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Rumble Strips and Urban Sprawl in Alaska

posted by DL Byron on August 31, 2004

rumble We rode to the right of the rumble strips, sometimes side by side, but mostly in a single line. We’d take long turns at the front and occasionally chat. Alaska doesn’t use chip seal on their roads and that was a relief for our hands and bodies. Chip seal is great for rural roads, but not great for cyclists riding long miles. The vibration goes right through your hands, feet, and body.

About 4 cars an hour passed us. All of the drivers were courteous, giving us plenty of room. We did have one close call with a semi, in the rain, climbing up a small hill. With a car coming in the opposite direction, he had nowhere to go, blew his horn, and we bailed into the gravel. We paused for a moment after that, looked both ways, and continued down the road.

Nearing the end of our tour, back towards Anchorage, we rode into the urban sprawl of big-box retailers, fast food, and other franchises. There in the land where the ice age never left is a civilization establishing itself. An hour earlier, we took photos of a moose eating grass by the side of the road.

Anchorage is the worst planned city I’ve ever visited. They’re addressing that with a plan to “thwart sprawl, ease traffic congestion and improve air quality.” But until then, when you visit, expect to see a town that doesn’t look like it was built there. It’s like it was shipped in from Dallas, when the town was flush with oil money, and it sprawled in every direction. Given that, it’s remarkable how cycling friendly the town is. There are bike paths everywhere. Now, the paths may take you right through a crack-fueled ghetto, but the paths are there for you to ride.

Alaskans spend 9 months a year inside. So when it’s summer, they’re out, friendly and happy to see you. We found them to be happy in general. Outside of the city, you’re with fellow travelers that look out for each other.

I’ll remember those rumble strips, the landscape, and the urban sprawl. And we’ll return for another ride. This time towards Denali.

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