In mid December, BCA was excited to see that Senator Begich’s amendment to a transportation safety bill passed unanimously through the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The amendment encourages states and local governments to design and build roads that are safe for both motorized and non-motorized users.
In a rare bipartisan effort, after introducing the measure, Senator Begich worked with Senator Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, to ensure the amendment allows states the flexibility to write a policy that works best for their state. This common sense measure does not add any cost for the federal or state governments and does not require one design for all roads; it just requires smart planning. As a result, the amendment passed the committee with unanimous support. That’s impressive because every other vote that day in the Committee fell along party lines and shows the type of strong leadership Senator Begich has brought to Washington D.C.
The Begich safe roads Amendment is good for Alaska. According to the 2009 American Commuter Survey more people commute to work by biking and walking in Alaska than in any other state. Unfortunately Alaska also has the third highest rate of biking and walking fatalities. One in every seven traffic fatalities is a bicyclist or pedestrian. Nationally, pedestrian deaths and injuries are increasing. By ensuring that bicyclists and pedestrians are taken into account in the design phase, the Begich safety amendment saves lives and money by building our streets right the first time.
Another step to improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists is to build new biking and walking infrastructure on existing roads, and Senator Begich has been a consistent supporter of that too – from his days as Mayor of Anchorage to his current role as Senator. As Mayor he championed improvements to Strawberry Road and 9th Avenue in Anchorage. This year in the Senate, he championed maintaining the Transportation Enhancement fund, the main source of federal funding for biking and walking projects. The program sets aside one to two cents of every transportation dollar for things like sidewalks, bikeways, and other uses that make our roads safe and complete. In Alaska these funds have been used for projects like the Blue Ice trail at Portage and improving access to Chester Creek trail and UAA trails here in Anchorage.
On behalf of all those who currently use their bicycle for transportation, as well as those who would but are still apprehensive about getting on a bike and mingling with motorists on the streets of Anchorage, BCA thanks Senator Begich for his leadership in making our streets safer for all users.