Posts Tagged ‘Anchorage Assembly’

A winter bicyclist rides down 10th Avenue in Anchorage near the Delaney Park Strip during November 2009

A winter bicyclist rides down 10th Avenue in Anchorage near the Delaney Park Strip during November 2009

Kristi Wood and Brian Litmans from Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage recently sent out this update about the Title 9 rewrite issue Anchorage cyclists were having with the Anchorage Police Department. Our two previous stories about the Title 9 issue are linked here and here. It looks like most of the safety issues have been resolved in favor of the cyclists and pedestrians who use the bike trails, sidewalks and other separated paths. For more information, here is the letter Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage (BCA) sent to members and posted on its website:

Since the summer of 2009, BCA has been working to ensure that the Title 9 rewrite is sensible and provides adequate protections for bicyclists. Title 9 is the Municipality of Anchorage Traffic Code, providing the rules and regulations of the road and it is going through a major update that, in the near future, will be reviewed and eventually approved by the Assembly.

When the initial proposed changes were released, BCA became concerned about one rule in particular because it placed bicyclists in a dangerous predicament.  The proposed change sought to require bicyclists utilizing sidewalks to yield to motor-vehicle traffic when crossing driveways, intersections or crosswalks. The underlying reason for the change was that one of our most common crash scenarios is when bicyclists traveling on sidewalks are hit by motorists.  When a bicyclist on a sidewalk approaches an intersection traveling quickly, it gives the motorist little time to react. But that is only part of the problem. The other aspect of these crash scenarios is that motorists just aren’t looking for bicycle (or pedestrian) traffic when coming out of driveways, parking lots or intersections.

Anchorage Police Department’s (APD) original proposed language to change Title 9 would have taken an auto-centric approach placing all duties and responsibilities upon the bicyclist and turned the classic “yield to the more vulnerable user” system on its head, requiring bicyclists to yield to motorists. It could have led to situations where the bicyclist would be liable for damage due to a motorist while they lie on the sidewalk injured, or even worse in a hospital, simply because they were traveling on the sidewalk and crossing an intersection or driveway without yielding.

BCA worked tirelessly behind the scenes to search for sensible and safe alternatives.  We have spoken with bicycle attorneys from across the country. We have researched language in all 50 states to see how others address bicycle use on sidewalks (hint – not one state requires bicyclists to yield to cars). In August, BCA put the APD in touch with an expert in the field, Preston Tyree.  Preston Tyree is the Director of Education for the League of American Bicyclists and was brought up to Alaska by BCA to provide a 20-hour course where graduates would then become League-certified bicycling instructors.  Preston provided examples from other states that have worked to find a solution to the problems posed when bicyclists are on sidewalks.

Over the Fall, BCA worked closely with APD to reach consensus. The result is that bicyclists do not have to yield to motorists when traveling on sidewalks but they do have to approach driveways, parking lot entrances and exits, curb cuts and street intersections at a reasonable and prudent speed and they have to slow down to a reasonable and prudent speed when passing pedestrians.  So what does that all really mean? It means you should be able to stop if you see that the motorist has no intention of stopping and yielding to you, or if you see that the motorist clearly isn’t looking in your direction, and you should be able to avoid hitting a pedestrian if they make a quick turn or stop.
BCA’s first priority is making Anchorage safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and we feel the revised language meets those needs.  It is a good law because it protects bicyclists without being overly burdensome.

BCA is also very excited with the other improvements to Title 9 that we pushed for, including the revision of the code to provide a three foot passing zone for bicyclists. Throughout the Nation, states and cities have been passing the “3 foot rule.” This safe passing distance helps motorists know what a safe passing space is.

BCA would like to thank APD for their sincere efforts to work closely with the bicycling community to find a solution we can support. We also want to thank all the BCA supporters who contacted the Anchorage Assembly and the Public Safety Committee last summer to tell them what you thought of the proposed language.  That effort led to placing the Title 9 rewrite on hold while the Anchorage Police Department reviewed the language and looked for alternatives with BCA, and is in large part the reason we can now strongly support the changes to Title 9.

We have worked hard to get changes that protect bicyclists. But it is really up to you. Following the rules of the road is the key to staying safe. And it helps motorists respect the cycling community in general.

You can view the new language on our website. The Anchorage Assembly wants to complete the Title 9 rewrite, and plans on a December vote. We look forward to a successful conclusion of our collective effort to making Anchorage more bicycle-friendly.

Thanks again for all your support. All those emails and letters you wrote, and those phone calls you made, are what made this possible.

Kristi Wood and Brian Litmans
You can find the proposed changes here: Title 9 Bicycle Update – proposed changes (opens as PDF file).


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Photo courtesy of Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage

Photo courtesy of Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage

Living in Sitka, I’ve sort of been out of the loop on what’s happening with the Title 9 rewrite of the Anchorage traffic code (see previous post). There have been a few minor updates, but a meeting hosted on Aug. 5 by the Municipal Traffic Department was postponed when major stakeholders had conflicts. I have not heard if the meeting has been rescheduled and there has been no new meeting time listed on the Municipality of Anchorage’s Title 9 Rewrite page.

The “Flashlight” column by Scott Christianson of the Anchorage Press did have this information in its Aug. 5 issue.  The Cyclelicio.us blog from California also had a write-up on the controversy. A cyclist using the handle “Pokey” did post on the Alaska Spokes forum (scroll down) a response he received from Anchorage Assembly member Paul Honeman (a retired Anchorage Police Lieutenant who serves on the Public Safety Committee) about a week ago, and in his response Honeman said it is unlikely that a highly restrictive measure against bicyclists will move forward.

The two main pieces of the Title 9 rewrite that bicyclists and pedestrians should look at are Sections 9.20 and 9.38. The Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage said it objects to the language in two key clauses, which were outlined on the BCA website:

A reminder of the wording BCA is objecting to in Title 9.38.060

“Persons operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk, recreational trail or bike trail must yield the right-of-way to traffic before crossing a roadway, street, or driveway.”

and section 9.38.020

“A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, trail or pathway, (or across) except when crossing a roadway or driveway intersecting a sidewalk, trail or pathway, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.”

This is placing the burden of responsibility on the must vulnerable users, children riding their bicycles on the sidewalk.

Personally, I think the Municipality of Anchorage is going the wrong way on this issue. Instead of shifting the responsibility for safety to cyclists and pedestrians, the Municipality needs to pass a Vulnerable User Law, something similar to what the State of Oregon passed in 2007 (HB 3314, scroll down) and currently is under discussion in several other states, including Washington, California and Virginia. These laws already exist in bicycle friendly countries such as Denmark and The Netherlands.

Basically, a Vulnerable User Law strengthens the traffic code to protect bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, roadway construction crews and other people who might be legally in a public roadway from careless drivers. The laws create enhanced penalties for careless drivers who cause serious injury or death when they hit somebody who falls within the vulnerable user classification. Since the driver has the most protection, he/she has the greatest responsibility for safety. Portland lawyer Ray Thomas wrote this explanation of Oregon’s Vulnerable User Law and provides some backstory about why they felt the law was needed. He also explains the law in this YouTube video.

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The Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage recently sent out this note about a planned rewrite of Title 9 of the Anchorage Municipal Code, a change that will shift the liability to the cyclist instead of the motorist for any car-bicycle wreck while a bike is crossing a roadway. Here is the text of a note written by BCA secretary Kristi Wood that was e-mailed to a statewide biking/walking group and posted on the BCA site:

Our city is considering changing a law –- Title 9 of the Anchorage Municipal Code –- to make cyclists liable for accidents if they are hit while crossing a roadway. No other place in the country gives the right of way to a motorist over a bicyclist. Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage (BCA) is teaming up with citizens to make sure Anchorage, Alaska, will not become the first.

Here is what you can do to help:
1. Tuesday, July 27th, 8pm attend the Anchorage Assembly meeting to speak out against this potential change. We are allotted three minutes each.
2. Contact Public Safety committee members, and let them know the proposed change is a bad idea.
• Paul Honeman, chair, HonemanPS@muni.org, 947-0500
• Chris Birch, chrisbirch@gci.net, 346-3265
• Mike Gutierrez , gutierrezm@muni.org, 382-5972
3. Join us from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm on Thursday, August 5, for an important meeting of the city Traffic Department at the Municipal Planning and Development Center (First Floor Conference Room Number 30 at 4700 Elmore Road).

Title 9 of Anchorage’s Municipal code handles traffic law, including the rights and duties of cyclists. Since last Spring, when Title 9 rewrites were proposed, BCA has strongly objected to changes in the law which hinder public safety protections for bicyclists.

Giving cars the right of way is unintuitive. Most people instinctively give the right of way to the most vulnerable. Bicyclists give the right of way to pedestrians and cars give the right of way to cyclists and pedestrians. Does the city really want to make a child riding their bike on a sidewalk liable if that child were to be hit by a car while crossing a driveway? The proposed law defies common sense.

The evidence is on our side.
1. According to the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, crash statistics for bicycle versus car accidents in Anchorage went down by 40% since 2004 when Title 9 was originally changed to ensure cyclists have the right of way when crossing a street.
2. BCA researched traffic law in all 50 states, and did not find any other communities give the right of way to the motorist over the cyclist. In most communities, the right of way is granted to the cyclist, for the obvious reason that cyclists can be put at risk when crossing the street.

This change is dangerous because of the increased number of bicyclists.
1. Bicycle ridership, according to Anchorage 2010 Bike to Work Day observational counts, nearly doubled since 2007.
2. Anchorage has more bicycle shops, bicycle rental businesses, and more money being spent on bicycles and bicycling gear than ever before.

This change is dangerous to children
1. Children ride their bikes 40% more than adults
2. Bicycle crashes are the leading cause of hospitalization and fatalities of children
3. Children ride their bikes on sidewalks. This new law puts the burden of responsibility on children whether they are riding or walking their bicycle across a driveway or intersection.
4. Many motorists are driving while talking or texting, this distraction can lead to a motorist hitting a cyclist and still it will be the bicyclist’s fault.

BCA recommends
1. Maintain the same language as 2004, as the rewrite reduced crashes.
2. Start a campaign to educate motorists to stop at red lights and not roll through stop signs.

What BCA already is doing
1. BCA holds education clinics nearly every two months, educating bicyclists on following the rules of the road and bicycle safety.
2. BCA designed a bicycle safety curriculum and taught bicycle safety to 60 youth, age 8-14 this summer through Camp Fire USA.
3. BCA is hosting a three-day bicycle certification clinic to teach instructors how to teach bicycle safety.

Please join us in our efforts to keep Anchorage’s cyclists safe! If you have any specific questions about the Title 9 re-write, please contact Kristi Wood at bikemoredriveless@hotmail.com.

The Title 9 rewrite issue has been around for several months, and in December the Anchorage Press published a story about the Title 9 rewrite and what it could mean for cyclists. In February, Thomas Pease wrote this guest editorial against the Title 9 rewrite that appeared in the Anchorage Press, Anchorage Daily News and other media. Thomas Pease’s guest editorial had this discussion on the BCA site. Here is the current discussion thread about the Title 9 rewrite on the AKSpokes.com forum site.

The language in the Title 9 rewrite not only would make Anchorage the only place in the country where cyclists are liable for any car-bike wrecks when crossing an intersection, but it is totally out of character with the language in the Anchorage Bike Plan unanimously passed by the Anchorage Assembly a few months ago. Changing this language is a bad move and you are encouraged to let your local Anchorage Assembly members know.

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Local bicycle and pedestrian advocates have two new resources that will help them get Complete Streets for their communities.

The Alliance for Biking & Walking this week released a new edition of its Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns, a 117-page book that updates the 2006 edition with Complete Streets policy examples and other tools for local advocates. To learn more about the book, click here.

The book was made possible with support from Planet Bike and assistance from the National Complete Streets Coalition. Since 2006, more than 100 state and local jurisdictions have adopted new Complete Streets policies that require transportation projects include safe accommodations for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.

According to a press release from the Alliance for Biking & Walking, Alliance President/CEO Jeff Miller says this new manual could be a catalyst for groups to kick-start or super-charge a successful campaign in their area.

“This updated guide is a key resource for grassroots advocates pursuing Complete Streets policies for their states and cities,” Miller says. “This compilation shares the step-by-step actions and lessons learned from peers across the country, making it the most up-to-date and on-the-ground advice for winning Complete Streets.”

The press release also includes the following book description:

Book Description: Our nation’s transportation system poses significant challenges for the third of our citizens who do not drive. A full 13 percent of traffic deaths are bicyclists and pedestrians, yet most roadways are still being built with only motor vehicles in mind. Complete Streets policies require that future transportation projects ensure safe accommodation of all users. Bicyclists, motorists, transit vehicles and users, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities safely and enjoyably travel along and across complete streets. The Alliance for Biking & Walking’s Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns compiles a blueprint for winning a complete streets policy in your city, region, state, or province. Filled with models from past and current campaigns and tips from advocacy leaders in the field, this guide is an indispensable resource for the new or seasoned advocate working towards complete streets.

The Alliance for Biking & Walking’s Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns is part of a series of Alliance guides, which aim to build the capacity of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations. To purchase the guide online visit http://www.PeoplePoweredMovement.org/publications.

Also released this month is a new book from the National Complete Streets Coalition and the American Planning Association, Complete Streets: Best Policy and Implementation Practices. The book was partially funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s STEP program.

Barbara McCann, one of the book’s writers, wrote this description of the project on the National Complete Streets Coalition’s website. “The report is based on thirty case studies of states, cities, counties, and MPOs that have adopted and are implementing Complete Streets policies. Suzanne Rynne, Stefanie Seskin, David Morley, myself, and a number of other APA and Coalition staffers talked to dozens of planners, engineers, and other insiders about what it took to adopt a policy in their state or community and the techniques they are using to fully integrate multi-modal planning into every transportation project.”

The case studies showed the researchers what strategies were working and also added new information about how communities go about getting Complete Streets policies implemented. They also learned how advocating for Complete Streets policies helps communities communicate their transportation priorities to local and state governments.

McCann adds:

A few of the case studies really stand out; their thoughtful and thorough implementation practices can almost be a guide unto themselves. Charlotte, North Carolina (already the basis for our Complete Streets Workshop system) is one of these, as is Seattle, Washington. In fact, Seattle has come up with an elegant answer to the frequent question of what to do when a project budget simply won’t allow full realization of a Complete Streets design. In Seattle, they make sure that this need is added to a future projects list, and they look for ways to fulfill it.

Perhaps the most inspiring theme in the publication is the way that Complete Streets policies have empowered planners and engineers to tackle a new challenge with creativity and innovation. In almost every case study, planners and engineers have invented new ways to consult with partners, deal with limited right-of-way, and save on costs.

You can get an idea of the breadth of the report from the table of contents; the first two chapters focus on policy adoption, and the next two on the steps to integrating Complete Streets into transportation planning processes. Chapters Six and Seven expand on the issue of paying for Complete Streets, and the many different ways communities have tackled design considerations. The final chapter summarizes twelve lessons learned; readers will undoubtedly draw many more. You can get a sneak peak by reading Chapter Five: Making the Transition, which we have posted to our website (as a PDF file). The full report is available for purchase from the American Planning Association, and please let us know what you think of it.

At this point, no Alaska communities nor the State of Alaska have adopted Complete Streets policies, but several Alaska groups are encouraging their implementation. The Alaska Public Health Association passed a resolution advocating for Complete Streets at the Alaska Health Summit in December. The Anchorage Bicycle Plan unanimously passed by the Anchorage Assembly in March includes several proposals based on the Complete Streets model, but doesn’t fully implement Complete Streets. The Alaska Transportation Priorities Project also promoted Complete Streets principles when it released its Alaska Campaign for Active Transportation: Anchorage, Palmer and Wasilla in 2008.

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The Anchorage Daily News just posted a quick update from tonight’s Anchorage Assembly meeting (Tuesday, March 23). The Anchorage Assembly unanimously approved the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, which over the next 20 years will make Anchorage more bicycle friendly and will more than double the city’s trail system from 248 miles to 500. (UPDATE: Here is a story from the “Alaska News Nightly” statewide newscast Wednesday night on the Alaska Public Radio Network)

Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage President Brian Litmans posted this comment on the Anchorage Bicycle Plan’s Facebook Fan Page: “Unanimous support! Thanks to all who came out. It was incredible to see so many folks out to support the plan.”

Litmans posted this comment on the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage’s Facebook Fan Page: “It was a long night, but lots of folks stuck it out. Many testified and great points about how this will make Anchorage a better, more livable city were made. The Assembly resoundingly supported the plan. Thanks to all of the Anchorage bicycle supporters. This is a success because of all of you.”

If you need more information about the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, click this previous post and this one, then look for the links in the posts.

Also, on Tuesday afternoon, before the Anchorage Assembly met that night, the Alaska Public Radio Network aired on its hour-long statewide call-in show, “Talk of Alaska,” a feature interviewing Litmans about “Bikes and Alternative Transportation” (streaming audio available on the link).

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If you’re looking for something to do tonight in Anchorage, the Anchorage Assembly is scheduled to hold a public hearing and possibly vote on passing the Anchorage Bicycle Plan. This is Agenda Item 13-C (supporting material is available on the link). There is a business meeting starting at 5 p.m., and appearance requests should start about 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, at the Anchorage Assembly Chambers at the L.J. Loussac Library. This is a continuation of the discussion that took place during the March 2 meeting, and video from that meeting can be found here.

The Anchorage Daily News this week ran an excellent story by Lisa Demer detailing some of the benefits of the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, such as better trails, better plowing, better health, etc. The article also has good links to a plowing plan for bike paths and sidewalks in Boulder, Colo., as well as info about biking in Minneapolis, two of the more bike-friendly winter cities in the country. The Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage advocacy group also has a wrap-up of the article, as well as links to more information about the plan on its Web site, including a series of talking points for people who testify. If you do attend the meeting, you are encouraged to bring your bike helmet to show your support for the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, even if you don’t plan on testifying. If you can’t attend, the meeting is televised on Channel 10 in Anchorage.

Here is an e-mail Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage President Brian Litmans sent to bike plan supporters on Monday:

Hey, bike enthusiasts,

A last-minute reminder that tomorrow evening (March 23), at Loussac library, the Anchorage Assembly will continue the public hearing on the Anchorage Bike Plan. Many bicyclists came out on March 2nd, to testify about why the Bike Plan is important to them. We hope we again get large numbers of bicyclists out to the Assembly meeting to let the Mayor and the Assembly know how important this Plan is to the Anchorage bicycle community. Even if you don’t testify, it is important to come out and show the Assembly, just by our large presence, that many people support the Plan and want a more bicycle-friendly city.

Implementation of the Plan will lead to more bicyclists, which means less cars, which in turn means less congestion and better air quality. It also means that more Anchorage citizens are leading active healthy lives, which is good for themselves and for the city as a whole.

So we hope to see you at Loussac library tomorrow night. The Assembly is saying that they should get to the Bike Plan sometime after 6 p.m. For those on tight schedules, this go-around, BCA will attempt to blog live from the Assembly through our website and our Facebook page. We will try to let everyone know when in the evening the Bike Plan will be heard. So you can follow along from home and come on down when we know when the Assembly will get to the Plan.

You can find a link to our Facebook page on our website

Also, for those that missed it, the ADN ran a great story on the Bike Plan yesterday.


And you can find talking points, as well as copies of the Bike Plan here:


Looking forward to seeing lots of bicyclists tomorrow night ~ Brian

Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage

Anchorage Bicycle Plan-Public Hearing Draft 08-09

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the National Bike Summit on March 11, 2010, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo © Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland)

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the National Bike Summit last week at the Dirksen Senate Chambers in Washington, D.C. (Photo © Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland)

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates from around the country received a pleasant surprise when U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood jumped up on a hearing room table at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., to thank the crowd and to reconfirm his support for biking and walking. The next day, LaHood announced a major new DOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation, Regulations and Recommendations. “It is simply the strongest statement of support for prioritizing bicycling and walking ever to come from a sitting secretary of transportation,” the League of American Bicyclists noted on the group’s blog.

On his own Welcome to the Fast Lane blog, LaHood wrote:

Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

To set this approach in motion, we have formulated key recommendations for state DOTs and communities:

• Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
• Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
• Go beyond minimum design standards.
• Collect data on walking and biking trips.
• Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
• Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
• Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.

Now, this is a start, but it’s an important start. These initial steps forward will help us move forward even further.

If you want to see and hear LaHood’s tabletop speech, here are video links from the League of American Bicyclists and the StreetsBlogSF channels on YouTube.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the National Bike Summit on March 11, 2010, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo © Jeffrey Martin of the League of American Bicyclists)

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the National Bike Summit on March 11, 2010, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo © Jeffrey Martin of the League of American Bicyclists)

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates around the country praised LaHood’s announcement, which some think might lead to a national Complete Streets policy. The new DOT policy even addresses concerns such as snow removal from sidewalks and shared-use paths, which is a major issue during Alaska winters. In addition to praising LaHood’s announcement, the National Complete Streets Coalition blog noted that the Institute of Transportation Engineers at its conference Monday in Savannah, Ga., announced a new recommended practice for designing multi-modal urban streets, Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach.

Unfortunately, not everybody was happy with LaHood’s announcement and on March 17 several Republicans ridiculed bike lanes and even LaHood (a former Republican Representative from Illinois) during a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. The Courthouse News Service reported that Ohio Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette even asked during the hearing if there still was mandatory drug testing in the Department of Transportation.

A blog post on the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage site said LaHood’s announcement couldn’t have been more timely, since the Anchorage Assembly and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan are working on the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, which is up for additional public hearings and a possible vote during the Tuesday, March 23, meeting of the Anchorage Assembly (5 p.m. at the Assembly Chambers at Z.J. Loussac Library, Agenda Item 13-C, click agenda link for supporting documents). The Anchorage Bicycle Plan previously was discussed during the March 2 meeting of the Anchorage Assembly, and video is available from this link. If you can attend the meeting, take your bike helmet to show your support. If you can’t attend, the meeting is televised on Channel 10 in Anchorage.

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