STREET MAKEOVER: Bike boulevard coming to 27th Avenue

by Marc Frutiger, PE, PTOE | Van Le, AICP | Joe Gilpin

This article is reprinted from the Fall 2015 BikeLife Anchorage magazine.

In 2013, The League of American Bicyclists recognized Anchorage as a “Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community” for its commitment to providing a safe, comfortable and inviting environment for bikes. As part of that movement, West 27th Avenue is getting a multimodal makeover via recommendations outlined in the 2010 Anchorage Bicycle Plan.

West 27th Avenue

West 27th Avenue Safety Improvements is not a new idea, it has been patiently waiting for its turn to hit the streets as a project in the Anchorage Bicycle Plan adopted in 2010.

West 27th Avenue, between Minnesota and Blueberry, has all the trappings of a pedestrian and bicycle corridor. Connecting the mostly residential area west of Minnesota to the diverse, high-density residential and commercial hub of Spenard, the three-block corridor is close to five schools, seven bike shops, and traverses one of the post popular food and entertainment destinations in Midtown Anchorage. People who live and work here are already seen walking and bicycling in large numbers.

Bicycle Boulevards

As the popularity of bicycling continues to increase, and in the case of winter cities like Anchorage that have seen a dramatic increase in winter biking, so does the demand for safe, comfortable and attractive bike facilities that function year round. Taking advantage of the fact that most local streets already have the low-traffic speeds and volumes that make them comfortable for walking and biking, bicycle boulevards create a low-stress environment for bicyclists and pedestrians. Giving priority to bicycles, these streets typically follow desired routes, such as between neighborhood destinations or along commercial areas.

To optimize the user experience, the West 27th Avenue Project will employ traffic calming tools to manage vehicle speeds, volume management to discourage cut-through traffic, intersection design and pedestrian safety improvements. Since the typical urban bicycle trip is at least two miles long, the design of intersections plays an important role in creating a safe and functioning bicycle boulevard. Wayfinding tools such as signage and striping, also play an important role. As Anchorage’s first bicycle boulevard , this project will lead the way in pioneering this type of street in Alaska’s largest city.

The Project

The West 27th Avenue Pedestrian Safety Improvements Project is moving through the Municipality’s Context Sensitive Solutions/Context Sensitive Design process, having recently completed the Concept phase with a presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The project team is now evaluating alternatives for the corridor as part of the Study phase. Additional funding will be needed to complete the Study phase and advance the project towards Design and Construction. For more information and to sign up for project updates, please visit: www.W27thAveImprovements.com.

R&M CONSULTANTS, INC. is excited to help the Municipality of Anchorage carry out its mission of creating safety and comfortable public spaces for all users. We are honored to be a part of Anchorage’s first bicycle boulevard project and have teamed with ALTA PLANNING + DESIGN, national Bike Boulevard experts, to make this project a reality. A special thanks to 27th Avenue project manager Lori Schanche, PLA.

1 M Frutiger (Website)Marc Frutiger, PE, PTOE is R&M’s Project Manager for the  27th Avenue Pedestrian Safety Improvements project. Marc has more than 11 years of engineering experience and has been a member of the R&M team for 7 years. He is an avid cyclist and utilizes his bicycle to commute between R&M and his south Anchorage home, logging more than 60 trips in a typical summer. As a utility cyclist, he regularly encounters bicycle lanes, pathways, shared roadways and trails, giving him a user’s perspective of the challenges faced by utility cyclists.

V Le_PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT (Thumbnail)Van Le, AICP is leading the public involvement process on the 27th Avenue Pedestrian Safety Improvements project. She is the Group Manager of Planning Services at R&M and has more than 12 years of planning and public involvement experience working with area stakeholders on long-range transportation, land use and community development projects.

Joe Gilpin of ALTA is an expert in bicycle facility design and has worked both as a project designer on numerous projects and as a planner analyzing network connectivity and corridor planning. He was the author of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, a pioneering document that provides the first detailed design guidance for bicycle boulevards and protected bikeways in North America.