Home Living Beardcicle Chronicles Same Old Song and Dance

Same Old Song and Dance


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Three. There have been three cyclists killing in anchorage this year — ten months in. It seems, on the one hand, a small number. 0.001 percent of the Anchorage population. Yet it also seems like a large number in light of the percentage of Anchorites who cycle.

The community is looking for ways to make it better, to make things safer for everyone. And the roads do need to be made safer for everyone. It is insane the way people drive in this town. The roads are the most dangerous places to be, it seems.

Charles Wohlforth recently presented a show about cyclist deaths on Hometown Alaska as a way to open a dialogue about how we can improve the situation. And some good ideas were presented. Give it a listen. It’s a good way to spend an hour. Find the podcast here.

Then again, there was a lot of the same old crap coming from the callers. License cyclists. Make them have insurance. Blah, blah, blah.

It’s funny how every driver seems to have a bad biker story to tell. It’s funny how every biker has a bad driver story to tell. It’s also interesting to me that the callers all seemed to miss the key take away here — that everyone, both sides of the aisle, need to do their part and make the roads safer instead of placing blame.

I can get behind that.

What I can’t get behind is the lack of any real talk about infrastructure and how infrastructure, including the roadways and traffic control on the roadways, feeds into the unsafe conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. Particularly when an expert was on the line and barely had the chance to speak.

I know I’ve harped on this before, but one of the best things that the muni could do to provide safer streets is to lower the speed limits. Speed kills. We know this.

The challenge is determining the right balance between speed and safety. Higher speeds are seen as a boost to mobility — the driver can get to where he or she is going more quickly. That is the perception. However, I argue that the reality is a bit different.

How many times have you been stuck in traffic during rush hour? On Tudor or Northern Lights or on any of a number of other streets with posted limits in the 45 to 55 MPH range with lights every third or fourth block? Do you really get where you’re going more quickly? Or do you simply get caught in the race to the next light? Because of these high speed limits, drivers gun it off the line, get to the speed limit and a bit above just in time to slam on the brakes for the next light.

That racing from light to light often leads to running lights. Which leads to endangerment of peds and cyclists. As well as other drivers. And if we are going to continue building roadways in town that mimic highways, we need to look at where these roadways interact with neighborhoods and build them like highways or interstates with crossing features, entry and exit ramps, and no traffic lights.

If we want to act like a city, then let’s dress like a city, right?

I don’t want to go too far into a rat hole here or repeat statements I’ve already made, but if Anchorage is serious about making streets safer for all users, there needs to be some real thinking done on such topics as speed, traffic enforcement for all users, more clearly written laws that serve to protect the most vulnerable users, and education of the public about the laws and their rights and responsibilities on the roads.

The thing is, I don’t have much of a horse in this race right now. My commute uses a limited amount of roadway — a bit down town and a bit through primarily side streets to get to bike trail.  However, I do have a horse in the race in that I would love to see more people choosing to commute through alternate means. The more people who bike, bus, or walk their commute translates in a real way to fewer cars on the street, which means the need for those super highway-type roadways diminishes.

As you sit in traffic on the way home tonight, cursing traffic and how slow it’s moving, just remember that you are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.

You are traffic.


  1. You are really on to something here, Phil! We already know everything we should do to improve prospects for safety for all. Any existing road with the typical setup — two lanes in each direction, sidewalks and nothing else — can pretty easily be converted to be like Arctic, 9th Ave., new part of Raspberry Rd. And others, with a single lane each way, center turning lane and bike lane both sides. When combined with calming measures and fewer signals as you suggest, vastly improved traffic flow and accommodations. Should give priority to such improvements, over all else (new roads, widening and so forth). Home building contractors have been trying to wiggle out of the requirement to build roads in new subdivisions, and put that back on the municipality, which would do nothing but steal resources away from infrastructure improvements!

  2. Many of the wide high speed roads with little or no pedestrian infrastructure in Anchorage have one thing in common; they are owned and maintained by the Alaska DOT, not the Municipality. I’ve heard many people complain that the Muni needs to put roads like Northern Lights, Benson, C, A, Tudor, and Debarr on road diets and lower the speed limit but the Muni does not own these roads. These frustrations need to be directed at the DOT, state legislators and the Governor, not the MOA.

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