Anchorage Bike Laws

Bike to School Day was May, 2013 and Bike to Work Day is May 17, 2013.  Approximately 1,500 people commute to work in Anchorage by bike, more in the summer.  http://www.adn.com/2010/03/20/1192613.  And with the advent of more cyclists, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

Drivers - If you hit a cyclist, you’re going to get into a lot of trouble.  You could end up being cited by Anchorage Police, having a claim filed against your insurance and/or sued.  And that’s if the cyclist lives.  If the cyclist dies, the criminal charges could be serious.  The reason that you’re going to get into trouble is that your bigger and faster and can do more damage with your car.  As a driver of a vehicle, you have a duty of "due care to avoid colliding with other traffic."  AMC 09.16.140(B).

Your duty is greater if you observe a child.  You shall give warning by sounding your horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution when observing any child.  AMC 9.16.140(A).

This is especially true if the cyclist is a child.  When you see a child walking or biking on the road or near the road, it is a good idea to slow down and watch them because children tend to make sudden movements without forethought.  And if something bad happens and you weren’t exercising proper precaution, you will get into a lot of trouble.

The majority of vehicle vs bicycle accidents occur when the vehicle is stopped at an intersection waiting for traffic to clear so the driver can turn right.  Generally the driver is watching for on-coming traffic to the left and doesn’t think to check the sidewalk or bike trail for traffic coming from the right.  As a driver, you have the duty of due care which means looking both ways for traffic before entering an intersection.

If you are a driver and involved in an accident with a pedestrian or cyclist, report it to your insurance company.  You are obliged to stop, render assistance and provide your name and insurance information just as if you were involved in a collision with another car.

Cyclists - Watch for inattentive drivers.

There are a number of city ordinance which govern riding bicycles in Anchorage.  Amongst the ones most commonly violated are:

1. The duty to obey traffic control devices.  AMC 09.38.030.  When riding a bike, you are required to obey traffic control devices (lights and stop signs) as if you were driving a vehicle.

2. Riding on the wrong side of the road.  The law requires you to ride on the right edge of the roadway wherever practicable, if you are going to ride in the road.  AMC 09.38.060.  If the right side of the road is too narrow to ride safely, then you may ride on the left side of the road.  AMC 09.38.060(A)(3).

3. It is against the law to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk of a business district, AMC 09.38.070, begging the question: how are you to get to work?  I’ve never seen anyone pulled over by a police officer for riding on the sidewalk in a business district, but you should be aware that the rule is for your safety.  People pulling in and out of business driveways are not on the lookout for cyclists.  If you are hit by a car when you are riding on the sidewalk, you will be responsible at least in part for causing the collision.  The long view is that if you are responsible for causing the collision, then you will not obtain a settlement from the driver’s insurance for your medical bills.

4. When you are riding on a sidewalk or bike path, you are obligated to yield the right-of-way to pedestrian.  AMC 09.38.070.

5. When you are riding on a sidewalk or bike path, you shall give an audible signal by voice or by bell before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.

6. Bike helmets are mandatory for any person 15 years of age or younger riding in a public place.  AMC 09.38.200.  The child’s parents can be fined if the child is not wearing a helmet.

For a complete list of the applicable laws, see http://www.muni.org/Departments/OCPD/Planning/AMATS/Documents.  Search for the Adopted Bicycle Plan Appendices.

If you are riding your bike and are involved in a collision with a vehicle, get the driver’s name and insurance information, the license plate of the vehicle and photos of the vehicle damage.  Then call a personal injury attorney.  Contact Keenan Powell: keenan@keenanpowell.com, (907) 258-7663.