Friday, April 2, 2010

Anchorage Bike Plan unanimously approved

Anchorage bikers rejoice! The Anchorage Bike Plan passed the Assembly. And with flying colors at that. While this news is already known to just about everyone in the city now, it deserves a spot on this blog and with good reason. As of now, the Municipality of Anchorage has 8 miles of bike lanes. In 2029, this will increase from 8 to 109 miles. I can't tell you the difference between a bike lane and a paved shoulder, but according to the ADN, Anchorage will have over 50 miles of paved shoulders in the city in 2029. As of now, we apparently have zero. Interestingly, we are also expected to get 4 miles of "bike boulevards". A quick google image search results in this. Embarrassingly, I can't exactly say how these "boulevards" work. If you look at this chart showing the stats on the expansions that are expected, you'll notice that the greenbelt trails such as Chester Creek, Campbell Creek, or the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail will jump by only about 15 miles in the next 20 years. The reason for this is because while those trails are great and all, they're purely recreational. If you want to do some nature biking on the weekend, great! But as of now, everyday biking in Anchorage is almost non-existent. It sounds foreign to us, especially if like me you were born and raised here in this auto loving town, but in many cities around the world people bike to everyday places like the grocery store, school, and *gasp*, even work! Perhaps my biggest culture shock when it comes to transportation came a few years ago when I visited Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Not that I wasn't expecting it as I knew that just about every road had designated bike lanes; rather it was the demographics and sheer number of people biking. On these bikes over there were young kids, old men, business men in suits, hobo's, and mothers with children (the children sat in these clever wheelbarrow like contraptions in the front). Biking wasn't something you do in a special Lance Armstrong inspired bike suit on the weekend. Biking was truly an optional form of transportation. So common was biking as a every mode of transport that bicycles have their own street lights at intersections. Near the main train station in the historical city center sits a bicycle parking garage. Yes, you read that right. A bicycle parking garage ...but as usual, I'm getting off topic...

The point is, cities in the United States are realizing the value in bicycle and other alternative modes of transport outside the car; and now Anchorage joins that list of cities that want to expand on this money saving and sustainable niche alternative. Indeed biking can be done in Anchorage and therefore technically is an option, but it's not a realistic and practical option. Even with every road in the city having a bike lane, biking from Downtown to Muldoon or Dimond is not exactly a conveinient thing to do. This is where the importance of city design and more specifically, Title 21 building codes, come into play. As of now the city is heavily tilted in favor of the personal automobile. As a result, parking lots dominate the landscape and destinations are placed far apart. Downtown is really the only part of town today in which pedestrians, drivers, and bikers are on more equal footing. Walking from the Captain Cook to Humpy's or the museum a few blocks down is easy. Walking from Midtown to Dimond on the other hand is unthinkable. The same applies to bikes, and a well designed city is very important no matter how many bike lanes you have.

No comments: