Sharon GillespieSeptember 30, 2023
1.What is your vision to help people ride and walk safely in our community? What actual steps might you take to achieve your vision?
Safe transportation, whether it be by car, bike, foot, scooter, wheelchair, etc., has been one of my central focus points for the past few years. Realizing that safe and accessible transportation is key to a healthy society, a well functioning economy, and a fundamental need for every resident and visitor, must be a top priority for a city that wishes to be a safe haven for its citizens.
Solutions I personally have participated in up to this point, and will continue to work diligently on, include, formation of the Bicycle Collective, a not for profit that helps people in the community receive and repair bicycles for transportation and recreation. Additionally, I have been an active member of the Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance board of directors, advocating for safe, healthy, cycling/pedestrian infrastructure in our city, county, and state. The past four years as I have served on the council, I have worked very hard to ensure we are heading in the healthy direction of connected bike paths and lanes, safe pedestrian infrastructure, including road design that views safety for ALL road users as its top priority. I worked with the city engineers and planners, along with SUBA, Healthy Dixie, and other advisory organizations, to create an Active Transportation Plan, a Complete Streets Plan, and lobbied for the hiring of our first ever Active Transportation Manager at the City. The hiring of this manager has already paid off ten fold, as he has been diligently seeking grants, reviewing plans for safety, and elevating the conversation around achieving our vision of safe transportation for all. I am currently working with him and others to create a trail etiquette plan that will be the first of its kind in the State of Utah. Additionally, I worked with our police department to come up with a program called Watch Your Six that they rolled out to the public incredibly successfully, receiving positive feedback from citizens about educating residents in regards to the six most deadly behaviors of automobile drivers.
2. Forty years ago, more than 60% of school children in the US walked or rode a bicycle to school. Today, that figure is less than 10%. This decline in bicycling and walking and physical activity in general has been mirrored by dramatic increases in negative health impacts for kids. What would you do to reverse this trend? What role do you think the city should play in making it safer for children to walk and bike to school?
Through my work with the Bicycle Collective and Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance, I believe I have demonstrated that this is a top priority for me, not only as an elected official, but simply as a human living in this city who has a desire for every single resident to have access to healthy and safe transportation. As a child, I loved riding my bike and walking to school. It was accessible for me. My belief is that the city’s role is to design safe infrastructure to start out. The key is in the design. When our streets, trails, and sidewalks are designed with the human element in mind, we are protecting our most valuable asset, our people. There is no higher need.
3. Do you agree that Complete Streets (a design philosophy that provides safe accommodations for all Users…vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists) is the approach local municipalities needs to take when designing and reconstructing roads.
Yes. And I have been very actively engaged in making this happen, not only for the city of St. George but for the entire county. I currently serve on the Dixie Transportation Executive Committee, where we discuss the road design needs of the entire county, with UDOT in attendance. This has been an excellent opportunity to be at the table when design decisions are in their infancy so I can speak to the need for complete street design.
4. Tell us about your personal experiences riding a bike, running or walking for recreation, exercise or transportation.
When I was 5 years old, my cousin taught me to ride a bike without my parents knowledge. A few weeks later when my dad mentioned to a bike salesman that I didn’t know how to ride, I was very proud to jump on a bike and prove him wrong! Bikes have been enhancing my quality of life ever since that day. I moved to downtown St. George a few years ago and have loved being so close to needs that I can walk, run, or ride my bike to the majority of my meetings for the city as well as to the grocery store, park, restaurant, concert, play…. You name it. My husband Darrin and I have actively participated in running races, triathlons, and bike races and rides for many years. We enjoy the opportunities provided to us living in such a health focused community with incredible weather! St George is truly an amazing place to live that inspires health and wellness.
5. Is there anything else that you would like to share about Active Transportation in Washington County?
The request I receive most often is this: Please do not allow our city to become like Los Angeles. When that comment is made, what they are meaning is, please do not let our quality of life suffer because of horrible traffic congestion, bad air quality, crime, lack of preservation of vital open spaces….They mean so many things when they say this, but the key is this: if we follow the exact same pattern LA followed, we will get the same result! We must be willing to create our own pattern. A pattern that is focused on healthy quality of life for all. That means designing streets and roadways for all modalities. Active transportation is vital as part of a healthy future for us now and for future generations.
6. Do you support the renewal of the St. George General Obligation bond which is on the ballot this Fall. Do you plan to personally advocate for its renewal?
YES! And I have been actively advocating for it. We need this bond to pass in order to complete the trail, parks, and recreation projects that will create transportation connectivity, place a park in our city boundaries within a mile of every home, make sure the recreation and sports faculties residents have told us are top priority to them can be completed, and to ensure we continue to have quality of life as a top tier priority for the city. Our overall theme at the city is ACTIVITY AND OPTIMISM. This focus has blessed lives as well as our economy!
Thank you for the excellent questions!