The buzz at work today is $4-a-gallon gas. That’s the average in Alaska, and when I filled up earlier this week, I paid $3.89 a gallon at Fred Meyer on Abbott Road.
Is it sending more people to their bikes?
Hard to tell, but today is Bike to Work Day, and there were more cyclists on the trails than usual. Will it continue? If gas hits $5 a gallon, will it make a difference?
All I know is that the two volunteer counters I talked with this morning on my bike commute were both excited. There were lots of cyclists out, and the counters were busy.
Diana Redwood, a volunteer counter on the Chester Creek Trail near the bridge over Northern Lights Boulevard, said she counted 85 cyclists between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.
Tom Newins was stationed at the intersection of Tudor and Elmore roads. While the number of cars far surpassed cyclists on the busy commuter roads, he counted 77 cyclists between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m.
"It's like they're coming in bunches," he said, standing near his road bike that he used to get to his assigned post. "I thought it wouldn't be that busy, so I brought a book. I think I've been able to read like three pages.
"There will be a lull, then six or seven will show up at the same time."
As he was talking, two cyclists passed us heading west along Tudor Road; three more were waiting to cross Tudor from Elmore Road.
Newins said he commutes two or three times a week in summer. His commute is along hilly Abbott Road, and he hasn't committed to making the ride in the winter.
Redwood bike commutes year-round from her home in Airport Heights to her job at the Alaska Native Medial Center. She was excited to see so many fellow commuters today.
"We have a lot of good trails around town," she said. "It's nice to see people using them. One family I saw go by earlier was two parents, three kids and then three neighbor kids all on bikes. It was like, count, count, count. Bike to Work Day is great because it gets people to think about doing it. Once they do it once, they may think, 'If I can do it one day, I can do it again.' Once they do it a few times, it becomes a habit."
Redwood was busy smiling, handing out coupons to Subway sandwich shop, marking down tallies and saying "Hi! Happy Bike to Work Day" to passing cyclists. She was the perfect ambassador for Bike to Work Day, helping one person turn the right direction to get to Goose Lake.
Maybe that'll help others hit the trails another day. Visitors don't have to worry about getting to work on time or being too sweaty, they can just enjoy Anchorage’s many miles of paved trails. And if they're adventurous, they can get some great off-road riding right in town too.
So, if you're a local, keep pedaling. If you're a visitor, enjoy what we have to offer while you're here and stay on your bike when you get home.