Safety should be shared responsibility

With the recent Alaska Department of Transportation repaving project from Sterling Highway to Land’s End, a number of pedestrian and cycling needs continue to surface. DOT’s current plan is to split the shoulder on Ocean Drive evenly. This improves safety for cyclists on that north side of the road, though puts pedestrians and cyclists on the south side of the road closer to traffic. 

Moreover, without connections across Beluga Slough, with inadequate sweeping and maintenance, and with street design that encourages speeding traffic, the resurfacing does not go far enough to address safety and connectivity issues for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Cars will still use those wide shoulders to park or to swerve around turning traffic. A curb and gutter and raised sidewalk might help, as might better crosswalks, speed limit signage and traffic calming design elements. DOT must do more to address pedestrian and cyclist safety on our roads. DOT is responsible for all of our main arterials: Pioneer, Main, Lake, Sterling Highway and Ocean Drive to name a few.

A citizen of Homer at a recent Homer City Council meeting correctly pointed out that we have a plan called the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan in Homer, and that it is up to us, volunteers and citizens, to keep that plan a current living document, not just the city council and staff. How right he is. 

And there are many who are diligently working, and working ever more closely together, to take on that citizen responsibility. Furthermore, it is up to all of us to participate in the shared responsibility of safe driving, cycling and walking. And that means not just following the law (though that is an excellent first step) but to go one step further and be courteous to each other. 

Cyclists need to choose if they are more like a “pedestrian” or more like a “car” and cycle predictably, responsibly and defensively. Pedestrians need to use the few crosswalks there are, make eye contact and be visible. 

Drivers need to understand the hazards pedestrians and cyclists face. A driver can reduce speed around pedestrians and cyclists, expect to see them at intersections, along trails, road shoulders and sidewalks, and in the case of fast-moving bicyclists, in the road itself. Drivers can put away the cell phones, stop at crosswalks, give cyclists three feet when passing, and fully embrace the rights and responsibilities that driving entails. Safety is a common concern to us all. 

Adele Person