Anchorage Bike to Work Day is a local celebration of the national event initiated in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists. Each May, the event provides a stimulus to get bodies and bicycles in shape for a season of riding. Teams are organized among coworkers and other social groups for education and mutual support. Team registration has quadrupled since 2007; more than 3,800 cyclists were counted at key intersections in May of 2012.
Team registration and the webpage are maintained by the Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Important historic partners include the State of Alaska Division of Public Health, Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage, and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium / Southcentral Foundation Bike to Work partnership. In all 42 groups and businesses made a contribution beyond team participation.
How can a group or business get involved? In late April, register a team online by providing names of members and the designated team captain. Experienced cyclists make good captains because they can recommend routes and explain the ‘how to’ of bike commuting. DHHS updates team captains only via e-mail; captains can relate items of interest to others on their team. Bike to Work can provide instructional videos as well as instructors certified by the League of American Bicyclists for presentations and classes during or outside work hours.
How can a work place support bicycle commuting? A secure place to store bikes is essential; a shower and changing room better yet. Post a map of Anchorage bike routes and ask experienced riders to put their names and contacts on a pin where they live. Less experienced riders can then ask to accompany them on a ride to learn a good route. Those riding together are more visible and safer. Organized recreational rides are excellent for teambuilding – either short rides to discover a multi-use trail in Anchorage or a longer ride on the weekend (such as “Bird to Gird” route along Turnagain Arm).
Based on the growth of Bike to Work, the Air Quality section began applying grant funding for air quality improvement and traffic mitigation to this project in 2007. That year an annual rider count, including helmet use tally, was organized by the municipality’s Project Management and Engineering section. An annual online survey of riders began in 2008; more than 950 participated in 2012.
Some Biking Milestones
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Green Star, Inc. receive Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) Awards in 2009. There are currently eleven BFBs in Anchorage.
The Anchorage Assembly adopted the Anchorage Bicycle Plan in March 2010.
Anchorage received a Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the League of American Bicyclists in October of 2010.
In 2010 Anchorage was named #47 of 50 Top Bike-Friendly Cities in Bicycling magazine.
In August 2010, six individuals in Anchorage qualified as League Cycling Instructors (LCI). Instructors are certified and insured to teach cycling courses and clinics.
Nine APD officers received LCI certification in 2012. More than a quarter of Alaska LCIs are women. In contrast, California had just 20 female LCIs for a state of 37 million residents.
Why commute by Bike?
The Automobile Association of America puts the cost of car ownership at about $9,000 per year, of which gas is by no means the largest part. A household that can make do with fewer cars by biking, carpooling and using the bus can enjoy significant savings. Biking three or more days can help adults reach the 150 minutes of weekly exercise recommended by the Center for Disease Control. And Anchorage is ‘beautiful by bike’ – losing the windshield perspective helps remind us why we choose to live in Alaska.