I don’t keep track of many ride-related numbers anymore, but some just make me smile. Like 16.33, for instance.
Last Friday afternoon, I needed to meet my wife at a cookout with her students and co-workers. As I climbed on a bike and rolled away from my office at the end of the day, I started calculating the safest route, and then realized I had almost completely overlooked an obvious one that would get me where I needed to go via bike paths equipped with tunnels and overpasses to avoid interactions with street traffic.
Despite a last-minute change that moved the location of the cookout, I managed to ride from the first park to the second via more bike paths.
After eating a hot dog and hanging out for a little while, I climbed back on the bike and headed home while wondering when I would finally have to pause at a light or stop sign. It finally happened where Campbell Creek Trail crosses Dowling Road. By that point, I had ridden 16.33 miles from my downtown office to the east side of Anchorage, back through Midtown and nearly to South Anchorage without crossing an intersection or having to stop for a single light or sign.
A couple of miles later, I had to wait for a red light at Dimond Boulevard, then it was a nonstop cruise the final two or three miles home. I had managed to cruise across a huge part of the city with no traffic hassles, and almost no exposure to motorized vehicles. For most of the 28.6-mile ride, I was pedaling in woods, beside streams, or through public parks.
Anchorage is far from being well-planned or architecturally interesting, but it has character. And these paved paths—built in the 1980s when the state was so fat with oil-boom money that even an Alaska politician would pour money into bike paths—are a big part of what makes it a fun, livable city.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of elected officials (and people who would like to be elected officials) who see bike paths as tax-wasting indulgences that shouldn’t be provided by local government. Every election season, I want to kick at least one of them in the nuts.
Instead, I just vote against them. But it’s not as satisfying.