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BikeABQ Candidate Survey

Athena Christodoulou

Senate District 21 — Democratic Primary

1. Do you bike in New Mexico? Describe your experience biking for transportation and/or recreation.

Yes, My most favorite holiday/business trip was a bike tour in Munich Germany. Aah, what a delight and something to aim for. I bike in Albuquerque, also. In fact, in several of my campaigns I biked while door to door canvassing. I have a basket attachment on my electric bicycle. The district is predominantly housing with some light commercial. During good weather, I try to do my daily errands on my bike.

However, there are few dedicated bike paths, but some of the wider roads with bike lanes come close to being safe. Charting a path is sometimes a challenge. Food, clothing, banking, and necessities are in reach. However, I and have only limited access to the post office nearest me. It is on a busy road with no safe access for bicyclists. I haven’t tried the bus as I have little reason to venture too far south, but if I did, having to put that heavy bike on the rack myself means…I won’t. I don’t have bike access to a train station, but I still love taking the Railrunner to Santa Fe and wished it had a more robust schedule. Otherwise I applaud all the efforts over the years to add more bike paths, maps, and encouragement to bike to make Albuquerque a bike friendly city.

2. Describe your vision of a healthy, safe, equitable transportation system for the Greater Albuquerque Region and the roles walking, biking, and public transportation play in that vision.

As an avid environmentalist and the vice chair of the Environmental Justice Caucus, I am aware that our personal gas-fueled vehicles are the largest contributor to climate change and the average automobile costs create equity issues. The costs (infrastructure, annual vehicle costs of $12,000/year and a 40% increase in insurance costs since COVID) mean that car ownership is a burden to everyone regardless of whether they own one or not. Our current car-focused culture leaves many behind. We also need to remove parking minimums and carve out no-drive zones. Santa Fe has managed to take a step in that direction in the plaza. Too much of our city is dominated by parking! Our downtown air would be cleaner and we could include more revenue and job creating venues.

My vision for Albuquerque would be one where we expand Complete Streets to the ideal that it should be, where everyone in every neighborhood has safe access to sidewalks, protected bike lanes and free public transit (great start with the current free bus program). We should reward or restrict developers to building walkable communities. They should center on transit-oriented development with denser housing with access to transit and stores. You would see more walking and biking for daily needs in an area that touts itself as “walkable”. I would also consult with groups, like BikeABQ, to determine what they feel they need in their local communities and help support those needs. Every resident who does not use a car should be able to safely and conveniently get wherever a driver can….without calling an Uber.

3. What are the biggest barriers to getting people to choose walking, biking, and public transit instead of personal vehicles for daily trips, and what would you do to address these impediments?

The biggest barrier is the lack of consistent and safe infrastructure. In the far NE, there is a hodgepodge of streets with and without sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, etc. The city/ county (part of my district is Bernalillo County) needs to look at the overall picture and PLAN for safer and consistent routes so even our younger children can get to their friend's home. As a child in California, I used to bike to the corner store (fewer cars and more dispersed stores). Albeit, to buy candy, but nonetheless, making our lack of a 2nd vehicle acceptable.

We need traffic calming in one manner or another on every street, including road diets. Our Department of Transportation (DOT) planners and engineers should prioritize safety over speed. If people see that biking, transit and walking is safe, they will partake. We need to encourage local businesses and zoning to focus on the needs of local communities to reduce driving to get groceries or other necessities. We need to fully fund transit so that we not only keep the routes that exist but expand them across the city. And encourage last mile transportation. The rental scooters/bikes are not a bad option with firm rules and regs. We have had a culture that encourages automobiles since World War II. It will take awhile to turn this around, but with the dangers that climate change brings us, we cannot afford to continue down the road that we have followed these last 70 plus years.

4. New Mexico consistently has the deadliest streets of any state in the US, with approximately 400 people killed by vehicles each year while walking, biking, or driving, and another 12,000 people injured. What should New Mexico, and in particular the New Mexico Department of Transportation, do to improve traffic safety?

We can get to zero related traffic deaths in ABQ. Hoboken, New Jersey is a model of success we can study and emulate. As stated earlier, we must stop our DOT from their current focus on moving traffic (speed) to safety. Plans will include traffic calming, including narrower and fewer lanes, as well as increased focus on safe intersections. Our part of the city has 4-lane roads in an area with little to NO traffic as it abuts the Sandia Pueblo. Studies with New York City’s Vision Zero program show that, while deaths have declined in communities with a majority of white residents, they have increased in minority communities, especially in Latino/Hispanic areas. Our area includes a 40% white Hispanic population and neighborhoods range from dirt roads and manufactured housing to gated mansions. We must ensure that our efforts focus on equity for all communities.

5. The New Mexico DOT is currently pursuing a pair of projects related to Interstate 25, following the South I-25 Corridor Study that calls for the widening of Interstate 25 in Albuquerque from Sunport to the Big I, to 8 lanes from the current 6. Do you support urban freeway widenings, or how would you prefer NMDOT enhance transportation options in this corridor?

Thank you for alerting me to these projects. I am always hesitant to widen roads and highways as an only solution for two main reasons. 1) Induced demand. Building roads to decrease congestion always leads to more cars, which leads to more congestion and pollution. I am against widening roads where the purpose is to reduce congestion. 2) Historically, interstates and highways have been placed in communities of color, or as a means of dividing or separating them from the rest of our community. I would have to consult with the affected communities in these two areas to determine what damage they perceive is being done and consult with them on what changes they would prefer.

The only reason I would change a highway/interstate/stroad is if a current road design is dangerous and NMDOT has determined that a new design is safer (but not necessarily wider). Much of the funds that NMDOT receives for road widening should instead be used to expand public transit options (which is allowable under current federal guidelines and has been used in other states).

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