Alaska ranked 25th most dangerous state for fatalities of older pedestrians; Anchorage the most dangerous area 

(The following is a press release from the Alaska office of the AARP)

ANCHORAGE, AK— The rate of pedestrian deaths in Alaska has quadrupled in the last decade, according to Dangerous by Design 2019. The new report from Smart Growth America highlights the risk of being struck by a car and killed while walking in Alaska. The report ranks Alaska 50th in the nation in terms of the number of pedestrian fatalities overall, but the 25th most dangerous state for older adults.

Between 2008 and 2017, adults age 50-older were 45 percent more likely to be struck and killed while walking compared to people younger than 50.

From 2017 to 2035 the state’s 65-older population will grow 68 percent, Alaska’s state demographer projects in the August 2018 Alaska Economic Trends.

“Alaska has traditionally had one of the youngest populations in the nation, but we’ve been the fastest aging state for years, too. Our community design needs to shift to reflect this, with short- and long-term fixes to increase safety for all ages,” said Terry Snyder, AARP Alaska volunteer state president. “Changes like longer crossing times help everyone who moves a little slower, like young children, frail elders, or fit young adults who on crutches.”

Nationwide, the number of people struck and killed while walking increased 35 percent in the past decade, according to the Dangerous by Design report released in February 2019. The last two years tracked, 2016 and 2017, had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1990. Older adults, people of color and people walking in low-income areas are disproportionately likely to be struck and killed while walking.

Anchorage’s pedestrian death rate is the highest in the state, and matches the national average.

“The good news is that Anchorage’s and Fairbanks’ Metropolitan Planning Organizations have adopted Complete Streets policies, which look at the needs of all street users, including walkers and bicyclists as well as drivers,” said Snyder. “This is an important first step towards improving pedestrian safety.”

The Alaska state report is linked below, as is the full Dangerous By Design 2019 report. Learn more about AARP’s work to promote complete streets and livable communities at www.aarp.org/livable-communities/getting-around/.

• Dangerous By Design 2019 full report

• Dangerous By Design Alaska Report 2019

• Anchorage Vision Zero Report Executive Summary

• Anchorage Vision Zero Final Report

• Anchorage Complete Streets Policy

Kenai and Soldotna earn Bronze designations in Bicycle Friendly Community program; Haines picks up Honorable Mention

Alaska has two new Bicycle Friendly Communities in Kenai and Soldotna (both at the Bronze level) after the League of American Bicyclists announced its Fall 2018 award-winners on Dec. 6. In addition, Haines received an honorable mention.

Sitka was Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Community, earning Bronze in 2008, repeating as Bronze in 2012, and upgrading to Silver in 2016. In addition, Anchorage (Silver) and Juneau (Bronze) are Bicycle Friendly Communities, and Fairbanks has an honorable mention. There are five official levels in the BFC program (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond), and Honorable Mention is a step below BFC.

The Bicycle Friendly Community program requires communities to answer more than 100 questions about bicycling in their area in five main categories, called the Five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation). The BFC program is part of the League of American Bicyclists’ larger Bicycle Friendly America program, which also includes Bicycle Friendly State rankings and the Bicycle Friendly Business and Bicycle Friendly University programs.

Since Kenai and Soldotna are so close to each other, they worked on their BFC applications together. Matt Pyhala, a volunteer with the Biking In Kenai & Soldotna (BIK&S) program, told radio station KDLL they were looking for a progress report when they applied and didn’t expect to win the Bronze designations.

“We were applying and hoping they could give us some good feedback and we could start working on that low-hanging fruit to get up to a level where we had a designation. So the fact that we got the Bronze level, we were ecstatic,” Pyhala told KDLL (click this link for full story).

According to the League of American Bicyclists, there now are 464 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with Bronze level or higher designations in the Bicycle Friendly Community program.

 

Alaska ranked 36th in the 2017 Bicycle Friendly States rankings. Let’s see if we can improve our ranking

When the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) released its Bicycle Friendly States rankings in 2017, Alaska was listed in 36th place overall.

Over the last several years, Alaska has floated between the mid-30s and mid-40s in the rankings. So how do we improve our ranking? We should be better than this.

When you look at some of the category rankings, we are even lower than 36th place. There are five main categories on the scorecard, and Alaska ranked 37th in Infrastructure and Funding, 37th in Evaluation and Planning, 45th in Policies and Programs, 47th in Education and Encouragement, and 50th (last) in Legislation and Enforcement.

According to the scorecard:

Alaska is a unique state, large and largely rural. Alaska typically has higher per capita transportation spending and their data on biking and walking reflects this as well, easily being the highest per capita spending figure in the United States, despite Alaska spending a smaller percentage of federal funds on biking and walking than average.

Each category reflects that Alaska does not have much supportive policy infrastructure to ensure the safety and mobility of people who bike. This may reflect the uniqueness of Alaska, which may make it more difficult to adapt successful policies and practices from more urban or more compact states. However, the state would benefit from a plan for promoting the safety and mobility of people who bike in Alaska in a way that is geared towards the unique characteristics of Alaska and takes advantage of the tourism potential and already relatively high percentage of the population that bikes to work. The experiences of states like Vermont (#14) and Maine (#17) may be instructive.

The scorecard listed five bicycle friendly action items, and Alaska hadn’t accomplished four of them — Complete Streets Law/Policy, Safe Passing Law (3-feet-plus), Statewide Bike Plan Updated In Last 10 Years, and 2-Percent or More of Federal Funds Spent on Bike/Pedestrian Needs. The only bicycle friendly action item we showed progress on was Bicycle Safety Emphasis Area.

In other words, we have some work to do. One place we should improve soon is in our statewide bike plan. The Alaska Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan is currently being updated, and is nearing the end of a process that’s taken nearly two years. While the process has taken a long time, it’s been needed since Alaska’s last plan was updated in November 1994.

Another need mentioned in previous scorecards is Alaska is one of the few states without a statewide bicycle advocacy group. That’s why we’re hoping the Walk/Bike Alaska spurs Alaska bicycle and walking advocates into creating a statewide advocacy group.

Alaska does have three Bicycle Friendly Communities (Sitka at Silver level, Anchorage at Silver level, Juneau at Bronze level, plus Fairbanks at Honorable Mention which is the level below an official BFC designation). Alaska also had 10 Bicycle Friendly Businesses at the time of the ranking (note, the number has dropped to eight BFBs since some businesses have not renewed their rankings), and one Bicycle Friendly University (University of Alaska Fairbanks at Silver level). We need to get more BFCs and BFBs in Alaska.

What other things can Alaska do to improve it’s ranking?