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Bicycle commuters win support for more bike lanes on Anchorage roads

Bicycle commuters have convinced a committee that helps decide how federal transportation money is spent in Anchorage to recommend jacking up funding for bicycle routes.

After a big push from bicyclists, the AMATS Technical Committee last week proposed more than doubling federal funding for the Anchorage bicycle plan from $1 million to $2.3 million for the next two years.

The plan will be introduced at Tuesday's Anchorage Assembly meeting, with a public hearing later.

Brian Litmans, president of Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage, said the group would like the money spent on top priority projects in the city's official bicycle plan, approved in 2010, but barely implemented.

Mostly, that would mean designating new bicycle lanes on Anchorage streets, with striping and signs, Litmans said. "We're looking at low-hanging fruit, projects that don't cost a lot but are significant when it comes to improving safety," he said.

It's not clear how many projects could get done, or how fast, though.

The city plan includes projects estimated to cost $3 million that would add bike lanes on core routes around town, and also on bicycle routes that have the most collisions, said Lori Schanche, the city's non-motorized transportation coordinator.

But state Department of Transportation planning chief Jennifer Witt said the cost estimates in the bike plan are very low, and there's more to it than just striping and signing.

If workers use stripes inlaid into the pavement to last longer, that will be more expensive, Witt said.

And in some cases not just the bike lane but a whole roadway will need new stripes, she said.

Because it's federal money, environmental studies will need to be done for each project, she said.

Designated bicycle lanes are considered safer than separated pathways that intersect roads. The cyclists are more visible.

The biggest cause of bicycle accidents is when a bicyclist is to the right of a motorist, and the driver looks left, then turns right into the bicyclist, Schanche said.

The projects could focus on roads that have been identified as wide enough for addition of bike lanes, Schanche said. Some examples would be Raspberry Road from Kincaid Park to Minnesota Drive, Tudor Road from Minnesota to the Old Seward Highway and 68th Avenue from the Seward Highway to Lake Otis Parkway.

The bicycle plan set out core routes around town based on information about where bicyclists ride. The main destinations are downtown, the university- medical district or Midtown, Schanche said.

Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage encouraged supporters to write to AMATS in support of more money for the bicycle network as the committee considered changes to its project lists for 2013 and 2014.

If the bicycle projects don't get on that project schedule, "then we're looking at 2015," said Litmans. "That's why it was an important moment."

Without designated places for bicycles on roads, many people find it too scary to commute on bikes, Litmans said. The number of bike commuters could rise significantly if there were a bike network in place, he said.

"Without bike lanes, we'll be stuck pretty much where we are now," he said.

Bicyclists sent about 125 letters to AMATS and some 30 cyclists came to the AMATS Technical Committee meeting earlier this month to ask for more money than the $1 million originally designated.

AMATS coordinator Craig Lyon said Lance Wilber, head of the People Mover bus system, found that some public transit projects could be paid for with grant money, freeing up more regular transportation dollars for the bicycle projects.

The plan was approved by the city Planning and Zoning Commission Monday. It goes to the Assembly next, then the AMATS Policy Committee will make the decision.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at or 257-4340.

Where to find existing bike lanes -- signed and striped 9.9 miles:

- Southport Boulevard -- Klatt Road to 100th Avenue (1.6 miles)

- Business Park Boulevard -- International Airport Road to 48th Avenue (.25 mile)

- Elmore Road -- Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to Abbott Road (2.7 miles)

- Martin Luther king Jr. Avenue -- Elmore Road to Boniface Parkway (1.2 miles)

- Tudor Center Drive -- MLK Jr. Avenue to Tudor Road (.2 mile)

- Dowling Road, EAST -- Elmore Road to Lake Otis Parkway (.95 mile)

- Baxter Road -- Tudor Road to Cheney Lake (1.5 miles)

- Turpin Street -- Debarr Road to Boundary Avenue (1 mile)

- Cordova Street -- 10th Avenue to 16th (.5 mile)

Upcoming construction -- 1.1 miles:

- Victor Road - 100th Ave. to Dimond Boulevard (.5 mile)

- Dowling Road - Old Seward Highway to C Street (.6 mile)

Source: Municipality of Anchorage


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