Jul 26

Our city is considering changing a law – Title 9 of the Anchorage Municipal Code – to make cyclists liable for accidents if they are hit while crossing a roadway. No other place in the country gives the right of way to a motorist over a bicyclist. Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage (BCA) is teaming up with citizens to make sure Anchorage, Alaska, will not become the first.

Here is what you can do to help:
1. Tuesday, July 27th, 8pm attend the Anchorage Assembly meeting to support BCA when we speak out against this potential change.
2. Contact Public Safety committee members, and let them know the proposed change is a bad idea.
• Paul Honeman, chair, HonemanPS@muni.org, 947-0500
• Chris Birch, chrisbirch@gci.net, 346-3265
• Mike Gutierrez , gutierrezm@muni.org, 382-5972
3. Join us from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm on Thursday, August 5, for an important meeting of the city Traffic Department at the Municipal Planning and Development Center (First Floor Conference Room Number 30 at 4700 Elmore Road).

Title 9 of Anchorage’s Municipal code handles traffic law, including the rights and duties of cyclists. Since last Spring when Title 9 rewrites were proposed, BCA has strongly objected to changes in the law which hinder public safety protections for bicyclists.

Giving cars the right of way is unintuitive. Most people instinctively give the right of way to the most vulnerable. Bicyclists give the right of way to pedestrians and cars give the right of way to cyclists and pedestrians. Does the city really want to make a child riding their bike on a sidewalk liable if that child were to be hit by a car while crossing a driveway? The proposed law defies common sense.

The evidence is on our side.
1. According to the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, crash statistics for bicycle versus car accidents in Anchorage went down by 40% since 2004 when Title 9 was originally changed to ensure cyclists have the right of way when crossing a street.
2. BCA researched traffic law in all 50 states, and did not find any other communities give the right of way to the motorist over the cyclist. In most communities, the right of way is granted to the cyclist, for the obvious reason that cyclists can be put at risk when crossing the street.

This change is dangerous because of the increased number of bicyclists.
1. Bicycle ridership, according to Anchorage 2010 Bike to Work Day observational counts, nearly doubled since 2007.
2. Anchorage has more bicycle shops, bicycle rental businesses, and more money being spent on bicycles and bicycling gear than ever before.

This change is dangerous to children
1. Children ride their bikes 40% more than adults
2. Bicycle crashes are the leading cause of hospitalization and fatalities of children
3. Children ride their bikes on sidewalks. This new law puts the burden of responsibility on children whether they are riding or walking their bicycle across a driveway or intersection.
4. Many motorists are driving while talking or texting, this distraction can lead to a motorist hitting a cyclist and still it will be the bicyclist’s fault.

BCA recommends
1. Maintain the same language as 2004, as the rewrite reduced crashes.
2. Start a campaign to educate motorists to stop at red lights and not roll through stop signs.

What BCA is already doing
1. BCA holds education clinics nearly every two months, educating bicyclists on following the rules of the road and bicycle safety.
2. BCA designed a bicycle safety curriculum and taught the week long bicycle safety to 60 youth, age 8-14 this summer through Camp Fire USA.
3. BCA is hosting a three day bicycle certification clinic to teach instructors how to teach bicycle safety.

Please join us in our efforts to keep Anchorage’s cyclists safe! If you have any specific questions about the Title 9 re-write, please contact Kristi Wood at bikemoredriveless@hotmail.com

21 Responses to “Let’s Keep Anchorage Bicycle Families Safe”

  1. Michelle says:

    In case the info is needed: the Assembly Meetings are in the Loussac Library, and they start at 5pm (according to assembly website) possibly over by 7:30pm (according to ACC), so maybe want to come earlier than 8pm? Unless I am missing something?

  2. Will Taygan says:

    Just called Debbie Ossiander. She hadn’t heard of the proposal, and said it sounded “kinda screwy” or something positive like that. Hopefully this one dies a swift death.

  3. All,

    As information, nothing related to Title 9 is on this evening’s agenda. It appears BCA is encouraging you to express your concerns during the open public comment period toward the end of the agenda. That’s fine, but just be aware that your vigilance won’t conclude this evening. Feel free to contact me with any questions.


    Patrick Flynn
    Anchorage Assembly

  4. [...] a timely manner.” In a clear case of blaming the victim, Anchorage considers amending its laws to make cyclists automatically at fault if they get hit crossing a roadway. Katy Perry and Russel Brand ride bikes in New York. An overview [...]

  5. David says:

    The offending language can be found here: http://www.muni.org/Departments/traffic/Title9Rewrite/9.20_9.38_Status_Report.pdf

    The gist of it is that “they” want people who are riding bikes on trails or sidewalks to get off and walk them across streets and driveways. If we walk them, then we have the right of way. If we ride, we don’t. (This is not about bicyclists crossing driveways or riding thru intersections while on the street.)

    The fact of the matter is that a LOT of vehicle/bike accidents happen at crosswalks at intersections; e.g., see http://www.bicyclinglife.com/Library/riskfactors.htm

    There would probably be a lot fewer bike/vehicle collisions if we all walked our bikes at crosswalks and driveways.

    But it seems to me that this proposed law is not going to affect safety in any measurable way. People, myself included, are still going to ride our bikes through crosswalks and across driveways.

    The key is driver and bicyclist education, not another law.

    For reference:

    The new proposed section in Title 9 is 9.38.060: “C. Persons operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk, recreational trail or bike trail must yield the right-of-way to traffic before crossing a roadway, street, or driveway”…

    …together with revisions to 9.38.020 C: “A person propelling a vehicle by
    human power upon and along a sidewalk, trail or pathway, except when crossing a roadway or driveway intersecting a sidewalk, trail or pathway, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.” (previously had “or across” instead of “except when crossing”)

  6. What was the outcome of the meeting?

  7. Dawn says:

    To all: At the final portion of the assembly meeting, during the open-mic section, BCA spokesperson, Dawn Groth, took to the podium for 3-5 minutes to educate the assembly about this potential new traffic code. This was not an agenda item so we could not all get up there and talk, this was purely a respectable opportunity to inform the assembly about an upcoming public safety concern. 15 bicycle supporters showed up to support the cause. That was very important. We are at the beginning of the process. The intention was to put it on the mental radar of the assembly. Next opportunity for you to make a difference is August 5, at the traffic meeting that has been specially set up for this topic. But, the meeting has not made it the Title 9 muni website. We wonder why? visit http://www.muni.org/Departments/traffic/Pages/Title9Rewrite.aspx to see that this section of the rewrite has been deliberately removed from public opinion. The meeting has been sent around via email from traffic department.

  8. Garret Spargo says:

    I do not know if this is a recent change, but it appears that they have listed the meeting (currently the only item listed in the 2010 Meeting Schedule on the Title 9 Rewrite page that was linked to). That page also include the status report on this topic, which appears to be unchanged since the May ’09 discussion on the matter.

    I had heard through various people that this topic was dead, but it appears to be alive and well. I will be trying to take some time off from work to engage in this discussion in next week.

  9. [...] Lorien on Jul.31, 2010, under Advocacy From Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage {Anchorage} is considering changing a law – Title 9 of the Anchorage Municipal Code – to make [...]

  10. Matt says:

    Actually, the law change makes sense, though is perhaps not well implemented. A fast moving cyclist riding on a sidewalk is very difficult if not impossible to see from a car and belongs on the road. The law, perhaps should be changed to what it is in many other states: a cyclist on a sidewalk must slow to the speed of a pedestrian before crossing any intersection to gain the right of way. If the cyclist is riding faster, then they lose the right of way.

  11. Mark says:

    They will think it’s a good idea until one of their children or relatives gets hit by a car. Seems to me the insured vehicle with the ability to kill should be the one that has to yield.

  12. Dawn says:

    we agree.

  13. Dawn says:

    seems reasonable. this was introduced because police are frustrated with hearing how the bicyclists “came out of nowhere”. What motorist would ever say they saw the bicycle before they hit them? Cell phones are a significant reason why motorists aren’t seeing bicyclists, We (as motorists) can’t see when we are dialing, texting and talking on our cell phones. appreciate your language suggestion.

  14. [...] Anchorage Pols Might Pass One of the Dumbest Traffic Laws Ever (Bike Anchorage) [...]

  15. Boris says:

    In New York City, cyclists may not be technically liable for being hit by a car, but they are liable in practice. The NYPD generally refuses to do a basic investigation, like interview witnesses other than the driver of the car, and the driver usually goes unpunished, including in cases where there was a cyclist or pedestrian fatality. “Due care” and vehicular manslaughter law cases are extremely rare, due to both the difficulty of prosecution under current law, but also due to the generally anti-bike attitude of the NYPD.

    Of course the Anchorage case is more extreme, but it would be a mistake to paint a rosy picture of bicycling in other places.

  16. [...] Pols Might Pass One of the Dumbest Traffic Laws Ever (Bike Anchorage) More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol [...]

  17. Maureen says:

    I agree with Mark. I have come close to hitting a cyclist twice in the last 2 years. On both occasions, the cyclist was moving very fast, on the sidewalk, and came from behind my right shoulder to cross in front of me as I turned right onto a busy street. The second occurance actually caused a traffic accident… I hit the brakes so hard that the car behind me piled into me and did about $2000 worth of damage to his front end on my tow-hitch. The cyclist saw the accident he caused, but just kept going. Every witness who stopped (including another cyclist) was enraged by the irresponsibility of this rider. If he was on the road and obeying traffic laws, I would have seen him sooner, and there would have been no accident.
    And no, I don’t hate cyclists. I am a bike-commuter and former bike mechanic. Bikes need to follow the rules of the road, just like cars do. It’s the irresponsible ones that cause things like the Title 9 re-write to happen.

  18. Maureen says:

    Sorry, that was Matt, not Mark. I also agree with Mark, though… perhaps the law should be age-specific. Most minors do not have adequate knowledge of traffic law. Anyone over 16 should be held liable… but ONLY IF THE ACCIDENT IS CLEARLY FROM THEIR NEGLIGENCE. To assume liability by simply mounting a bike? Rediculous.

  19. Brian says:

    While this incident is the result of a negligent and irresponsible bicyclist, the law as proposed is still a poor solution to the problem. In most instances, it is, as you note, safer to be on the road. Bicyclists are more visible and predictable. But we have certain roads that just have too much motor vehicle volume and motorists travelling at too high a speed for bicyclists to feel safe sharing the road. in these instances they will end up on the sidewalk, where they are vulnerable to traffic coming out of smaller arterials, parking lots or driveways. the answer to the problem, however, is not to put the liability on the more vulnerable user. we have a system where motorists yield to bicyclists and bicyclists yield to pedestrians. it does not make sense to turn this on its head. the major problem, as identified by APD, is that bicyclists travelling at high speeds on sidewalks cannot be seen by motorists and thus when they pass by, the motorist either hits them or, like you did, stops in time but creates another accident. If the problem is that bicyclists are going to fast, then require them to slow down. Require them to cross driveways, parking lot entrance/exits, and intersections at a slow enough speed that the motorist should have no problem seeing them. Some states have instituted laws that require bicyclists on sidewalks to cross intersections at a pedestrian speed. A speed of 10mph (which is faster than pedestrian speed) would still be slow enough for the motorist to see the bicyclist coming before the motorist crosses to enter the road.

  20. bryan says:

    Im doing a report on this whole biking in the roads and motorists yeilding (or not yeilding to bicyclists). I believe that in biking you are taking the responsibility of yeilding to everything bigger than you. keeping your eyes and ears open. you do have to remember the drivers point of view, most see cyclists as quick, jittery, and unpredictable. If you slow down at intersections and pay attention to whats around you , you have a 99% chance youll never get hit. Even when i was a kid growing up , riding around in the streets was taught to be dangerous,,, i have to ask .. what changed? now i cant say i didnt goof off in the streets anyway but i was never hit , when i was young it was mostly luck i didnt get hit but over time i became a very very very defencive bicyclist. i suggest others do the same. and if your near the road take your damn headphones off or at least wear ones that allow you to hear things around you.

  21. TrikePilot says:

    I agree with Matt & Maureen, I also have almost hit cyclists several times while I was turning at or going thru an intersection after sopping at a light or stop sign. I had stopped and throughly looked both ways but as they were riding fast, along the sidewalk and came “flying thru the crosswalk”, they appeared to come out of nowhere. In other states that I have lived, and I beleive it is the same here in Alaska too, the law says when you are mounted on your cycle you are considered a vehicle. A cyclist is ONLY considered a pedestrian when they are dismounted and walking their cycle. Crosswalks are strictly for pedestrians and vehicles are required to keep them clear and give right of way to them. As a cyclist, it irritates and disturbs me greatly when I see other vehicles, both automobiles and cyclists, intruding into the crosswalk when they are supposed to be stopped. I beleive the problem is most cyclists, while riding on a sidewalk or bike trail and coming to a street intersection, beleive it is “OK” to ride in the crosswalk and just fly thru without stopping and dismounting. As a child I was taught to stop look and listen before crossing at a crosswalk. I was also taught that while mounted on a bicycle you are a vehicle, and that it is wrong to ride across the intersection using a crosswalk without dismounting. As for crossing driveways while riding on the sidewalk, in my opinion, I think it depends on your speed and visibility. If you are riding responsibly, you shouldnt be held responsible for anothers irrisponsibility. In my opinion, I do not think this re-write of title 9 changes the law, it just clarifies it, although this is not likely to make these irresponsible cyclists suddenly start obeying the rules. Only education and enforcment can change the behavior of the irrisponsible.

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