Mayor & Council Survey – Amir Omar
Bike Friendly Richardson sent a questionnaire to all of the Mayor and City Council candidates for the May municipal elections. We requested this information not to make an endorsement, but to gather knowledge of where the candidates stand on bicycling issues and provide this information as a service to our members. We will publish all responses here on the BFR blog.
The first response we have received to date comes from current Place 7 council member and mayoral candidate Amir Omar:
1: Do you (and your family) ride a bicycle on Richardson roads or trails? For what purposes do you ride?
Amir Omar: Although I am primarily a runner, I do ride my Cannondale hybrid on streets and trails from time to time. The primary reason I ride is either as cross training or as an alternative means of transportation to and from a nearby local destination.
2: The City of Richardson has supported quality of life facilities such as a park and trail system, recreation centers, swimming pools and bicycle lanes. These facilities make Richardson a more livable city where people want to live and businesses want to locate. What would you do to maintain and expand these qualities?
Amir Omar: First and foremost I would focus on making sure that the current facilities and infrastructure are in sound working condition. We have a wonderful park and recreation system and it is important that all aspects of it reflect an attention to detail and excellence that represent
us well. What that means to me is an even higher focus on maintenance and repair so that even our oldest facilities would be something we could be proud of. We have a number of outdated and run down pools and a plan to shift our aquatics offering to one that reflects more modern use. I would support a staged approach to replacing or updating these facilities as a part of a long-range plan. As for bicycle lanes, I am a huge proponent of accelerating the expansion of our bicycle lane system. In the last few months an update was made to the council and I vocalized that desire to accelerate our plans. In my opinion, doing more in this category is incredibly affordable and sets our City apart in a big way.
3: Last year, Bike Friendly Richardson partnered with the City Transportation Department to submit a Bicycle Friendly Community application. The feedback that we received indicated that the City needed to improve in the following areas of bike-friendliness:
*Having an effective Bicycle Advisory Committee.
*Expanding the bicycle and pedestrian manager’s time focused on the 5 E’s (Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation & Planning) would help in scaling up your Bicycle Friendly Community efforts.
*Adopt a Complete Streets or Bicycle Accommodation policy and offer implementation guidance.
*Increase the amount of secure bicycle parking at popular destinations such as transit stops, schools, recreation and entertainment facilities, retail and office clusters and churches throughout the community.
*Expand encouragement efforts during National Bike Month in partnership with local bicycle advocacy groups. Have the Mayor / City Council proclaim May as Bike Month. Host, sponsor and/or encourage bicycle-themed community events such as community rides, a bicycle festival or a commuter challenge. Widely advertise all bicycle-themed community events.
What would you do to increase the chances of achieving a Bike Friendly Community designation during your term in office?
Amir Omar: I would advocate for a 4 year plan to accomplish all of the items above as well as a number of other things that would increase the walkability of our City. Aside from the designation, which I believe fits our desire to be a more marketable City, the elements each make sense
if we are to be considered mass transit and/or multi mode of transportation advocates. The vast majority of the items above can be done in the first term, while the larger budget or time consuming options could take in the range of 3-4 years to complete. Aside from this, I have already taken a leadership role in promoting a healthy lifestyle and would look for more ways to do that as the Mayor. In a political setting it is easy to promise advocacy on issues like this, but my track record speaks volumes.
During my 4 years on the City Council I not only advocated for policy and direction that advanced a healthy lifestyle and amenities like bike lanes I also did the following things:
I created and chaired the Spirit Run 5k benefiting the RISD Excellence in Education Foundation (2010-2012)
I chaired the WildRide! WildRun! Against Cancer benefiting the Methodist Richardson Cancer Center 2011 & 2012
I created the Councilman’s Fitness Challenge encouraging residents as well as people who go to school or work in Richardson to exercise 10 times a month. I then rewarded those who got to 10 with a breakfast on me. Program grew to nearly 200 participants.
In August 2012 I created and chaired the Richardson YMCA kids Triathlon benefiting the Y. It was a success and is something they plan to continue.
4: Richardson has shown itself to be a progressive, forward-thinking city in terms of alternative transportation infrastructure, environmental conservation and restoration, and other quality of life criteria. Several cities in the US, including Boulder, CO; Kansas City, MO; and Fort Worth, TX; have implemented ordinances that require and/or incentivize the installation of bicycle parking as part of new commercial and multifamily construction or major renovation. Would you support the implementation of this type of ordinance in Richardson?
Amir Omar: I would support an incentive vs a requirement when it comes to private organizations. This can be done in the form of lowering the parking requirements (that cost real money) as well as a designation we could create for organizations that are enabling bicycle use. When it
comes to public facilities on the other hand, I would look to enable each of them to have alternatives in place over the previously mentioned 4 years.
5: Do you support the installation of more bicycle parking on City property, such as at parks, City Hall, the Courthouse, etc.?
Do you support implementing temporary bike parking solutions at events like the Cottonwood Arts Festival, Wildflower Festival, Huffhines Art Trails, etc.?
Amir Omar: Yes to both of these things. I mention aspects of the support in questions 2,3, and 4. The temporary solution for our regional events and festivals make a great deal of sense, as they will lower the parking burden around the event site.
6: Richardson has significant parts of a multi-use Trail Network in place. The City of Richardson Transportation and Park and Recreation Departments have plans to improve and extend the bicycle lane and trail network, including facilitating connections to our surrounding cities. Will you support continued implementation of the Richardson Bicycle Facilities Plan?
Amir Omar: Absolutely. Support is important, but there are also clear and affordable opportunities to accelerate certain parts of the plan. I would press to accelerate where it is affordable, such as painted bike lanes in the plan.
7: Two years ago the State Legislature overwhelmingly passed a safe passing law for vulnerable road users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, construction workers, etc (see attached example). The Governor vetoed the bill. All of our neighboring states have safe-passing laws and several cities in Texas including Plano, Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton, San Antonio, Austin, New Braunfels, Edinburg, El Paso, Beaumont and Helotes have adopted safe passing ordinances. Would you support implementation of this type of ordinance for Richardson?
Amir Omar: Absolutely. There are entirely too many instances of injury as well as deaths due to a lack of awareness or care on the part of drivers. We should reinforce the need to drive friendly through the passage of that type of ordinance.