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Bike ordinance would create safer infrastructure for cyclists

KTUU Anchorage: Bike ordinance would create safer infrastructure for cyclists

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The Assembly heard public comment Tuesday night on a bike ordinance that would create a cycling road network in Anchorage.

The plan would connect more than 500 miles of trails and roads to help cyclists get anywhere in the city safely without getting in the way.

"When I'm riding my bike, that's when my great ideas come to me," says Dawn Groth.

Groth's greatest idea kicked off from what she felt was a short-sighted comment she heard on the curbside.

"People would even roll their windows down as they are driving past me and say, ‘You should be up on the sidewalk,'" she said.

Groth figured drivers aren't interested in sharing the road.

So the self-described bike education advocate is speaking out in support of the bike ordinance that she says would make cycling on city roads safer.

"The goal is to double utility bicycling, reduce injuries by 30 percent and just provide safety, for the most part, to make Anchorage a more bicycle-friendly city," she said.

The idea gained traction in the Municipality's Transportation Department.

The project's coordinator says the ordinance would put bike lanes on busy roads, add graded pathways and build a few bicycle boulevards, side roads just for bikes.

"There's a lot of bicyclists out there, so it's not that we are building something for people to come to. They are already out using it. We are trying to create a system to make bicycling safer," said Lori Schanche, the Non-motorized Transportation Coordinator.

Those against the bike ordinance say it will hold up traffic, and they criticize the $15 million price tag spread out over the next five years.

While discussion on bike safety gets rolling, cyclists say another change to traffic laws would cause more car-bike collisions.

The Anchorage Police Department suggested changing the current Title 9 law, which would give drivers the right of way.

That means drivers could turn right on red without yielding to pedestrians. So many people only look left for traffic and don't see pedestrians on the right. Pretty soon they might not have to.

"I don't think it's a good thing, especially if you are talking about children. As soon as a car has the right of way then there is something wrong with that when you've got kids involved," Schanche said.

In 2004 the law changed giving cyclists the right of way. After that collisions dropped.

Those against the change say it's pointless to backpedal.

"I don't understand why they're trying to reverse it to what it used to be. It was more dangerous the way it was," Groth says.

That change isn't expected to gain momentum until later this spring, but Groth says she'll first gear up for the bike ordinance and then switch gears.