Gainesville City Commission candidates all agree that, between full buses and dangerous bike lanes, getting around town can be tricky for cyclists.
Despite collectively recognizing that Gainesville’s transportation needs improvement, especially on the east side, not one candidate could agree on a financial solution during a public forum hosted Feb. 9 by Gainesville Citizens for Active Transport.
Harvey Budd, Jay Curtis, Adrian Hayes-Santos and Donald Shepard Sr. are the candidates for At-Large Seat 1.
Incumbent commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, former commissioner Scherwin Henry, Charles Edward Goston, Lucas Jewell and Chris Weaver are the District 1 candidates.
“The greatest problem with this is safety, period,” Goston said. “There are too many people who ride bicycles who are injured and killed because of the lack of sensitivity and training of people who drive cars who don’t respect bicycles.”
Curtis said he wants to see bike lanes improved in Gainesville. He regularly bikes to commission meetings and work. His son also likes to cycle, but Curtis said he does not feel safe letting him ride on the street.
Curtis said he will use his background in aerospace engineering to help solve transportation problems if he is elected.
Candidates say bus availability is a transportation issue for the east side of Gainesville.
“The bus system on the east side is the most inefficient,” Henry said. “People have to wait longer for buses, not as many people are riding that want to, (and) more people who are homeless have better access to buses than people who are trying to get to work every day.”
Henry said he wants to see the transportation surtax that was shot down in fall 2014 back on the ballot. The surtax would have increased the sales tax in by one cent in order to fund better transportation.
However, the youngest District 1 candidate, 23-year-old Lucas Jewell, vowed to never raise taxes for Gainesville residents. His strategy would include lobbying for federal money to help fund projects.
“They’re having a hard time repairing bridges that are about to collapse,” Chris Weaver said. “To think that we’re just going to get a whole bunch of dollars from the federal and state government – I think that’s a bit naïve.”
City Commission elections are March 17.