hazard or a symbol that the city does not really care about their safety. On the other hand, well-managed and installed bike infrastructure will quickly show the public how important these projects are to the health of our city. The more projects we can build successfully following a fully engaged public input process, the more buy-in we will get from cyclists, neighbors and motorists.

Recent audits have discovered that the Department of Transportation struggles to measure key performance indicators. The city’s procurement and project management processes have also faced scrutiny. This has led to significant delays of key improvements to bicycle infrastructure in Baltimore. How will you work to improve performance and accountability of city agencies like the Department of Transportation under your leadership?

RD: I will use public hearings to hold mayoral appointees and city management accountable on an ongoing basis. I will scrutinize every budget and any nominee for appointment, seeking better contract writing and management. I will propose and support a charter amendment to restructure the Board of Estimates in such a way as to give the council greater oversight of those involved in writing and awarding contracts. I will engage the Office of the Inspector General to investigate matters of waste, fraud and abuse. I will propose a charter amendment requiring more rigorous and frequent audit requirements and actionable repercussions for failure to perform them.

The percentage of people choosing to take public transit or ride a bike for transportation is increasing in Baltimore, while the percentage of residents without access to a vehicle is over 30%. How would you rate the city’s current investment in sustainable transportation solutions for its residents, and as a council person what would you do to support increased investment?

RD: I rate it pretty low. The biggest investment made in sustainable transportation seems to be the Circulator, but that could hardly be seen as an investment FOR RESIDENTS, considering its basic impetus is to get DRIVERS from garages to jobs, drivers who are coming from counties, nonetheless. Also, by the very fact that it doesn’t serve any predominantly black neighborhoods in a majority black city, I’m pretty sure that can’t be mistaken as being for residents either.

A recent study by Harvard economists found that the single strongest factor affecting the odds of a child escaping poverty is not the test scores of his or her local schools or the crime in the community; it is the percent of workers in his or her neighborhood who have long commutes. How do you plan to improve transportation options and commute times for our most vulnerable residents?

RD: Prioritizing cycling infrastructure over driving lanes has actually shown to decrease congestion, which should amount to better bus reliability where bike and bus routes overlap - while biking also gives many people another safe option for getting to work faster than driving, and without having to wait for a bus or transfer. On a similar topic, 40% of students are missing more than a month of school each year. This can be largely attributed to transportation options/problems. We must do better here. I have proposed city sponsored rideshare. A student living in Park Heights and attending Digital Harbor High School, if everything is running on time, faces 3 to 3-½ hours in transit daily, diminishing many other opportunities for engagement, experience, and growth. Meanwhile, there’s almost certainly somebody driving from a nearby neighborhood to Locust Point and back at the exact same times, and that person’s car probably has four empty seats in it. Technology could make it all too easy for these people to link up to one another, and I have just enough faith in humanity to believe there’s a decent chance that driver would be willing to give that kid a ride.

What other information about your candidacy would you like to share with our members?

RD: At the beginning of 2015 I began working to change the city’s plans for the Harford Road bridge at Herring Run Park. The plans for this 3 year, $30M project did not include protection of the cycle lanes, despite the volume and observed speeds of traffic (22k cars daily, 45+ mph). With assistance from Bikemore on details in the original petition and design specifications, and after 10 months of persistence through every possible angle, the plans (which DOT said would not be changed) are being changed to incorporate every aspect of the proposal.