A Man With a Plan Mayor Ethan Berkowitz on the future of biking in Anchorage

Berkowitz article photo4 still loresEthan Berkowitz was elected Mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage in May 2015. He is a father, husband and local business owner. Mayor Berkowitz spends his free time running, biking and skiing on the Coastal Trail, and kayaking in Westchester Lagoon.

What is your vision for the future of bicycling in Anchorage?

Anchorage has the capacity to be a great city for bikers. Our trails are some of the best and most scenic in the country, but we need to improve bike safety, especially for commuters. There have been too many bike fatalities and accidents on our roads. My vision for a safe, complete bike plan for Anchorage includes trails, bike lanes and all-weather biking throughout the city.

In your opinion, what specific steps does Anchorage need to take to become a more bicycle-friendly city?

We need better and more lighting on trails and bike lanes. We are a winter city, and with that comes long stretches of darkness, but that should not hinder bike commuters or put people in danger. Better lighting will increase the safety of bikers, pedestrians and vehicles. The more visible we all are, the safer we all are. I also want to ensure that the city continues to work with AMATS to connect transportation and land use to make sure citizens have easy access to transit.

What are some bike infrastructure improvements you expect to be completed in your first term, such as new bike lanes or bike boulevards?

Implementation of the Anchorage Bike Plan is underway. There are several projects planned for construction in 2016. They include bike lanes on Wisconsin Street and C Street, a bike boulevard on 10th Avenue, improved shoulder road striping along C Street and Tudor road (between Minnesota and Old Seward Highway), and a shared road facility on McCarrey Street. A bicycle boulevard planned for 27th Avenue is in the initial scoping phase. In addition to these projects, more prioritized projects from the Anchorage Bike Plan will be identified for implementation as the AMATS Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) 2015- 2018 progresses through its four-year planning cycle.

Most cities that have experienced a spike in bike use have done so by installing an integrated network of bike lanes, bike boulevards and separated bikeways. Do you believe Anchorage needs to take a similar approach to increase biking? If so, what will you do to help make that happen?

Here in Anchorage, we are privileged to access a world-class network of trails, thanks to ground breaking work by Lanie Fleischer and former Governor Tony Knowles. We have an opportunity to build upon that trail system to create an award winning, bike friendly city. When it comes to increasing bike ridership, there are several factors. People need to feel safe when they are on a trail or sharing the road with vehicles. Improving our biking infrastructure by creating a safe network of bike lanes, bike boulevards and separated bikeways will make people more comfortable using their bikes for transportation and recreation. When we combine that with easy access to the city by bike, we will increase ridership and the safety of Anchorage residents who choose to commute by bicycle. My administration will continue to work with AMATS and ADOT&PF to implement the Anchorage Bike Plan.

Many other bike-friendly cities have adopted policies on Vision Zero and Complete Streets. Vision Zero is a multi- national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. Complete Streets are designed to enable safe access for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. What do you think of creating Complete Streets and Vision Zero policies for Anchorage?

Pedestrian and bicycle related fatalities happen far too often. As our city expands and becomes more diverse, we will see an increase in the number of people who choose to commute by bicycle and on foot. Anchorage citizens deserve and expect safe streets. Fatalities on city streets should not be inevitable or acceptable. My administration recognizes the importance of creating a Complete Streets policy and will work with AMATS to fashion a Complete Streets policy that makes sense for our unique transportation needs and winter-city climate.

What do you love about bicycling in Anchorage? How do you think our unique environment adds to the quality of life for Anchorage residents?

Biking in Anchorage brings a wonderful sense of community. Whether you bike for transportation or for fun, you are never alone and you are always passing a smiling face. One of my family’s favorite rides is along the Coastal Trail where we constantly run into friends and family. Getting outdoors, not just biking, ties our community together and improves our quality of life.