Sunday, April 26, 2009

Municipality Of Anchorage Unveils Anchorage Bicycle Plan To Increase Ridership And Reduce Accidents; Will Cost $81 Million Total Over 20 Years


On Saturday April 25th, 2009, during the last day of the three-day Alaska Bike Summit, the Municipality of Anchorage unveiled the 166-page Anchorage Bicycle Plan, a 20-year program intended to increase local ridership while reducing bicycle traffic mishaps. Anchorage had 1,827 bicycle-vehicle crashes from 1994 to 2006, eight of them fatal. The plan has actually been available for public review since March, and final comments are due by Thursday April 30th.

-- Review the full Anchorage Bicycle Plan HERE. Recommend you only load one chapter at a time; the entire document is 15 MB.
-- See how it will look on a map of Anchorage HERE (may take up to a minute to load).

Lori Schanche, the plan's co-author and the city's non-motorized transportation coordinator, says that the city's goal is to double the amount of local ridership while reducing the number of bicycle crashes by one-third. She also said the plan is geared primarily towards operational cycling, defined as relating to commuting and to other task-oriented transportation missions. This plan doesn't deal with recreational cycling, which will be separately addressed.

Proposed remedial actions include upgrading existing cycling routes, creating new routes or designating bike lanes on existing streets, and increasing bike parking, bike traffic signs and safety and education projects.

The total cost: The plan details 150 construction projects costing $81 million over a period of 20 years, subidivided as follows.

-- Short-term costs: In the next four years, the city hopes to create 51 miles of bicycle lanes, 19 miles of paths next to roads and greenbelt trails and 3 miles of new trail in greenbelts, at $18.7 million.
-- Long term costs: In the next 20 years, the city envisions an additional 23 miles of bicycle lanes, 30 miles of separated pathways, and 13 miles of greenbelts trail, at $63.0 million.

How will we pay for it? Chapter 7 of the Anchorage Bicycle Plan addresses this issue. They acknowledge that existing transportation funds are insufficient for this project. They recommend starting out with the MOA's Capital Improvement Fund, then fleshing it out with Federal transportation funds, and also with various grants, to include Federal block grants.

Local Reaction: As expressed in the comments to the Anchorage Daily News story, somewhat skeptical. Even those who are willing to support the plan do so on condition that cyclists are held just as legally responsible as motorists. And this doesn't just mean enforcement of traffic laws; some want cyclists to be required to have plates, registration, headlights, taillights, turn signals, clip lights, and even insurance. One person even wants to require cyclists to buy a "user pass" for the city's trail system.

Obviously, cyclists should be held accountable to the same traffic movement laws as motorists. And some safety equipment, such as headlights and taillights, should be mandated. But plates? Insurance? User passes? Many people don't merely ride bicycles regularly simply to keep fit and avoid the recurring expenses of owning a vehicle, they also do so to escape the crushing state bureaucracy attendant to vehicle ownership. If you require cyclists to register, license, and insure their bikes jsut like vehicles, you dampen part of the incentive to switch to cycling. Go back and read the intent of the Bicycle Plan once again - part of the intent is to INCREASE RIDERSHIP. You don't do that by increasing bureaucracy. Also bear in mind that, because of our extended winter, the incentive to cycle year round is rather small.

Much of the critical comments reflect anti-cyclist bias on the part of motorists. Cyclists are often stereotyped as self-righteous, bottled-water swilling, tofu-guzzling, art-loving cadaverous Woody Allen-type metrosexual yuppies. This is an exaggeration - many cyclists are responsible, ordinary folk who prefer to simplify their lives by not being burdened by vehicle ownership or by operating vehicles in traffic-choked environments. I suggest that motorists and cyclists alike visit the BicycleSafe.com website to learn more about the challenges of vehicle and bicycle co-existence on our streets.

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