How to Win a Local Campaign: Anchorage Shows the Way

We’re taking a short break from Sandy-related coverage to bring you this success story from Anchorage, Alaska. Bet you didn’t know it, but Anchorage is a pretty respectable biking city. The 2010 Census said 1.5 percent of the city’s residents commute by bike, putting it ahead of places like Boston and Arlington, Virginia.

Cyclists in Anchorage, Alaska don't let cold weather slow them down. Photo: Alaska Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance

Not coincidentally, Anchorage has some strong advocacy, too. Today we wanted to share this highly replicable success story out of Alaska. Brian Litmans, president of Bike Commuters of Anchorage, writes on the organization’s blog about how local advocates won an additional $1.3 million to support cycling: They showed up, and demanded it.

In the middle of the afternoon (when many were at work or skipped out to come to the meeting), the AMATS Technical Advisory Council (TAC) met to review its proposed budget for how it would allocate federal dollars to Anchorage transportation projects over the next two years. We counted 35 bicyclists in attendance to demand more from our city. AMATS TAC meetings usually don’t get many members of the public – a few consultants, planners and developers – but not the public. Today WAS DIFFERENT. It was different because you – our BCA supporters – came out in force. You had already made a big splash with the TAC by submitting over 125 comments (another unprecedented event). But today you put an exclamation mark on those comments by showing up in force and telling your stories, highlighting that the way we spend federal $ is important to every day lives, that it can make us safer, improve traffic congestion, improve motorist awareness of bicyclists and how to share the road, support healthier lives, create a more livable and desirable city, and support businesses.

When we saw the proposed budget weeks ago, we were concerned that AMATS was not taking implementation of the Anchorage Bike Plan seriously. They had put $1 million in the budget for the next two years, which is fantastic, but the budget was still heavily weighed down by projects like Dowling and O’Malley road improvements. The budget would have allowed for minimal progress in implementing the Bike Plan and left us with another two years before we would get another chance at trying to make serious strides in implementation of the Bike Plan.

After some serious deliberation and acknowledgements from the committee as a whole that improving bicycle infrastructure is important and necessary, they moved on to the tough questions of how to make it happen. AMATS TAC member Lance Wilber, Director of People Mover, led the charge, finding creative and effective means to move funding around so more dollars could go towards Bike Plan implementation. When Mr. Wilber was done, he had found an additional $1.3 million that could be channeled towards Bike Plan implementation.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure continues to highlight ways in which federal railroad “safety” regulations make operating rail nearly cost prohibitive. The Political Environment thinks back to 2003, when the EPA was ominously warning mayors that climate change would produce more severe weather events. And Bike SD attempts to explain why San Diego has lagged behind some of its peers on bike-friendliness.