Its been a week jam-packed with bike-related events in my life:
last Friday – I was finally taken out by a car. The driver was poised to turn right on a red light at a major intersection. I had the walk signal (on a path signed for bikes as well, plus in Anchorage it is legal to ride on most sidewalks if you follow pedestrian rules). I slowed to walking speed and thought she had seen me, even though she had turned back to look for traffic from her left. In the super slow motion, action-in-jello collision I realized she had no clue I was there. Luckily, we were both almost stopped anyway (I think I did stop before she hit me, maybe I should have gunned it!), so just a few bruises and wheel badly in need of trueing – which I am strangely gifted at, so that was easily accomplished later. Thank god for disc brakes which allowed me to complete the ride to pick up my son from camp with my wobbly wheel. I guess it was time to relearn my lesson to assume they don’t see you, assume they will do the wrong thing, and don’t cross in front without serious eye-contact. All things I normally do, but we are only human.
In my 20’s I went over the hoods of cars on two occasions when the cars didn’t stop behind the stop sign at an intersection and visibility was poor. In those cases I was also on a sidewalk/path. It would be nice to be able to universally ride on the street in Anchorage – this is legal but in most places very dangerous and made quite uncomfortable by seriously hostile drivers (on any given ride on the street you are about 99% likely to have someone honk at you and/or yell obscenities at you). Painted bike lanes would be great, we have very few in town. Also good, if Anchorage is going to stick to the current plan of trying to channel cyclists to multi-use paths paralleling streets, would be to make sure these paths are signed and well-designed on both sides of the street, since many accidents happen at intersections when a cyclist is unseen because they are going in the opposite direction of traffic. Where I was hit, the sidewalk on the side of the road (36th ave) that would have taken me in the same direction as traffic is narrow, obstructed, and hellishly bumpy, not to mention unsigned for cyclists.
Sunday – a much better day for cycling! I woke up early to true my wheel and head to the store and strap a large bag of ‘natural’ charcoal to my back rack, since I was hosting the BBQ at the end of the BCA Bike garden tour (the Spring Veggie Roll). A huge number of cyclists (20ish?) toured food gardens throughout Anchorage then converged on my place for tasty salmon and potluck. There were kids on trail-a-bikes, babes in trailers…it was great!
Tuesday – A cop almost turned left into me and my son while we tooled through another intersection on 36th Ave where we had the walk sign. A line of traffic in the other lane blocked his sight, and we both stopped in plenty of time, but it would have been amusing (maybe that’s not the right word) to get mowed down by a cop. Maybe I am more sensitive now, but I am feeling that car traffic is behaving worse than usual lately.
Wednesday – My son and I joined a bike-in protest against oil dependency and big oil at the BP building in town. We got interviewed by the news – I worried a bit about my job (engineering and oil are certainly not unrelated businesses here) but decided that was silly. A good time was had by all.
This coming Friday is Bike First Friday (click the ‘Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage’ link to the right side near the top of this page for more info and a map)! Participating galleries and other venues with art shows (Modern Dwellers Chocolate lounge and Midnight Sun Brewery among others!) will have treats and have submitted a scavenger hunt question. Bikers will meet at the Museum cafe, like last month, where there will be valet bike parking, general socializing, some prizes, and good time had by all. A bunch of us are going to start rabbelrousing about the delayed Spenard Road Project – a project that would benefit bikers and peds, and generally everyone, but which some local businesses fear – mostly since change is scary. These businesses have signs that say “If you like Arctic…you’ll love Spenard”, sarcastically referring to a similar project one street over on Arctic Blvd that took longer than expected and was a bit of a mess for a while. But you know, I love Arctic! I work on Arctic. I live between Spenard and Arctic and choose to bike Arctic due to wide shoulders that allow me to bike in the road and sidewalks that actually have, what a concept, curb cuts and room to walk or bike! So I’ll keep taking my fairly large disposable income (even larger since I don’t shell out for car payments or insurance or gas) and bike it up and down Arctic until Spenard is fixed for bikes.
And finally – a list of my urban biking loves and pet peeves:
What I love about bike commuting in Anchorage: I am never caught in traffic jams, I get great exercise, you often have great conversations with other bikers or peds, you go slow enough to see the sandhill crane feeding on the mudflats, it makes me feel powerful and rich (since I save so much money not owning a car).
What I hate about biking in Anchorage: Rude drivers, unobservant drivers, lack of safe room to bike on most roads, paths/sidewalks in really bad shape with light and signal poles in the middle, and where the signal post is far enough back to be out of your way, it is in some really strange place where you have to turn 90degees and reach way around to hit the walk-sign button. Also, it ticks me off to no end when I get to an intersection as the light is turning green and since I haven’t had time to hit the walk button, I have to wait through a whole cycle to get the signal or illegally run the red hand (if it was safe to bike on the street I could go with the green and this wouldn’t be a problem). Generally, it is obvious that bikes are an afterthought both on the road (where cars are king) and on the paths – which if they are designed for anyone are designed for peds only.