Talking safety


An Anchorage “Bike Route”/Craig Medred photo

Anchorage’s phony new bike law

On the day a well-meaning Anchorage Assembly approved a new bike ordinance claimed to make the state’s largest city safer for those who pedal, I was on my bike grinding up the Hillside Drive “Bike Route” while being close-passed, which is illegal, by a whole string of cars and trucks going faster than the 45 mph speed limit, which is also illegal.

The close-passing law is one never enforced in Anchorage, and the speed law is one rarely if ever enforced on Hillside Drive. It’s uncommon just to see an Anchorage Police Department (APD) patrol car there.

A cyclist might be led to believe that roads specifically identified as “Bike Route(s)” in Alaska’s largest city would warrant some small effort to protect cyclists from the biggest danger they face on the road: motor vehicles.

But that cyclist would be misguided.

As it turns out, the signs are meaningless as officials explained when queried about the one on Brayton Drive after 13-year-old Zakkary Mann was run down by a hit-and-run driver in September.

He luckily suffered only a broken leg and a broken collarbone, which might help explain the APD’s response to the incident, which was to do nothing.

This appears to reflect a general APD policy of “no death, no foul,” though there have also been deaths of so-called “vulnerable road users” that the agency also treated lightly.

When 38-year-old Kasey Turner was run down and killed on Brayton four years before Mann was struck, APD blamed him for his own death.

An APD spokeswoman cited “visibility and road conditions” and told the Anchorage Daily News (ADN) that “Turner was partially in the roadway and not on a sidewalk, and he was wearing dark clothing.

“Pedestrians should always utilize sidewalks or keep as far away from the main road as possible,” she said, even though there is no sidewalk along Brayton to walk on.

Now, there is no denying some vulnerable road users are largely responsible for their own deaths in Anchorage. Some of the city’s homeless, in particular, have such a nonchalant attitude toward traffic that one almost has to wonder if they are suicidal.

But for responsible pedestrians and cyclists, the big risk of getting around safely in Anchorage is tied to the refusal of law enforcement to enforce laws already on the books.

Dangerously close passes

APD never responded to a request asking how many citations it has issued to motorists for close-passing cyclists in the city since a close-pass ordinance was written more than a decade ago.

This might be because it appears APD has never written anyone a citation for breaking that law.

When officials of the last Alaska Court system were last year asked to scour their files for traffic tickets citing Anchorage Municipal Ordinance CAC 9.16.030, they reported finding eight, but none of them involved a close pass on a cyclist.

Seven of the citations were for violations of 9.16.030(A)1, overtaking on the left, and one was for 9.16.030(B)2, refusing to give way when an overtaking vehicle signaled a demand for the right-of-way on a four-lane road.

Not a single ticket had been written for 9.16,030(A)3, which states that “the driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance, not less than three feet, and shall not return to drive on the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bicyclist.”

This is a law broken in Anchorage almost every day in summer.

Normal behavior

A typical driver driving typically on the wrong side of the white line on Anchorage’s Hillside Drive “Bike Route”/Craig Medred photo

The photo above illustrates the positioning of many of the vehicles that passed me the day the assembly was patting itself on the back for making Anchorage roads safer for vulnerable road users.

There is 41 inches of pavement between the white line and this guardrail. I went and measured yesterday. A good cyclist can probably get away with using only eight inches of that 41 inches for a riding surface.

Some width is needed for the bike because there is gravel and mud immediately next to the guardrail which could cause a crash, and the last thing a cyclist wants to do is crash because going down toward the roadside would be a death sentence.

There is little chance of surviving being run over by a car going 55 mph or more, and the odds of survival if hit by the rare vehicle adhering to the 45 mph speed limit are 1 in 4, according to the American Automobile Association, with the odds of “severe injury” pegged at 1 in 9. 

So, now let’s do the math on road positioning. The center of a bicycle ridden by someone using an 8-inch wide lane perilously close to the guard rail is 33 inches from the white line. But, bicycles aren’t paper thin, and even less so riders.

And, of course, there are handlebars jutting out to one side of the front of the bike.

Those on the bike in the photo are about 18 inches wide, so the left half of the bar is going to be 24 inches from the white line (the 33-inch distance minus 9 inches of handlebar) when the cyclist is riding as far to the right as sensibly possible.

My fat hand wrapped around the handlebar adds another couple inches, so it’s probably 22 inches from the white line. I thank God I wasn’t on the mountain bike with its 32-inch wide handlebar which would have put my hand within 17 inches of the white line.

As it was on the gravel bike with narrow bars, I had some speeding cars well inside the white line come within 12 inches of the handlebar. That was scary enough. I don’t want to think about five inches because if someone with a big mirror hanging off the side of their truck clips your handlebar at 55 mph bad things happen.

Why, why, why?

I can’t hazard a guess as to how many motorists drive like this because they are unaware of the three-foot passing law, but one should never discount ignorance as a problem in a country where common courtesy has long been on its deathbed.

And in fairness to fellow drivers (yes, we all drive) maybe as many as half of those in Anchorage do try to move as far left as possible without inconveniencing themselves when passing a cyclist, and maybe 15 or 20 percent will move partially or fully into the opposite lane to provide more than three feet.

And then there are drivers at the two extremes: A small group of motorists who prefer to cut in as close as possible to scare cyclists, and a small group of hugely courteous people who will actually slow down to let an oncoming car pass so they can pull into the opposing lane to give a cyclist a lot of safe space when they finally do pass.

A cyclist can only bless the latter for their courtesy because there is really no incentive to give a cyclist any space at all in a city where the three-foot passing law is never enforced.

And now the assembly has gone and passed some more laws that will not be enforced, and patted themselves on the back for making Anchorage safer for vulnerable road users.

This is what is called a farce.

Anchorage’s road safety problem – as it regards cyclists and pedestrians –  is not helped by the new ordinance, because making Anchorage’s road safer for vulnerable road users is fundamentally about two things: enforcing laws already on the books and changing the attitudes of drivers.

But instead of dealing with these sticky issues, which would upset many if not most of the constituents of left-leaning assembly members no matter whether those constituents lean left or right, the assembly decided to approve a new ordinance full of a bunch of gobbledygook governing new infrastructure unlikely to ever be built.

What is the best word to describe such a law? Meaningless.

MustReadAlaska, the right-leaning statewide publication, blamed all this nonsense on the assembly holding some sort of woke belief that “traffic laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities, especially ‘Black and ‘Latine/x’ and low income people,” though there are no indications that is the case.

Persecuted, really?

What would be the point of writing an ordinance for that reason? Most of the low-income people violating traffic laws are the homeless on foot or on bikes and ticketing them is a waste of time.

They’re not going to pay the ticket, and they probably won’t show up in court, which just creates a spiraling use of police time in dealing with them.

It’s much easier to just ignore them, let them do whatever they’re going to do, and if they get run down, so what?

As for Anchorage blacks, they are far more likely to get harassed by APD while driving than while walking or biking, so the ordinance doesn’t do anything for them either.

The Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s left-leaning news source, had a different take on the new law, declaring in its newsletter to readers that the assembly “approved an overhaul of the city’s rules for bicyclists and pedestrians in an effort to improve safety and set the stage for making the city friendlier to multiple types of transportation.”

This was equally or more misleading.

The only thing in the ordinance that might improve safety is the so-called Idaho Stop allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.

This has worked well in Idaho, but whether it will work as well in Anchorage, where drivers regularly barrel around on residential streets at 40 mph versus the 20 mph common in many Idaho communities remains to be seen.

It’s a lot easier for a cyclist to judge what is a safe use of a yield sign when cars are traveling at slow speeds than when they are traveling at high speeds.

As for the ADN claim that the ordinance “set the stage for making the city friendlier to multiple types of transportation,” that’s simply false. The ordinance does set some standards for regulating new and better bicycle infrastructure that could make biking safer, but it provides no funding for building such infrastructure.

The ordinance also does nothing to deal with the growing presence of e-bikes on the city’s mislabeled “bike trails,” which are safely separated from motor-vehicle traffic.

But these trails are actually multi-use trails, and on many occasions, they are so full of pedestrians, dog-walkers, skateboarders, rollerblades, OneWheelers, and others that the trails would more accurately be described as “obstacle courses for bikes.”

E-bikers hoping to use these routes to get around at Class 1, pedal-assist, e-bike speeds of 20 mph are going to find that difficult, and in the name of safety the assembly should have banned Class 2 (throttle-controlled) and Class 3 (up to 28 mph) e-bikes.

There are very few Anchorage cyclists who have the judgment and bike-handling skills to ride the multi-use trails at 28 mph, and my personal experience on those trails this year is that there are a significant number of Class 2 riders who lack the bike-handling skills needed to do 20 mph on winding trails full of obstacles.

Nothing against e-bikes, but Class 2s and Class 3s were really designed for commuters using road-connected bike lanes adjacent to roads, which tend to be straight or with broad, gentle curves and good sight lines.

Not that this makes those bike lanes safe for cyclists, given that law enforcement everywhere – not just in Anchorage – appears to believe that cyclists’ lives don’t matter.

Paint ain’t protection

Just ask former New York Jets football coach Greg Knapp.

Oh wait, you can’t. He’s dead.

The 58-year-old Knapp was riding peacefully in a bike lane in  San Ramon, Calif. in 2021 when a driver veered into the lane and ran him down.

The Contra Costa District Attorney’s office, the Pleasanton Weekly subsequently reported, “concluded that the primary cause of the collision was inattention by the unnamed driver on Dougherty Road that summer afternoon, but prosecutors determined the actions did not rise to the level of criminal culpability under the law.”

The driver’s role in Knapp’s death was considered so insignificant that he wasn’t even named. This is normal behavior because deaths like that of Knapp are “accidents.”

The mainstream media years ago did get its panties in a bunch about crashes like this being called “accidents” and declared they henceforth should be described as “collisions.”

In 2016, the Associated Press, the Godfather of the mainstream, changed its journalism stylebook to direct the use of the latter term to be more in line with the nature of traffic crashes, which are “predictable and preventable.”

But unless drivers are drunk, drugged or in a few cases now texting, law enforcement still treats collisions as accidents – ie. chance events – and the mainstream, which these days spends most of its time channeling releases from various government bureaucracies, parrots whatever a law enforcement handout says.

As a result, collisions continue to be publicly treated as accidents.

When USA Cycling phenom Magnus White, 17, was struck and killed while riding in a bike lane in Boulder, Colo., at the end of July, the Boulder Daily Camera reported that Coloroda law enforcement officials would say only that a 23-year-old woman was behind the wheel of a sport-utility vehicle (SUV) that crossed into the bike lane and killed White.

The crash was ominously similar to the one that killed Knapp, and all indications are the final outcome could be the same.

Fox Sports Thursday reported that White’s parents issued a statement saying that even they were being kept in the dark as to what Colorado law enforcement plans to do in the wake of the collision/accident.

“We do not yet know why Magnus was killed while riding his bike on a designated bike route, on a straight road with a wide shoulder, in broad daylight,” they said. 

Based on the results of a deep dive into the deaths of vulnerable road users undertaken by South Dakota Public Media (SDPM), the odds would appear high that White’s death will be treated the way Knapp’s death was treated.

SDPM reported that after examining state records from 2016 through 2020, it found 31 “drivers who were not legally intoxicated when they accidentally hit and killed pedestrians during this time period.

“Twenty of these drivers – or about two-thirds of them – were not charged with any offense or crime related to their driving. The remaining 11 drivers were cited for traffic offenses or charged with low-level misdemeanors.”

The SDPM investigation came after South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg drove onto the shoulder of a state highway where he struck and killed a pedestrian.

Ravnsborg, who left the man on the roadside, would later claim he thought he hit a deer. He was eventually charged with careless driving, an illegal lane change and driving while using his phone – all misdemeanors.

He then struck a plea deal that dismissed the careless driving charge in exchange for his pleading no contest to the other two crimes and paying a $1,000 fine.

Average South Dakotans were outraged by the handling of his case and the South Dakota State Senate eventually impeached Ravnsborg, but as SDPM found, Ravnsborg was in reality punished more severely than other drivers who killed vulnerable road users.

None of the other 31 drivers “paid a fine close to the $1,000 imposed on the attorney general,” SDPM reported. “None of them, including Ravnsborg, appear to have been arrested at the scene.

“Tim Rensch, Ravnsborg’s attorney, said he was not surprised by SDPB’s findings.

“It sounds like exactly what I would expect,’ he said. ‘That somebody’s not intoxicated, and those accidents happen, then there are those low misdemeanors to take care of it.'”

A universal view

This pretty much seems to reflect the view in Anchorage, in Alaska, and in much of the rest of the country where the mainstream media seems unwilling to take on this issue the way SDPM did.

When 13-year-old cyclist James Walters, a North Pole middle school student, was run over and killed by a truck turning into a gas station in 2012, the local newspaper – the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – declared his death as “a tragic accident.” 

After the North Pole Police Department revealed no charges would be filed, no Alaska journalist was willing to go find out what actually happened to result in Walters’ death.

But an attorney for the family eventually did. The attorney hired a company called (IN)sight Forensics to investigate.

(IN)Sight concluded that “though bicyclist (Walters) had the right of way, the truck driver (Jarvinen) failed to yield to Walters and in so doing, turned his truck directly into the path of the bicyclist in such a way that Walters had no way to avoid the collision. The bicyclist collided with the truck just behind the cab, before going down and under the truck.”

Investigators wrote in that report that they examined all kinds of scenarios that could qualify the collision as an accident, but eventually, they were forced to conclude that:

  • Jarvinen’s failure to yield to Walters despite ample opportunity to see the bicyclist indicates that driver inattention was a primary cause in the accident.
  • Jarvinen’s driving behavior suggests that unsafe driving may have also been a factor in the collision. The truck entered the Tesoro driveway faster than 87 percent of the traffic measured. Jarvinen also swung wide into the driveway, rather than staying in his lane. These factors indicate that unsafe driving on the part of Jarvinen may have been an additional factor in causing the accident.
  • Regardless of truck approach, that is from the Richardson Highway off-ramp or Badger Road roundabouts, the driver should have first seen bicyclist Walters at the north roundabout, at least 168 feet before the driveway. Jarvinen’s failure to notice the biker further suggests that driver inattention was a factor in causing the accident.

And yet there were no charges filed because bad driving that results in innocent people being killed isn’t a crime in the U.S.; it’s just an accident.

The Anchorage Assembly could have done something about this if it truly wanted safer roads.

It could have written a dangerous driving law and told APD to seriously investigate collisions involving vulnerable road users for what they sometimes are: the improper handling of a potentially dangerous weapon.

Yes, state law would limit the municipality to making such a law a Class A misdemeanor, but there would be nothing stopping the assembly from imposing a mandatory 364-day sentence for anyone convicted of violating the ordinance.

That might not pass muster with the Alaska Supreme Court if someone challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance. But then any such challenge would be sure to generate a lot of publicity to remind drivers why they should pay attention when driving in Anchorage.

Unfortunately, there’s no one on the assembly with the political courage to propose an ordinance like this. And there actually might not be anyone in American politics anywhere with the courage to propose such a law today given the way motor vehicles have come to dictate our thinking.

See motonormativity.

So instead, maybe the assembly should just order all those “Bike Route” signs in the municipality removed and all those bike lane symbols painted over. Then, at the very least, cyclists wouldn’t be misled to believe there are safe spaces in which to ride.

Because there aren’t.

And the new ordinance didn’t change that. It was instead a perfect example of a political body proclaiming all the good things it was doing while actually doing nothing.














26 replies »

  1. Craig,

    Thanks for writing this detailed account of the current situation in Anchorage, supplemented with recent events around the country. And for taking the time to respond to many of the comments.

    I haven’t cycled to work since moving here because of all the reasons you’ve outlined, but also because there is no connected bike path, much less “bike route” that traverses the 10 miles I need to travel. Yes, I could brave the paved shoulders that would link the network of interrupted paths and routes, alongside motorists taking blind corners at 60 mph, but the consequence of an inattentive and/or entitled driver “accidentally” killing me is too high. It makes me sad, but its just not worth it to me, even on principle.

    In healthcare, when referring individuals who suffer traumatic injury, such as in a motor vehicle vs. bicycle collision, there is a large portion of medical and public health professionals who avoid the term “accident”, e.g.: “motor vehicle accident” or MVA for short. We choose instead to call it a motor vehicle crash or collision–MVC–avoiding a judgement about the how or why a person is injured. It may be a small idea, and not consequential to the actual care of an individual injured person in the moment. However, the overarching meaning behind this is to recognize and permeate that “accident” implies release of accountability; and the truth is a genuine accident is unavoidable, but every car vs pedestrian, car vs car, and car vs cyclist crash is avoidable in some way, with some modifying or contributing factor.

    I think this speaks to the sentiments of your article. Reframing the problem as a systems issue creates a pathway for systemic change, which is what is required to reduce these avoidable injuries and deaths. Reckless drivers should be held accountable (as should cyclists), infrastructure should support safe routes for vulnerable road users, and the culture of motorists vs. cyclists–another iteration of us vs them mentality–should give way to a unified safety-first approach.

    Thank you again for making your perspectives public in such a detailed and thoughtful manner.


    • Stephen:
      Agreed, but it would be so much cheaper if drivers could just be convinced to pay attention to the road, drive the speed limit in areas with multi-use traffic (I really don’t care if they want to drive at autobahn speeds on America’s freeways), and obey traffic controls, such the lights at intersections and the white lines delinating bike lanes.

      Road-separated infrastructure is costly to build and costly to maintain in areas where it isn’t dictated as part of building requirements. It’s strange how we’ve regressed in that regard. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota in the 60s where there were sidewalks everywhere, but I watched through the early ’70s as how the town grew outward the idea of maintaining reqiurement for sidewalks were abandoned.

      So, too, the 20 mph speed limits that made it pretty safe for us as kids to make whole neighborhoods our playgrounds. I would expect today’s epidemic of obese children in part links back to this change.

      • I think it’s rather generous to envision a world where drivers pay attention to the road. Even if every driver does this almost all of the time, everyone has a “bad driving day”. If you encounter 365+ vehicles on the road, chances are you’ll see at least one person on their annual bad driving day. All it takes is one.

        Regardless of whether this hope of perfect driving can actually become a reality, culture change takes time–a long time. It is backed by campaigns, awareness, education, advocacy, etc. All of these efforts over the years can actually be very costly.

        While building and maintaining safer infrastructure is costly too, neither infrastructure nor culture change come near the economic cost of a life lost or severe disability. When the impact of death and disability of family/friends/survivors is added, the costs multiply, and that’s just economic cost.

        My point in all of this is that systemic change is a multi-faceted approach, which should include culture change as you suggest, safer infrastructure, and many other parallel processes. In high burden problems like road injury, the costs of prevention are worth every penny.

        These ideas are well known to the City of Anchorage. Consider reviewing Muni’s “Vision Zero” action plan, which is quite comprehensive and inclusive of cyclists. It speaks to the idea that all road collisions are preventable. I would argue the issue is not knowledge, cyclist advocacy, or even desires of city planners, but rather rooted in the means, which come from funding, political will, and public opinion/”motornormativity” as you’ve put it.

        We do agree on one thing solidly I think: the change catalyst we’re talking about is real consequences for injuring or killing each other with our vehicles when driving with intentional inattentiveness/negligently, like the Walters case in your discussion above.

      • I think we’re in general agreement here except maybe on “plans.” Plans aren’t worth the paper they are written on (or th electrons they consume on the internet) unless they are acted on. I’ll consider “Vision Zero” to have some meaning when I see APD doing something about people driving 60-65 mph on Northern Lights Boulevard where the speed limit is 40 or cracking down on red light runners of which there are so many that they are a greater threat to other motorists than to vulnerable road useres.

        That said, we’d appear in total agreement on where progress should start with those “real consequences for killing each other with our vehicles.” It would be nice to see that happen, but I’m skeptical that it will. APD can’t even do competent investigations of collisions involving vulnerable road users, and acts wholly disinterested when a hit-and-run driver (the worst kind of driver) smashes a kid on a bike, the most vulnerable of vulnerable road users.

  2. Before moving to Alaska from New Jersey I was an avid bicycle road rider. Considering that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation that may seem like an oxymoron. It was not. I rode my road bikes throughout urban, rural and seacoast (ie, the Shore) New Jersey. Not one incident or accident. For sure a few shouting matches and middle finger salutes, but no blood, fights or paint scrapes. Overall New Jersey motorists were more than willing to provide space and well sized bicycle lanes were ubiquitous. My first Alaskan road ride was from my Hillside home to Girdwood on the Seward Highway. A huge mistake! The shoulder rumble strips literally making riding a bicycle jarring. Autos flew by apparently seeing how close they can come to my handlebars. Scary does not come close to describing the experience. Having learned that lesson I limited my road riding to metropolitan Anchorage. Sadly, the roads in the city are not more bicycle friendly. Autos do not yield to bicycles. Instead of providing space, some devious motorists actually tried to force me off the road. If Alaska wants to become bicycle friendly then we’ll have to provide seriously wide bicycle lanes (eg, Colorado). When the assembly weakened the bicycle laws they did nothing to make riding a bicycle in Anchorage safer.

  3. If you ride a bike or walk with your back to oncoming traffic you will never see it coming. Why is that so complicated? Why would you expose yourself to that risk? I figured that out when I was 7 or 8 years old. A persons actions say a hell of a lot more about their intelligence than just about anything.

    • Well, here’s the problem if you’re not seven years old. I’m regularly doing 20 mph or more on the road bike. If someone driving the speed limit (oh but I wish one could count on that) clips me from behind at 30 or even 45 mph, I have a pretty good chance of survival given an effective speed of impact of 10 to 25 mph.

      If someone hits me head on at 45 mph while I’m doing 20 mph, the effective speed at impact is 65 mph, and the odds are that I’m toast. I’ve been in a near-40 mph bike crash due to a blown tire on the bike. I suffered a lot of road rash but walked away from it. I know that’s survivable. I don’t think being hit head on at 40 is.

      Given this experience and the physics involved, I’d much rather be hit from behind than from the front, but it is sort of sad that so many drivers these days are so incompent one has to think about these things. That said, it is also somewhat reassuring that only 3.8 percent of collisions involve a motorist flat out driving into the rear end of cyclist.

      Then again, that is number is from an old study, and I’d expect the percentage has gone up given all the people I see driving around looking at all sorts of things other than the road. This is where the right hook and the right cross, which are involved in a lot of collisions, come into play.

      Stop lights and stop signs can’t be trusted if you’re on a bike. Motorists often don’t obey either, and in fact just yesterday I was looking at green light while a car went thorugh an intersection in Anchorage at about 70 mph. I heard him mash the gas from a couple hundred yards away well after the light turned yellow. He clearly wasn’t going to beat the red light, and he missed it by a long shot.

      And I never ride against traffic because of the danger of the wrong-way wreck and the no-lookers. You know, the people who come out of a driveway onto a bike lane or into an intrersection and never look right because that’s the direction they’re turning and all they want to know is what the traffic to the left is doing so they can join that traffic as fast as possible.

      That there might be pedestrians or cyclists about? Say what? What fool would leave their home without the protection of a steel cage?

  4. The Binkley owned ADN is liberal? Ha
    Nice to slide some humor in.

    Fundamentally I don’t understand why many motorists are in such a rush to reach their own grave. It is destination most folks get to before they what to be done with the journey.

    Thnx Craig-
    Great, informative reporting

  5. So Craig, according to your photo and your comment, “that a driver should have to go in the other lane to meet the minimum 3′ required for passing a bicyclist”. I noticed in that photo it is double yellow line. Meaning no passing is allowed. Are you suggesting motorist should not pass you on your bike till they are allowed to go into the other lane (dashed yellow lines), or are you suggesting the motorist unlawfully cross the double yellow line, to pass a bicyclist?

    • Thanks for the excellent display of motonormativity entitlement. It’s nice to see you’d rather risk hitting someone then follow the law that requires you to provide three-feet. Legally you should slow down and wait until you have three feet. In this case, that comes just beyond the Hillside guardrail where the shoulder widens by another foot or more, but maybe you never driven Hillside.

      Now, with this said, it would probably help if Alaska amended its passing statute to explicitly state that it is legal to cross a solid centerline to pass a slow-moving vehicle (under 20 mph usually) or bicyclist safely. Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsyvlian, Utah, Wisconsin and Vermont have already done this.

      If you’re truly interested in this subject and safety (and not simply outraged that some cyclist or pedestrian caused you to slow down somewhere for 30 seconds becuase BY GOD your time is more valuable than a human life), you can find a very good explanation of how the double-yellow line situation got as whacky as it is today in some states (you might have noticed plenty of double yellows here in Alaska for no apparent reason) and the draft of a Model No-Passing-Zone Exception law you could send along to your favorite Alaska legislator:

      The author of the website is an engineer in N.C. who claims “the vast majority of motorists are already crossing solid centerlines to pass cyclists today.” That may be true in some states. I spent a couple months in Idaho riding this winter, and it’s certainly true there. But my experience in Anchorage is that most motorists are unwilling to even slow to the speed limit and put their left tire up against the centerline when passing a cyclist or pedestrian here.

      I would hope you’re not one of those, but your post would sadly make it appear you might be.

      • Wow pissy today! all i was pointing out was the regulations and laws. You suggested a motorist should break a regulation, so you could bike safely. I did not even go down the road (no pun intended) at no point in your well written article did you spend even a short paragraph on the responsibly of bicyclist and how many infractions they never get cited for. Yet they are on the books also for their safety.

      • Whoa. Total motornormativity.

        You just don’t get it, do you? In the first place, I didn’t suggest anyone “break a regulation.” What I suggested, is that they comply with one. If all those cars that close passed me had slowed down for 90 seconds, I would have been past this choke point and able to move another foot or more to the right to do MY PART to help THEM obey a regulation they regularly choose to ignore.

        But not only did they not slow down, they crossed the white line into what little space was supposedly reserved for non-motorists. I frankly would have been happy with their just slowing down and hugging the centerline, which isn’t great but puts a vulnerable road users at far less risk than driving like a bat out of hell up against the white line or inside of it.

        Secondly, the story very clearly says this in the 11th paragraph:

        “Now, there is no denying some vulnerable road users are largely responsible for their own deaths in Anchorage. Some of the city’s homeless, in particular, have such a nonchalant attitude toward traffic that one almost has to wonder if they are suicidal.”

        Could it be put any more clearly that some pedestrians and cyclists are not doing their part? Did you somehow miss these things? Is there something wrong with your reading comprehension as well as your attitude toward vulnerable road users?

        At this point, let me only add that I am tired of this “cyclists break the law” bullshit. Yes, some do. Where this subject has been studied, cyclists break the law less than motorists – – or about the same as motorists –

        But that’s largely irrelvant because when cyclists or pedestrians break the law around motor vehicles, they put their lives at risk – not the lives of others. Whereas, when motorists break the law, they put the lives of not just cyclists and pedestrian at risk, but the lives of other motorists, too, as has been well illustrated by the number of motorists killed or injured by redlight running motorists in Anchorage, including police officers in their patrol cars.

        I watched a car and later a truck run red lights just yesterday. Had either of the drivers in front of me pulled fully into the intersection when the light turned green, there would almost certainly have been a collision, because the drivers who ran those red lights were of that school that “if you see a yellow 100 yards ahead, floor it!”

        Now lastly, all I can say is that if i personally have a choice beteen breaking a regulation when driving and running down a pedestrian or cyclist or moose or dog, I will break the regulation if its safe to do so. In fact, I did that not long ago when a dog ran out into Rabbit Creek Road. I couldn’t fully miss him, but I was able to get on the brakes hard enough and swerve enough away from him to catch him at an oblique angle.

        He got up after the collision and ran home. I followed him to there to talk to the owner who seemed not at all concerned about the dog – “he looks fine to me” – or the damage down to all the plastic on the front end of the Ford Focus I was driving. Plastic that I’m sure helped absorb some of the impact of the collision.

        I’m also confident that if I was checking my email, Facebook or whatever puts one face in the phone while driving up Rabbit Creek (something which I see all too many motorists doing), the dog would be dead. Texting while driving is another regulation – like the three-foot passing law – that is rarely, if ever, enforced in Anchorage even though some studies have concluded it is as dangerous as drunk driving.

        You really need to get out of your car or truck, or whatever you’re driving, and do some cycling or walking, which provide more time for better observation of drivers on the road. It will give you a much better idea of why Anchorage roads are dangerous. And it’s not because the streets are filled with hooligan cyclists committing “infractions.”

      • Well Craig, the only thing i can say that might help you out of this funk is, “You can be absolutely in the right, and be injured or dead”. I do think and agree with you, Anchorage would be a lot better off if, APD would focus much more on handing out bike passing citations to motorist, than enforcing laws/regulations on drugs, prostitution/sex trafficking, murders, theft, domestic violence and missing persons.
        Watch out for Craig and other bicyclist Anchorage motor vehicle operators. Can’t wait for the E-bike vs traditional bike users conflicts and who is not obeying the laws/regulations article.

      • Nice. Another attempt at misdirection.

        APD officers spend a lot of time simply “patrolling” around in their patrol cars. It’s not going to distract from the enforcement of anything else if they hand out some tickets for the misbehaviors they witness, not to mention that some of those misbehaviors can now be policed with cameras in known troublespots. Drivers in many states these days find themselves getting tickets in the mail when cameras catch them misbehaving:

        Not to mention that in some jurisdictions, law enforcement now encourages cyclists to submit video of close passes and acts on those, which is a job a low paid clerk could handle.

        On the other hand, to follow on with your analogy, we could just get rid of all traffic functions conducted by law enforcement to ensure the maximum amount of time to focus on your list of crimes, although you might want to note patrolmen at this time are not investigating murders. And we might want to take drugs off the list, because this country has been losing the Wars on Drugs for decades (it’s a modern day War in Vietnam even more costly) and prostitiution, too, becuase everyone has been losing that war since forever.

        Wouldn’t it be easier to just legalize those two things to put the criminals out of business and expand the local tax base?

        I do agree with you the statement to “watch out for…Anchorage motor vehicle operators” because the most fundamental part of getting licensed to drive comes with the responsibility not to run into shit and especially not to run down and kill your fellow citizens.

        But it would also appear you were being facitious, given that the rest of your comments would indicate that you don’t really mean what you say about watching out for vulnerable road users. Your statement as to how “you can be absolutely in the right, and be injured or dead” is nothing less than a carefully veiled version of “if you don’t want to get rundown, stay the hell off the road becuase it’s not my responsibility to drive safely, and thus if you are killed or injured it’s your own damn fault.”

        It’s a sad statement to hear coming from a quasi public official.

      • You win Craig. I raise the white flag. All motorist should Yield to the right of the bicyclist. If it wasn’t for the bicyclist there would be no roads with with and yellow and white lines and a motorizes vehicle operator could can tell 36″ from 42″ (yet hunters you wrote about can’t tell what is 50″). Why should i put out a different view from the author of the article and not expect repercussions. I tip my hat fine sir.

      • Oh, my. Repercussions. And here I thought you were man enough to handle a serious discussion of the issue. Obviously such a discussion is interfering with your sense of entitlement.

        The issue, sad to say isn’t about “rights” (which is what I’m guessing you are talking about here because if it was safe passing one would write “yield to the left of the bicyclist” as going to the right would just run into him or her) or even privileges, which often get confused in the wildlife management world.

        It’s about safety.

        You and I agree on a lot of things, I’m sure, but obviously maiming or killing innocent people because they are aren’t protected by a cage of steel isn’t one of them.

        So let me ask you a question, as an educated man and a big game guide, do you ignore clients who handle firearms irresponsibly. All the guides I know don’t. Most of them don’t let a client put a round in the chamber until they tell the client to do so, and I’ve known one or two who took ammunition away from clients because they were so freaked out by the gun handling and told the clients they’d give it back to them when it was time to start shooting.

        Maybe you’re different, but I’d be almost willing to bet my .454 Casull (A somewhat cherished possession for once saving my ass) that you’re not because it’s kind of a rule in all sorts of guiding that the “client is trying to kill you.”

        So here’s the question: If you expect responsible gun handling, why don’t you expect responsible driving?

        Or is it OK when a law-abiding middle schooler riding on a bike path up near where you live so as to stay safe gets runover and killed by the driver of a truck who cuts across that path without looking because, well, he needs to get into a gas station as fast as possbile?

        And the kid, well, shit the kid’s just collateral damage in your world, right?

        P.S. I’m pretty sure most moose hunters can tell a 50-inch bull from a spike fork, which has antlers about as far apart as one or two of the cars that passed me. And I’d wager that most of them can also tell a 36-inch bull from a spike fork. Forty-five inches and 50 inches? Well it does get more difficult there, especially when you’re really, really, really wanting that bull to go 50 so you can shoot it.

  6. As an aside, I’ve been to The Netherlands many times. Bicycles are everywhere and being ridden by young and old. Obese people? It’s hard to find any…..could there be a connection?

    • I don’t know. Could there be a connection between life expectancy there – 81.42 years – and here – 77.28? Or between our Covid-19 death rate now at 3,500/million and theirs near a third of that -1,336/M to be exact? Or between their qualify of life index of number 2 in the world and ours at 16?

      The big places they outscore us in the latter are in individual purchasing power, health care and the pollution index:

      Health care is, of course, a lot cheaper and easier when you have a healthy population to start with rather than a sickly one. And general populatin health is well-reflected in Covid-19 death rates from the pandemic of the old and unfit with an emphasis on the latter. The median chronological age in the Netherlands puts the Dutch four years older than Americans, but I’d expect the median biological age in the Netherlands is less than in the U.S.

  7. Hard to be impressed with politics in Anchorage where cronyism thrives. After many years of cycling in Anchorage decades ago, I found cycling to be an extremely dangerous mode of transportation on any road. I stayed on the beautiful green belts where the biggest risk are moose and bears.

    I remember one little punk driving a small red convertible. He actually cut me off the road, got out of his car and shouted obscenities at me. Apparently he believed I had said something to him earlier in an intersection.

    He turned out to be a prominent local attorney. The cops were just as impotent as your politicians. 😊

  8. I’m not a bike rider but I totally agree with everything you’ve said in this article. It’s common sense.

  9. Bikes and cars don’t mix. Even cars driven by bike riders. You need a separation by something physical.

    It costs a lot, and I don’t ride a bike except down to the Post Office. It’s just too dangerous. I support bikes, but we need changes. I always figure, “what if that guy just falls down on his left side right there. Bikes need a full car width lane, with a barrier.

    I have a dually I have to drive and often an 8′ wide flatbed trailer. I wait. I don’t care who gets pissed. I wait and I pass bikes like they are a car. I’ve seen too many hurt people from all kinds of different things. Until they fix the car bike thing I’m that SOB up front that won’t pass a bike until there’s tons of room.

  10. Of course, Brayton is signed as a Bike Path by DOT and when asked DOT’s spokesperson supplied the following:

    Hello, Marc:

    BIKE ROUTE signs are placed by the City when desired – on all roads ( between capital projects), and by the State DOTPF (when we have capital projects). It is a community designation as determined through the joint City/State AMATS Nomotorized Plan 2021. DOTPF puts up these signs to redirect cyclists from freeways to alternate routes when available. This is what occurs from the Seward Highway to Brayton Drive.

    BIKE ROUTES are routes, not facility types. BIKE ROUTES can point to any type of facility legal for bicycle use. The Rules of the Road are commonly the same as for motorists, but when directed to shared use pathways, the cyclist can choose either to be a vehicle on the road, shared use if need be, or can choose to be on the path, under pedestrian laws.

    While some cyclists desire a dedicated protected bike only lane, the 2021 AMATS Nonmotorized Plan when through a lot of community review and is the newest plan for facility types in Anchorage. The next steps are to seek funding for capital projects as much of this plan is not in place, but instead is a guide for future projects. Much of this plan is in accordance with the FHWA 2019 Guide for Selection of Bicycle Facilities, which does not prioritize dedicated, protected bicycle lanes in all cases of a BIKE ROUTE. A FHWA chart is excerpted on page 198 of the AMATS NMP and recommends separated paths at higher volumes and speeds as a first choice, not necessarily bike lanes. Older roads lacking improvements are still legal as the first level of bicycling – as shared use, in lane bicycling to the right hand side unless otherwise prohibited. This can also be a BIKE ROUTE. The MUTCD Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, specifies that any legal route can be a BIKE ROUTE, regardless of facility type.

    We don’t maintain a list of the signs. We did a one-time inventory that is now about 7 years out of date. To have another inventory taken would require a funded project. You would need to work with (for instance) your legislator or AMATS to convince them of the purpose and need to propose the project, and they would begin the process of developing the scope, getting it on a project list and finding funding. This can be a several year process.

    I hope this is helpful to you. We encourage anyone wanting to see certain facility types to work with AMATS to fund future projects and update future plans.

    Have a good evening.

    Jill Reese
    Public Information Officer/Special Projects
    Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities
    Central Region Director’s Office
    4111 Aviation Avenue
    PO Box 196900
    Anchorage, AK 99519-6900
    Direct: 907.269.0772
    Our mission is to “Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.”

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Marc-gmail
    Sent: Tuesday, November 8, 2022 10:21 AM
    To: Reese, Jill (DOT)
    Subject: Bike route signage


    After reviewing MUTCD and FHWA design guides it would appear that placement of bike route signs at Brayton and similar locations was not only inappropriate but incredibly dangerous . There can be little doubt that such signs should be removed promptly under current FHWA guidance, but as the signs have apparently been there for some years I would like to review the DSR that initially called, for example, for the placement of the bike route signs indicating that Brayton Dr was a bike route (which one would assume contains data regarding actual vehicular speed and volume) so that I can compare the reasoning contained therein with the FHWA guidance in place at the time.

    Additionally, it would appear that there may be hundreds of signs improperly placed by DoT in the MOA such as these. Has DOT ever done a comprehensive audit of all nonmotorist signs in the MOA? If so, how can I get a copy, and if not, how does one go about requesting such an audit?

    Marc Grober

  11. I asked my mother once why her or my father would never ride a bicycle & her response was : “Bicycles remind me of Communism”.
    I think it’s impossible for gasoline loving Americans to truly “share the road”.
    I will admit though that Willow is one of the most biker friendly places that I have ever lived….lower down valley, not so much.

Leave a Reply