Commuter Chronicles: Bike Safety (And Risk) in Anchorage

I’m an avid bike commuter – luckily, I live close to a trail system and my employers are flexible. However, I’m not just biking to and from work – biking to work means biking to yoga or dinner or midtown or meetings- and plenty of other Anchorage residents commute everyday without the luxury of the trail connection.

Bicycling is a passion of mine and a heated topic in some conversations. Not surprisingly, bikers are lumped together as one camp, drivers as another and depending which side you ask, are reckless, dangerous beings, hellbent on killing themselves or others.

I’d go out on a limb and say most cyclists don’t have a death wish (in fact, quite the opposite when you think about the health benefits of bike commuting), nor do drivers want to be responsible for ending another person’s life. Unfortunately, when you’re in the heat of the moment – being cut off by a car or seeing a bike dart across lanes without the light or signal – it’s hard to remember the person behind wheel(s).

Should you choose to be a bike commuter, mindful biking is key to safety and prevention of accidents with cars. Mindfulness including:

  • Bike lights on front & back of bike/person. I have a white spotlight on my helmet (a thoughtful gift from my sweetheart) and a bright red light on the back of my bike. Some even double up with lights on person and front/back of bike (3+ lights)
  • Reflective tapes in all reasonable places: tires, seat bar, rack, front handlebars, jacket, helmet… If it sticks – put some tape on it
  • Knowing your route in advance and the challenges it includes (biking on busy roads, sidewalks, bike trails – construction, down trees, congestion, etc)
  • Tuning in to the world around you – pay attention to cars. Make eye contact with drivers before taking the right of way. Always assuming that they have not seen you and making sure it’s clear before you make turns or clear intersections.

And so much more. Educate yourself, as a biker, on the rules of the road as they pertain to you. And always err on the side of caution.

This week, Alaska Public Media‘s Hometown Alaska did a radio program called “Considering Bike Fatalities” . Anchorage has experienced some truly tragic deaths this year as a result of car/bicycle accidents and they have spurred conversations around safety, transportation and design and other topics. I encourage you to give it a listen – Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew, Alta Planning & Design staff Steve Durrant, and Bike Anchorage co-founder & Board of Directors member Steve Cleary offered insightful and diverse perspectives on the issues and opportunities we have as a community (or society, really) to find a middle ground that ensures bicyclists and drivers alike can share the road safely.

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