We know Alaskans are hardy, and now we have statistical proof. We commute by bike or foot more often, per capita, than residents of any other state, according to the American Community Survey. Despite freezing temperatures, we log pedal-powered miles all year long. This in-all-kinds-of-weather attitude combined with our world-class trail system could make Anchorage a premier winter mobility city.
We are moving toward that goal. The Municipality’s planning arm, Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (AMATS), just began a new Non-Motorized Plan. Currently, the muni relies on the 1997 Trails Plan, the 2007 Pedestrian Plan, and the 2010 Bike Plan when making decisions about new infrastructure for non-motorized transportation. The updated plan will replace all three plans and take a more holistic approach to building a non-motorized network.
At the same time, AMATS is working on a Complete Streets Policy for the municipality. “Complete Streets” refer to roadways designed for all users, not just cars. Whether you’re eight or 80, on a bike or in a wheelchair, Complete Streets are safe, inviting places for you to travel.
Complementary to these efforts, Mayor Berkowitz launched the Vision Zero initiative in 2016. Vision Zero is an international movement proven to reduce traffic deaths and major injuries to zero. The local effort coordinates agency and community actions to take a data-driven approach to making Anchorage safer for everyone.
We need to keep the momentum going and ensure the Non-Motorized Plan, Complete Streets Policy, and Vision Zero initiative make real change in our community. These policies and planning efforts are important steps in creating concrete solutions. Problems with pedestrian and bicycling safety still exist in Anchorage and across the country. Nationally, deaths of people on bikes rose 12.2 percent in 2015. In Anchorage, 69 pedestrians and bicyclists have been struck by people in cars from 2014 to October 12, 2017. We simply do not have enough safe routes between neighborhoods and community hubs. This is especially true downtown, where bicycling facilities like bike lanes, separate pathways, etc., are non-existent and access from other parts of town is difficult.
We must adopt a Non-Motorized Plan and Complete Streets Policy that facilitate safe and welcoming movement through our city, regardless of mode of travel. More bicyclists and pedestrians in community hubs like downtown attract investment, support local businesses, and increase employee productivity. Not to mention the health benefits, increased livability, and enjoyment that active transportation provides.
How can you make a difference? AMATS is scheduled to release a draft version of the Complete Streets Policy in November and began work on the Non-Motorized Plan in September. Bike Anchorage will be actively involved in both efforts by advocating for a safer, more livable community for all. Please consider volunteering with us to engage the public to make these initiatives real solutions for Anchorage. We can achieve a more livable Anchorage if we speak up and make it happen together. Sign up for our newsletter and check out the Bike Anchorage Facebook Page for opportunities to get involved.