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Cyclists on the Ship Creek Greenbelt Trail.
(Photo courtesy of Chris Arend)
The Anchorage Bicycle Plan focuses on the development of a safe, connected network of bicycle infrastructure that meets the needs of the bicycling community for access to jobs, schools, and services. Implementation of the bicycle facility improvements recommended in this plan is guided by goals, policies, and action item recommendations and by analysis and identification of the physical requirements and overall needs of bicyclists.
A separate document, the Areawide Trails Plan, is also an element of the Nonmotorized Transportation Plan. It will primarily concentrate on recreational trails, including greenbelt trails and specialized trails used for activities such as cross-country skiing, horseback riding, dog mushing, skijoring, and snowmobiling, as well as recreational bicycling.
Bicycling is one of the most popular leisure activities enjoyed in Anchorage, a city with a world-class trail system boasting more than 214 miles of trails. Increasingly, bicycle travel is being embraced as a practical means of daily transportation. Many are turning to a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation, riding bicycles to reach work, attend school, access transit, visit friends, and shop.
Bicycling is recognized as an integral part of the transportation system in the chief planning document for Anchorage transportation, the Anchorage Bowl 2025 Long- Range Transportation Plan with 2027 Revisions1 (2025 LRTP). Bicycling is an important element in meeting the future transportation needs of Anchorage residents for many other reasons, including the following:
• Affordability – Bicycling requires only a fraction of the cost to own and operate a motor vehicle. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that the average American spends nearly $8,000 per year to own and operate an automobile. Bicyclists typically spend less than $300 per year.3 Fuel and other costs associated with operating an automobile are expected to continue to increase.
• Reduction of traffic congestion – The reduction in vehicle use that results from travel by bicycle helps to remove some traffic from roadways and intersections. Bicycle use is higher in summer than in other seasons, helping to relieve traffic volumes when the road network carries the greatest number of travelers.
• Health benefits – Bicycling provides an opportunity for routine physical activity. Recent studies have shown that Type 2 diabetes can be reduced by as much as 50 percent among people who engage in moderate physical activity, such as regularly bicycling to work.
• Efficient use of public space – Approximately 10 to 12 bicycles fit into one automobile parking space.
• Reduction in automobile emissions – Bicycling instead of driving a car can help to improve the environment by reducing the amount of pollution in our air and water. Automobile emissions contribute to the harmful greenhouse gasses that are hastening global warming.
Bicyclists on the Ship Creek Greenbelt Trail
Existing Anchorage Bicycle Network
The existing Anchorage bicycle network relies primarily on a system of pathways and greenbelt trails. The backbone of this system is the greenbelt trails that follow the major stream corridors of the Anchorage Bowl, including Chester Creek, Campbell Creek, and Ship Creek. The Coastal Trail extends this network along a major part of the Cook Inlet coastline. A small number of on-street bicycle lanes and signed bikeways also link into the overall system.
Deficiencies of the Bicycle Network
To effectively plan the future network for diverse users—recreational bicyclists, commuter bicyclists, and other bicyclists wishing to use bicycles as a mode of transportation—several immediate concerns need to be addressed. Through public input, meetings, and agency comments, the following deficiencies have been identified in the existing bicycle network:
1. Separated pathways – Reliance on multi-use pathways that are adjacent to but separated from roads as the primary focus of the bicycle network creates operational as well as safety issues for bicyclists.
2. Gaps in the bicycle network – Major gaps in the network require bicyclists to find their own routes to reach destinations.
3. Facilities inappropriately designated as part of the bicycle infrastructure – Many of the older facilities identified in the ATP are merely narrow pathways or sidewalks (less than 8 feet wide) or do not have the minimum 5-foot separation from the roadway; therefore, these facilities are not desirable for bicycle travel.
4. Signs on the bicycle route system – Many existing bicycle facilties do not have the proper signs, and many sidewalks have bicycle route signs. In addition, the existing bicycle route signs are not posted in appropriate locations and should be moved to reflect better routes.
Purpose of the Bicycle Plan
The purpose of the Bicycle Plan is to expand the bicycle infrastructure and the use of bicycles for transportation. This plan is intended to meet the needs of bicyclists who wish to use bicycles as a form of transportation. The 508-mile comprehensive bicycle network of on- and off-street bicycle infrastructure identified in this plan would safely and comfortably connect all parts of Anchorage. This network provides residents and visitors with convenient access to workplaces, commercial areas, parks, schools, and other destinations throughout the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA).
Improving the physical bicycle network is not enough to make Anchorage a bicyclingfriendly city. Other integral parts of the overall plan include programs to promote enforcement, safety, education, and support facilities, such as bicycle parking and signage. Users of the bicycle network should feel safe and comfortable on the roads and feel that Anchorage honors and welcomes bicycling.
The bicycle network is not merely for recreation or exercise. Utility bicycling encompasses any bicycling not done primarily for fitness or recreation; it is simply bicycling as a means of transport. It is important to note that the recommendations within this plan were developed with the best planning-level information available about viability and right-of-way impacts of every proposed project. Once the design and engineering for a specific project have been started, the project manager should have some flexibility in design and scope.
Bicyclist using a bicycle lane
Bicycle Plan Goals
The following goals have been identified during development of the Bicycle Plan. These goals are of equal importance and are intended to guide the planning process as well as future implementation of the Bicycle Plan:
Achieving these goals will take substantial effort on the part of the entire community; improvements to the infrastructure will not be enough. Recommended policies and actions designed to accomplish these goals are listed in Chapter 6. It is anticipated that significant progress will be made toward realizing these goals within the 20-year time frame of this plan. Monitoring implementation of the physical improvements identified in the plan as well as implementation of the policies and actions will be important means of ensuring that the plan goals are achieved. The three most important statistics available to measure success of the plan are miles of bicycle facilities, bicycle user counts, and crash data. Continuation of the existing data collection efforts relevant to these topics is strongly encouraged in this plan.
Download the full plan with photos and charts (pdf 4.2 mb)