Springtime in Alaska
Spring in Anchorage, AK is a slow transition from a land blanketed in brilliant, snowy white to a land of amazing blues and greens. Alaska’s state motto, “North to the Future” suddenly seems valid as mountains which were buried in soft snowfall give way to mountains with glimpses of green. It is also a time when backcountry skiers, hikers or those who ride snowmobiles must be cognizant of the potential for a spring avalanche. It is important during this transitional time to keep abreast of spring avalanche reports. You can stay up on the latest reports here for Cordova, Eastern Alaska Ridge, Haines, Hatcher Pass, Valdez, Juneau and Chugach National Forest.
Avid skiers might want to know that the projected closing date for Alyeska Ski Resort is April 14th. In addition to those who love winter sports, when the snow begins to melt and Alaskan roads become drier and more accessible, you are likely to see bikers and pedestrians enjoying Alaska’s spring weather—and doing their best to ignore the puddles left from the melting snow! It is important for drivers to look out for bikers and pedestrians and for bikers and pedestrians to practice good safety habits to avoid springtime accidents.
Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety
When spring arrives in Anchorage, AK, the children are usually the first to rush out the door, ready to hop on their bicycles and celebrate the end of winter. You will also see more children walking and riding their bicycles to school, and, in fact, National Bike to School Day falls on May 8, 2019 this year. Alaska also supports the Walking School Bus program which allows groups of children to walk or bicycle to school together safely under adult supervision. What this means for drivers, is that being vigilant when watching out for children walking and bicycling is imperative, particularly during before school and after school times.
Being Aware of Your Surroundings
While drivers must be aware of pedestrians and bicyclists, walkers and bikers must also take responsibility for their own safety. As a cyclist, you must remain alert and aware at all times; driver distraction is at an all-time high, therefore bicyclists and pedestrians must be even more alert. Do not listen to music or talk on your phone when walking and biking; this type of distraction can cause you to miss a vehicle about to hit you. Being aware of your surroundings requires being visually aware—constantly scanning your surroundings—as well as listening to the sounds around you.
Tips for Bicyclists in the Spring
If you can hardly wait to get out the door and hop on your bicycle this spring, it is important to remember the following basic safety tips:
- Protect your head by always wearing a helmet; it’s estimated about 2 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists each year. In most of those deaths, the most serious injuries were to the head.
- Ride your bicycle as if you were driving a car—other auto drivers are used to the “patterns” of drivers, so the more predictably you ride, the safer you will be.
- Make sure you are visible to drivers.
- Obey all traffic laws, traffic lights and traffic signs.
- Always walk your bicycle across intersections.
- Always bicycle in the direction of traffic.
- Make sure your bicycle is ready for the road, particularly brakes and tires.
- Be aware of the local laws regarding where bicyclists are permitted, i.e., bike trails versus sidewalks. There are also some hiking trails which are not bike-friendly.
- Look, signal, then look again. Use hand signals to let drivers know where you are going, and, when possible, make eye contact with drivers. Never assume the driver will stop.
Nonverbal Direction Signals Between Bicyclists and Automobiles
“Traditional” bike signals include extending the left arm straight out from the body with all fingers extended (or simply pointing to the left with index finger) for a left turn, extending the left arm out sideways, bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow joint with palm facing forward and hand pointing upward for a right turn (or, simply extend your right arm straight out from the body and point to the right for a right turn), extending the left or right arm sideways, arm bent at a 90-degree angle and elbow joint with hand pointing downward and palm of hand facing backward to indicate slowing or stopping (or, alternatively, placing an open palm facing out on your lower back to signal slowing down and placing your hand behind your back while making a fist to signal a stop). Clear hand signals can help drivers know your intentions, therefore can prevent accidents.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians in the Springtime
Walking also requires vigilance on the part of the walker, as well as drivers. In 2017 5,977 pedestrians lost their lives after being hit by an automobile.
Pedestrian Safety Issues We Should All Be Aware Of
Pedestrians should follow many of the same safety tips as bicyclists, but additionally should:
- Walk on the sidewalk when possible;
- Cross only at designated crosswalks;
- Always stop prior to crossing a street (look left, look right, then look left again prior to crossing);
- Wear bright, visible clothing;
- Watch for vehicles turning out of and into driveways and backing out of parking spaces, and
- Watch out for turning traffic.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians Walking with a Dog
When walking with your dog it is even more important to stay on sidewalks when possible. You should also remember to:
- Keep your dog on a leash;
- Wear reflective clothing in the evenings;
- Approach other walkers with dogs cautiously;
- Carry a clip-on blinking light for nighttime walking, and
- Consider a reflective collar and leash for your dog if you will be walking at night.
What About Anchorage, Alaska Dog Bites?
Automobiles are not the only hazard bikers and pedestrians face—dog bites and dog attacks can occur, although they are not a common occurrence. Alaska dog bite cases follow the “one-bite” rule, meaning in order to hold the dog’s owner liable for injuries, the injured person must show the dog’s owner knew—or should have known—the dog was aggressive (i.e., had bitten someone in the past).
Safety Tips for Interacting with Dogs While Walking or Biking
The number one safety tip for interacting with dogs when walking or biking is—don’t. Never approach a dog or try to pet a dog unless it is one you are familiar with and you are confident will not bite. If a dog approaches you while walking, calmly turn and face the dog and stand still. When the dog realizes you are not going to run for them to chase, they will usually walk away on their own. If you are riding a bicycle, stop, get off your bike, turn to face the dog, standing very still.
What to Do If You are Attacked or Bitten by a Dog
An aggressive dog may not be deterred by your stillness; if a dog does attack you, there are ways you can minimize the seriousness of the attack. If you can, place a barrier between you and the dog—a purse, a jacket or a stick. Try to move to a position of height, making it more difficult for the dog to bite you. Try your best not to scream, as this can antagonize some dogs further. If possible, cover the dog’s head with a shirt or other cloth item, blocking his eyesight and giving you the opportunity to escape. If there are other people in the area, ask for help. If the dog knocks you to the ground, curl into a ball on your knees with your hands clasped behind your neck, protecting your head and throat to the extent possible. If you are bitten, contact animal control, call the police, and get medical attention immediately to avoid infection. Whenever possible, obtain the dog owner’s information. Depending on the circumstances of the dog bite, some types of insurance may apply.
While all the information regarding dog bites could make you apprehensive about walking or biking in the spring weather, in fact, Alaska is never listed in the top 10—or even 15 or 20—states with the most dog bites. Aggressive dogs are not the norm and most dogs will not attack unless they feel threatened. Anchorage encourages friendly dogs with a number of dog parks, including University Lake Dog Park, Arctic/Benson Park, South Anchorage Dog Park, North Gasline Trail Dog Park, Conners Bog Dog Park, Valley of the Moon Dog Park, and even an aquatic dog park—Alaska K9 Aquatics. If you take your dog to a local dog park, make sure he or she is up to date on all vaccinations, pick up after your dog, make sure your dog is generally people and dog-friendly and keep a leash with you just in case.
How Kelley & Canterbury Can Help
If you are injured by a driver while walking or biking, or bitten by a dog, contacting an experienced pedestrian accident attorney or bike accident attorney from Kelley & Canterbury can be the best step to take for a more positive outcome. The Anchorage, AK personal injury attorneys at Kelley & Canterbury pride themselves on being “On Your Side, At Your Side, Every Step of the Way.” Our experience and knowledge enable us to focus on the legal aspects of your accident and injuries while you focus on healing. At Kelley & Canterbury, our dedicated, hardworking, honest and compassionate personal injury attorneys want to help you through this difficult time, ensuring your rights and your future are properly protected.