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Biking issues discussed at final City Council candidate forum

BY JULIA DAVIS | OCTOBER 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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The six candidates vying for three seats on the Iowa City City Council have participated in numerous forums over the past few weeks, and Wednesday night marked the final meeting between the contenders before the Nov. 5 election.

Think Bicycles, a local coalition of businesses, nonprofits, and cycling groups, hosted the forum in hopes of identifying candidates’ positions on cycling-related issues in Iowa City.

“We wanted to nail down the candidates to see where they stood on cycling in the community,” said Nate Van Der Weide, the president of Bicyclists of Iowa City. “We’re pretty cycling-centric here as a group, and we were very excited to see where their opinions were.”

Of the six candidates, Kingsley Botchway, Rockne Cole, Catherine Champion, Susan Mims, and Royceann Porter participated in the event. Terry Dickens was not in attendance.

All candidates in attendance were in support of enhancing biking measures in Iowa City, though the degree to which they were in support of said measures varied greatly.

Cole stressed increased biking infrastructure as a main point in his platform. According to Cole, currently Iowa City is “not doing a good job” making the streets safe for bikers, and the economy is suffering because of this.

“I view bike infrastructure as a core part of the transportation projects in the community, not something that we pay for when we have a little extra money,” Cole said. “One of the best ways we can innovate is by pedaling our way towards a greener and more prosperous economy.”

Botchway agreed and thought biking improvements should be an obvious next step for Iowa City.

“Bicycling is transportation that we don’t currently use to a level we could be using it,” he said. “It’s almost like a ‘duh’ factor. We should have already been here.”

Porter looked at the need for better biking in the city from a different standpoint. She said many people who can’t afford cars rely on bikes as a necessity. 

“A lot of poor people have to ride their bikes because they have no other way of getting to and from where they have to go,” she said. “We need safety for all people, no matter who.”

Champion cited her past as a main motive behind her support of a bike-friendly community.

“For me, it’s not even a choice. Having a more bikable, sustainable, and walkable city is just part of my natural lifestyle,” she said. “It’s the way I was raised; it’s engrained in me.”

Although she did voice her support of measures to improve the biking community in Iowa City, Mims was hesitant about the degree to which her support would extend. She said that Iowa City has many other financial strains to deal with, and many issues besides better biking access must be dealt with.

“We have to balance our financial challenges while always trying to improve the quality of life that we offer for our citizens,” she said. “That quality of life means different things for different people — for some it’s having better biking opportunities, for some it’s better public transportation, for some it’s having community gardens, and we have to cater to all of those things.”

Van Der Weide was pleased with how the event went and hopes citizens left with a better understanding of candidates’ views regarding biking in Iowa City.

“I think the event served its purpose in getting candidates to really put their feet to the fire and see where they stand on these important issues,” he said.


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