Many in Anchorage don't understand biking traffic laws

This Letter to the Editor, published in the Anchorage Dispatch News, was written in response to the May 10th ADN article by Michelle Theriault Boots: An Anchorage cyclist is recovering after being left for dead in a hit-and-run.

First of all huge shoutout to Jackie Minge for finishing the Gold Nugget Triathlon even after being the hit-and-run victim of Boots' article. It's an amazing accomplishment for anyone to finish a triathlon, let alone to do so during recovery from being hit by a vehicle.

This incident brings to light the struggle of all those biking on Anchorage's roads. From reading the comments on Boots' article, recalling my own and many other commuters' experiences it is clear that many people in Anchorage do not know or understand bike-related traffic laws. As a year-round bike commuter, I fear that I have lived this issue far too often.

Anchorage's municipal traffic code was adapted in early 2011 to address the emergence of more bike commuters on the road. Traffic laws allowing cyclists on the road are not new or unique to Anchorage; the code simply addresses the increase of popularity of bike commuting. Instead of choosing to remain ignorant, we should all develop tolerance of drivers and cyclists alike, share the road and understand Anchorage's laws.

Cyclists are, by law, allowed on the road and are mandated to ride on the road in downtown Anchorage. When cycling in the road, cyclists are generally required to stay to the right of the road, but they can also "take the lane" for various reasons (CAC 9.38.060). When passing a cyclist, a driver must pass on the left and give the cyclist at least 3 feet of clearance (CAC 9.16.030). Cyclists are also allowed to choose to be on the sidewalk when traffic patterns, like speed or direction, encourage them to do so.

The municipality has recently taken on this issue through the Vision Zero Initiative. Vision Zero is a "community commitment to reduce the loss of life and major injuries on roadways to ZERO". This initiative is focusing on infrastructure and how we can create a space for all commuters, education on how to avoid situations like Jackie Minge's, enforcement of traffic laws so that a perpetrator in Jackie's case can be brought to justice, and also through encouragement and evaluation.

But until the initiative is fully completed, we need to place the safety of a human life, of Jackie Minge's life, above all else because cyclists have a right to be on the road.

Kati Ward
Bike Anchorage board member and year-round commuter

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