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Slowly but surely, bike lanes are emerging in Anchorage

Bike lanes are popping up around Anchorage as part of the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions bike implementation plan, first discussed in 2010 and now finally becoming a permanent part of the city's streets after years of fighting for funding.

This summer, 3.75 miles of bike lanes are being added to the existing 15 miles, with more expected in summer 2016, when four projects will almost double that total, adding another 16.56 miles of lanes.

Recently, lanes were being marked along Arctic Boulevard and E Street from Fireweed Lane north to 10th Avenue, as well as on A Street as part of a road resurfacing project.

This summer, crews are adding only striping and signs indicating the new lanes. Lori Schanche, nonmotorized transportation coordinator for the Municipality of Anchorage, said that's by design, with simpler projects moving forward first. She said even getting those lines down wasn't easy, with studies required to determine whether the streets were suitable.

But despite the relative simplicity of the projects, bike lanes still offer more protection for cyclists.

"Bike lanes give a dedicated lane for people to bicycle," she said. "It's a lot safer for everyone all around."

The Arctic Boulevard project goes beyond traditional bike lanes. Included along the stretch of 17th Avenue linking E Street to Arctic are "shared lane markings" known as "sharrows." They indicate an area where the road is too narrow for a bike lane and alert drivers that they will be sharing the street with bikers.

They're the first "sharrows" in the city, according to Schanche. That section of 17th Avenue runs alongside popular Valley of the Moon Park. With insufficient off-street parking there, people park along the street on busy days, so it was unsafe to put traditional bike lanes there, she said.

A similar shared setup will also be a part of the 10th Avenue "bike boulevard" project in the city's bike plan. The project -- set to run along 10th Avenue from P Street to Medfra Street -- would also include the "sharrows" and back-in-only parking. City code must be changed to allow such parking, which will determine the project's timeline. An open house on the project is set for May 19.

The Arctic bike lane project cost $89,000 in federal funds, according to Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy. The A Street resurfacing project, which includes bike lane striping, cost $1 million. The four 2016 summer projects are expected to cost $500,000 to $1.5 million, McCarthy said, though the department won't know the exact figure until final bids are secured later in the year.