With miles of hiking and bike trails, Anchorage should be the ideal place for people who want to walk or cycle for their leisure as well as for getting around town. In fact, when weather permits, it is not unusual for residents to walk or bike almost anywhere they need to go in the city.
However, as the volume of biking and walking traffic has increased, so has the frequency of accidents and injuries. As it happens, we have become plagued by pedestrian and bicyclist collisions in Anchorage.
With these disturbing accidents on the rise, some local residents and community groups believe that Anchorage and the State of Alaska should take action to help improve pedestrian and cyclist safety on the roadways.
How common are pedestrian and cyclist collisions in Anchorage?
According to data from the Alaska Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Accident Data Center, and KTUU staff archives, between 2014 and mid-June 2017, 58 pedestrian and cyclist collisions were reported in Anchorage.
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) reports that the most common cause of cyclist injury or death is an accident with a motor vehicle. For pedestrians, being hit by a car is the third most common cause of injury.
In May 2017, police investigated a vehicle-bicycle collision at Abbott and Sandalwood Drive in South Anchorage, which left the cyclist with critical head injuries. The Anchorage Police Department report indicated that the cyclist, an adult male, was wearing a helmet.
Less than one month later, on June 12, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed a pedestrian in the 5600 block of East Fourth Avenue, near Boniface Parkway in Anchorage. The victim, a 24-year-old Anchorage man, was declared dead at the scene.
Police later arrested the suspected driver and charged him with a felony for leaving the scene of a fatality.
What causes pedestrian and cyclist accidents in Anchorage?
Alaska weather plays its part in causing accidents, particularly during the darker months of winter. Hazardous road conditions keep motorists focused on driving, sometimes to the detriment of pedestrians and cyclists. These dangers were apparent in a December 2016 pedestrian accident in which three customers of Beans Café were struck by a taxi just outside the coffee shop.
Alaska weather is not the only cause of these accidents. Many bicyclist and pedestrian injury accidents occur because drivers are not paying attention or yielding the right-of-way.
This fact has perhaps never been more clearly illustrated than in this dashcam footage of a cyclist being struck by a car while in a marked crosswalk.
This incident took place at the intersection of Lake Otis, East 50th, and Waldron Drive, at approximately 4:40 PM. The cyclist, who clearly had the right-of-way, was struck by a 4-door SUV that was waiting to turn right at the intersection.
In the video, it was apparent that the SUV’s driver intended to turn right on red and, while looking for oncoming traffic to the left, did not see the cyclist.
The KTUU report listed several tips for cyclists and pedestrians, to help them stay safer on the streets of Anchorage. However, some sources quoted in the story suggested that Anchorage might also take steps to make the city a safer place for those who bike and walk.
What is Anchorage doing to prevent pedestrian and cyclist collisions?
In 2010, Anchorage adopted a new Bicycle Plan, acknowledging that many residents use cycling and walking as their primary mode of transportation. The plan called for adding significant infrastructure to make the city safer for those who walk and bike. Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions has stated that construction will begin in certain areas in summer of 2017. However, subsequent phases of the project may not roll out for several more years.
In June of 2017, community groups and representatives from the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles (ADMV) came together for a meeting to discuss the growing problem of bike and pedestrian safety in Anchorage. An ADMV representative agreed, after hearing community members’ safety concerns, to update the state’s driver’s manual to include references to sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists.
What can I do to prevent being involved in a pedestrian or cyclist accident?
While Anchorage is working to make the city safer for bikers and walkers, you are the only person who can guarantee your safety. To stay safe walking or biking around Anchorage, follow these tips:
- Pay attention. This might sound oversimplified, but it is a common cause of accidents and injuries. Stay off your phone and ensure you are always aware of your surroundings. If you are listening to music, do not listen with both headphones in.
- Stay sober. Alcohol is not only dangerous behind the wheel. You can endanger yourself or others by biking or walking while intoxicated. Your reaction time is slower and your judgment is skewed which can cause you to take dangerous actions or fail to take necessary actions.
- Use crosswalks. Never cross outside of a crosswalk. Never assume a driver will stop for you, even if you are in a crosswalk. When crossing, make eye contact with drivers to ensure they have seen you.
At Kelley & Canterbury LLC, we work hard to protect the legal rights of our clients injured in bicycle and pedestrian accidents, and to help them recover the compensation they deserve for their injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian or cyclist collision in Anchorage, contact our office today to speak to one of our personal injury attorneys: 907-276-8185.