Today was one of those days that affirms why we spend hours and hours working to make Anchorage more bicycle-friendly. In the middle of the afternoon (when many were at work or skipped out to come to the meeting), the AMATS Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meet to review its proposed budget for how it would allocate federal dollars to Anchorage transportation projects over the next two years. We counted 35 bicyclists in attendance to demand more from our city. AMATS TAC meetings usually dont get many members of the public – a few consultants, planners and developers – but not the public. Today WAS DIFFERENT. It was different because you – our BCA supporters – came out in force. You had already made a big splash with the TAC by submitting over 125 comments (another unprecedented event). But today you put an exclamation mark on those comments by showing up in force and telling your stories, highlighting that the way we spend federal $ is important to every day lives, that it can make us safer, improve traffic congestion, improve motorist awareness of bicyclists and how to share the road, support healthier lives, create a more livable and desirable city, and support businesses.
When we saw the proposed budget weeks ago, we were concerned that AMATS was not taking implementation of the Anchorage Bike Plan seriously. They had put $1 million in the budget for the next two years, which is fantastic, but the budget was still heavily weighed down by projects like Dowling and O’Malley road improvements. The budget would have allowed for minimal progress in implementing the Bike Plan and left us with another two years before we would get another chance at trying to make serious strides in implementation of the Bike Plan.
Today, our BCA supporters sent a clear message that more needs to be done, that more investment needs to be made in bicycle infrastructure to make our streets safer for everyone. Todd Logan, Rosemary Austin, Yvonne Goldsmith, Ryan Lawton, Heidi Zimmer, Gordon Descutner, Sam DuBois, Janice Tower, Tim Snapp, Mari Reeves, Marcia Howell, Pedro Kim, Walt Parker, and Bob Shipley all spoke eloquently about why we need to implement the Bike Plan. There were more BCA supporters in the room who didn’t speak, but I am sure they would have carried forward with the strong message to AMATS TAC.
After some serious deliberation and acknowledgements from the committee as a whole that improving bicycle infrastructure is important and necessary, they moved on to the tough questions of how to make it happen. AMATS TAC member Lance Wilber, Director of People Mover, lead the charge, finding creative and effective means to move funding around so more dollars could go towards Bike Plan implementation. When Mr. Wilber was done, he had found an additional 1.3 million that could be channeled towards Bike Plan implementation. For those concerned about Dowling – fear not – they still have their 19-20 million dollars, but thanks to the creative and solutions-based thinking of Mr. Wilber, the TAC was able to agree to bump up the Bike Plan implementation by 1.3 million. We all owe a big thanks to Mr. Wilber for finding a positive way to improve the budget to make Anchorage safer for everyone.
BCA also owes a huge thanks to Todd Logan, BCA volunteer, for leading the charge, following the process, and encouraging supporters to submit comments and attend today’s hearing. Of course, BCA thanks all of you for your incredible support — especially the 125 people who took the time to submit comments and the 35 people who made it to the hearing today. The fight isn’t over, the final budget still must be confirmed by the AMATS Policy Committee, but your presence and participation was critical in the huge win today. The budget reflects a 1.3 million dollar change because you spoke up and fought to make Anchorage a safer, more livable city.
Thank you – and stay tuned – the work isn’t done yet.
Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage