Cycling is exploding in popularity, and drivers and riders alike need to get used to being around one another. Whether you’re riding a bike or driving a car, staying safe in the roadways is everyone’s responsibility. In all 50 states, bicyclists are required to follow the same laws as motorists, and motorists should be respectful to share the road with cyclists. So read on for an explanation of key traffic laws in Anchorage for everyone traveling on two wheels or four.
HINT FOR DRIVERS: A nod or a thumbs-up will let a cyclist know whether it’s safe to proceed, and he or she will really appreciate that.
HINT FOR CYCLISTS: If you acknowledge attentive drivers with a thank you wave, it will go a long way.
• Bicycles are allowed on the road.
• Cyclists must stay to the right part of the right lane. They can “take the lane” (i.e., occupy the entire lane) to avoid parked cars, obstructions or debris on the road, or to change lanes to make a left turn. When they take a lane, cyclists may ride two abreast (but never more).
• Cyclists must signal turns, lane changes and stops. They must have front and rear lights on at night.
• If you are going to pass a cyclist, you must pass on the left and give the bike three feet of clearance.
• If you are riding in the street, obey all traffic laws.
• Be decisive in your movements so drivers can determine your intentions. Use hand signals when turning or stopping. Wear bright clothing so you can be seen. Use a front and rear light at night.
• If you ride in the downtown business district, you must ride in the street—sidewalk riding there is illegal.
• If you are riding on the sidewalk or trails, go slow. Ride at a speed that is “reasonable and prudent,” considering the conditions and users you encounter.
• When crossing a driveway or intersection, you must ride slower than 10 mph. If you cross a driveway or intersection faster than 10 mph, you lose any right-of-way otherwise afforded to you by the city code.
• Be predictable. Don’t jump back and forth between street and sidewalk.
• Remember, even if you’re in the right from a legal standpoint, the likelihood of coming out on top in a vehicle vs. bicycle collision is slim—in other words, swallow your pride and always ride defensively.
We have well-reasoned laws here in Anchorage, so if we ALL learn them— and exercise some courtesy—we ought to be able to make cycling and driving safe for everyone.
For those who want to read the relevant laws in the Anchorage Municipal Code, visit Muni.org. The codes related to bicycles can be found in AMC 9.16.030, 9.16.095, 9.18.060 and in the entirety of 9.38.
Mark Mew is Chief of Police in Anchorage, and recently received his instructor certification from the League of American Bicyclists.