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20-year plan to boost bicycling infrastructure gets Assembly OK

A plan to make Anchorage more bicycle friendly over the next 20 years by adding bike lanes, pathways and connections between trails won Anchorage Assembly approval Tuesday night. The plan, in the works since October 2007, encourages an expanded network of roads and paved paths geared for cycling to make it more convenient and less dangerous.

The Assembly approved the document uanimously.

Cyclists turned out in force to support it, as they did at an Assembly public hearing earlier this month. Skeptics have questioned the cost, more than $100 million over 20-plus years. But parts of it may never be built, such as a pathway through town along the Alaska Railroad right-of-way.

Mayor Dan Sullivan had proposed removing the 10-mile, $25 million railroad pathway. The Assembly rejected an amendment doing that.

Much of the essential work can be done cheaply and quickly, supporters say. Striping in bike lanes on roads already wide enough and marking safe bike routes with signs could be done for about $8 million, over 14 years, according to Lori Schanche, the city's non-motorized transportation coordinator.

If the plan succeeds, the number of people cycling for transportation would double, crashes would drop by one third, and the size of Anchorages network of roads, bike lanes and paths would grow dramatically.

Counting Eagle River and Chugiak additions proposed by Assembly member Debbie Ossiander, Anchorage would end up with a 500-plus-mile network, compared to the current 248 miles.