Do you want to know more about where our mayoral candidates stand on Anchorage's bikeable future?
The Bike Anchorage Advocacy Committee sent out 5 questions to all candidates in order to better communicate their specific positions on key bikeability issues. Our next mayor will have monumental sway in decisions and efforts that shape the safety, comfort, and mobility of our city for people inside and outside of cars.
Bike Anchorage would like to thank the candidates who participated in our questionnaire: Forrest Dunbar, Bill Falsey, and George Martinez.
Municipal ballots have been sent out by mail and are due April 6th, so get out and Bike the Vote!
Here are the 5 questions and our candidates' responses:
1. What is your vision for making Anchorage a safer, more livable city when it comes to multi-modal transportation, including for pedestrians, people on bikes, buses, and cars?
Falsey: I support increased focus on multi-modal – and, particularly, non-motorized – travel, even as I recognize that motor-vehicle travel is likely to remain the dominant form of transportation for Anchorage in the coming years. Embracing the multi-modal opportunity of Anchorage must start with safety for all users, something embodied in the “Vision Zero” initiative’s goal to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy, and equitable transportation for everyone. Achieving this “Vision” requires a commitment to improving the built environment, something achievable through the adoption of “complete streets” (like we see in the rebuilt northern section of Spenard Road), that equally prioritize pedestrian and bicycle safety. Building safer streets should also be coupled with improvements to our mass transit system, including reliable (and short) headways, and providing bike racks (including the recently installed fat bike-friendly bike racks) for those making truly multi-modal trips throughout Anchorage.Martinez: My vision is for a connected, safe and thriving city and the development of a strong multi-modal transportation system is a critical component of accomplishing this vision. I want to see enhanced connectivity from neighborhoods to trails to parks and downtown. Improved sidewalks and more and better-protected bike lanes. I also want to see a robust public transportation network to help remove cars from the roads and support working families’ ability to get to work.
Dunbar: Anchorage can be a vibrant city that attracts and retains a trained and talented workforce with world-class outdoor recreation opportunities and walkable, bikeable neighborhoods where our cultural diversity is on full display, where child care is accessible and high-quality, and housing is affordable. Our transportation system is very much at the center of that vision, and we need to continue making investments that support multi-modal transport. During my time on the board of the Anchorage Park Foundation, I have supported their vision of improved trail connectivity, as well as creating a sense of Indigenous Place on our trails and promoting Inclusive Play in our parks. These aren’t just the morally right calls—they are the economically smart decisions too, as they both attract more visitors and improve a quality of life that makes our Municipality competitive in a world where people can increasingly work from anywhere. In addition, I have supported funding for our public transportation system while on the Assembly and will continue to do so as mayor. I will always look for opportunities, working with groups like Bike Anchorage, to build our city around people, not just the cars that they drive.
2. More specifically, how would you enhance the safety and convenience of biking within our urban cores and residential spaces while taking steps to make Anchorage transportation meet its goal of zero roadway deaths?
Martinez:a) Improve traffic enforcement.b) Decrease speeds in residential spaces.c) Work with the state to improve safety on intersections across both state and local roadways.d) Use creative placemaking for traffic calming.
Dunbar: We need a connected, well-marked trail system so pedestrians and cyclists aren’t forced into roadways—but insofar as that overlap is inevitable, we need to slow the speeds on certain streets (by working with the State), improve lighting and traffic calming measures, and install protected bike lanes where possible. In downtown, my Administration will partner with adjoining businesses to close certain streets and create pedestrian promenades and will work with the State DOT to find alternatives routes for the highway/truck route that currently runs through the heart of downtown. Slowing traffic not only saves lives, but it is better for the environment and the economy. In residential spaces, there are creative ways to slow drivers down the use of different paving stones, well-marked and raised crossings, miniature roundabouts like those installed in the Russian Jack area, “lane diets,” and additional trees adds an atmosphere that slows people down in ways that also improve our neighborhood character and liveability.
Falsey: I would continue to take my queues from the Vision Zero plan: investing in safer streets; ensuring robust enforcement of traffic laws; improving trail connectivity; making necessary lighting upgrades; and focusing on the data – which currently tells us that we have equity issues in our traffic crashes. On the data front, the 2019 Annual Traffic Report shows a number of crashes, fatal and non-fatal, has been going steadily down since 2016 (http://www.muni.org/departments/traffic/pages/annualtrafficreport.aspx, pages 42 and 52). Still, the report shows 23 fatal crashes in 2019; and then shows recent-year averages of between 8 and 9 pedestrian deaths and, on average, less than 1 bicyclist death – but we do have over 100 pedestrian and bicycle injury accidents a year. The reductions are In part due to on-going efforts; and not just traffic calming (we have deployed some speed bumps, or speed cushions, which sometimes have negative effects on the fire departments’ EMS response time, or push traffic into less desirable areas, so you have to do it smartly), but also on things like upgrading pedestrian amenities: lowering the street grades to increase visibility, and installing new 4-way intersection crossings, giving pedestrians the ability to stop traffic. APD traffic enforcement also plays a big role here – a look at the factors associated with the crashes shows: improper driving, ignoring traffic control device, aggressive driving, followed too close, unsafe speed, drunk driving. That’s part of why we built APD back up, adding 100 additional sworn officers and bringing the traffic unit back to strength. I’d continue all of those efforts while being sure to partner with DOT and looking to increase our sidewalk plowing capabilities.
3. The Anchorage Non-Motorized Plan is near adoption and highlights areas most needing walking and biking improvements. Should Anchorage adopt this plan, and if so, how will you ensure that the plan’s guidance and vision are incorporated into transportation projects?
Dunbar: Yes, I support the adoption of the Anchorage Non-Motorized plan and am grateful to the Community Advisory Committee, constituents, and others who have made its final public comment period accessible and meaningful even as we have moved operations online. To incorporate its vision and ensure community time is used wisely, I will work with AMATS to make sure each new project that is brought forward is evaluated and built using the plan as a guide. If we analyze each project at Step 1 with these guidelines and continue those reflections over the long life of implementation we can maximize the Non-Motorized Plan’s impact.
Falsey: Yes, Anchorage should adopt a version of the plan, and work toward fulfilling the draft Non-Motorized Plan’s vision of a network of facilities for non-motorized travel (walking, biking, rolling, and all winter devices) that will help residents travel more safely and efficiently without the need of a motor vehicle in all seasons. As mayor, I would have a seat on the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (AMATS) Policy Committee that makes important decisions regarding the local use of federal transportation dollars. And, as mayor, I will have a significant influence on the bond proposals that Anchorage submits to voters. I will ensure both are consistent with the guidance and vision outlined in the draft plan.
Martinez: Yes, Anchorage should adopt the plan. As mayor, I would publicly prioritize the plan and champion its successful implementation. I would work with developers to integrate the plan into master development plans, providing tax incentives for amplifying nonmotorized amenities.
4. Cities across the nation have shifted their transportation policies to follow guidance from The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). What are your thoughts on Anchorage becoming a NACTO Member City and incorporating their street design guides into our urban spaces?
Falsey: I’m open to it, especially since NACTO already is a tremendous resource to municipal staff. I’d like to know more about what the city would get for the $25,000 membership cost, and would appreciate the chance to be briefed on whether and how NACTO standards differ from the city’s current approaches. (The NACTO standards are referenced 31 times in the draft non-motorized plan, for example. See pages 13, 141, 151-59, 168, 174, 175, & 181.)
Martinez: support becoming a NACTO member city recognizing that not every recommendation will work in Anchorage but that our exploration of new ideas will lead to unique opportunities from within the community.
Dunbar: Anchorage is eligible to be an Affiliate City with NACTO, and I plan to work with AMATS to make that happen. Anchorage benefits from our other knowledge-sharing partnerships, like the National League of Cities, and it’s one way that we’ve been able to bring new, innovative ideas to our Municipality, gain access to grant funds to support community projects, and discuss the challenges of cities our size. A partnership with NACTO would allow us access to further resources and new city partners to give us tools to adapt our transportation system to make it safer and more accessible through design
5. Besides providing safety and accommodation for people on bikes, in your opinion what are three other benefits that Anchorage might see if we made our city less car-dependent?
Martinez:1) Improved quality of air.2) Enhanced destination/ tourism opportunities.3) Improved attractiveness for drawing new industries and businesses to Anchorage.
Dunbar: First, an increase in shopping and economic activity: shifting people from cars to bikes and other methods of transportation helps get them into restaurants and stores, which will be even more important as we work to recover from the pandemic. By investing in mixed-use development, we also ensure a base for businesses as clientele live immediately above or in the area, and can frequent their establishment without the use of a car. This goes hand in hand with my second reason: the Visitor Industry. Right now, visitors often need to rent a car or have a local friend with a car to reach much of our Municipality. If we make our public transportation, city centers, and trails more accessible, it opens our city up to additional travelers who prefer bikes and other non-car means of travel. It will also encourage people to see Anchorage as a destination, worthy of staying that crucial extra night, rather than simply a jumping-off point to other parts of Alaska. Finally, reducing our reliance on cars improves our quality of life and public health. Our trail system has proven to be a terrific, low-cost way for residents to exercise and gain peace of mind, especially during last year’s pandemic-dominated summer. We need to ensure trails and other bike/pedestrian facilities are accessible to all our neighborhoods and recognize the public health benefit of getting people out of their cars, from air quality to climate change to physical fitness.
Falsey: Achieving a net reduction in total “motor vehicle miles traveled” would advance several interests: improve Anchorage’s public health (through improved air quality and fitness); mental health (through less time commuting and more time outdoors and exercising); improve general livability and quality of life (by allowing transit dollars to be reprogrammed from mega-highway projects and because we would likely have had to make real the “town center” planning model); and lessen greenhouse gas emissions, slowing climate change.
Bike Anchorage would once again like to thank the responding candidates for sharing their positions. We look forward to working with Anchorage's next mayor to ensure a strong relationship and representation of our members who share in the vision of a much more healthy, vibrant, and bikeable Anchorage.
The National Bike Summit took place online from February 28 to March 3, 2021. This year’s theme was “Bikes: Our Vehicle for Change”. The League of American Bicyclists chose this theme in recognition of the power of bicycling to move us forward, even in the most challenging of times.
This year, the Summit took place at a critical time in Washington because we have a new administration and a new Congress. This is why Bike Anchorage could not miss this opportunity and decided to take the lead and be the State Coordinator for the Bike Lobby meetings with the members of Congress. We want to tell you about the meetings we had with the offices of Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young.
The state coordinator was Bike Anchorage Director, Devora Barrera, accompanied by Diana Rhodes from Anchorage Park Foundation and our board and Advocacy member Emily Weiser; yes, we are proud to share that this year the Alaska lobby meetings were fully attended by women from Anchorage. We invite you to click on their names to learn a little bit more about these two amazing humans!
Here is a brief summary of what we talked about in the meetings:
1. Benefits of biking and walking in Anchorage and Alaska
2. The transportation reauthorization bill currently under discussion. We asked their feelings about the bill moving forward this year and their support for increased funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
3. Opportunities to strengthen the Transportation Alternatives Enhancements Act through local control and state flexibility [H.R.463].
- This bill gives access to 2% of transportation funding for local priorities.
- Roughly 50% of all funds for biking and walking projects comes from this small program.
- With the existing program, we have a real mismatch between needs and what’s funded. For 2018-2019, Alaska had a reported 2 billion dollars of funding needs and 29% of project applications to the program went unfunded.
- Of the 70 projects funded in the state to date, 58 have been recreational trails and only 12 have been facilities for transportation. We expressed our concern with the increasing deaths of vulnerable road users in Anchorage.
4. Asked to co-sponsor the SAFE Streets Act bill [H.R.508]
- Anchorage has the highest pedestrian death rate in the state and state and local leaders are working hard on a plan to have zero deaths but have not achieved anything in particular yet.
- Nationally, bicycling and walking fatalities now make up 20% of overall highway fatalities but states spend roughly 1% of Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds on bicycling and walking safety.
- The bill would rank states by Vulnerable Road Users (VRU) fatalities and serious injuries, and then require those above the median to identify dangerous corridors and potential solutions to fix them and spend a small number of funds fixing those areas
5.The Complete Streets Act [S.2077]
- Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Without Complete Streets, roadways are often designed and operated based only on vehicle metrics.
- This bill would help local communities implement Complete Streets policies to ensure that moving forward new roads will be built for all users, ensuring efficient use of funds and removing the need for later retrofits.
- This bill would also create a grant program to fix existing roads and make them safer. It directs states to create a grant program to fund technical assistance and construction grants for states to build Complete Streets projects.
We wrapped up each meeting requesting their contact information to keep in touch and a follow-up meeting to come.