Alaska and Anchorage Bike Laws 101

Alaska and Anchorage Bike Law 101:

The following can be found in PDF version here:


Alaska and Anchorage Bike Law 101.

Prepared by Ed Sniffen, Esq. President, Arctic Bicycle Club.

Revised and Updated May, 2012

As we gear up for a season of riding around town, now is a good time to remember the do's and don'ts of riding on your favorite city streets, trails, and pathways in Alaska. We haven't had a good summary of the local laws relating to bike riding in a while, so here they are. Save this article. This is not legal advice, and I disclaim that it is. But it's still accurate information.

There are two sources of "law" that dictate what you can and can't do when riding a bicycle in Anchorage. The Anchorage Municipal Code (called the "AMC") is “city law” that governs the conduct of bicycle riding within the Municipality of Anchorage. This is the law that will most likely be enforced against you. In addition to the AMC, the State of Alaska has a state law, found in the Alaska Administrative Code (called the "AAC"), that governs bicycle conduct throughout the state.

What the heck? How can there be two different sets of laws that govern the same conduct? The AAC is the regulatory source that applies to everything that has state-wide application, and will apply to you wherever you ride your bike in the state. Fishing and Hunting regulations, for example, are in the AAC, not the AMC. The AMC only governs conduct within the Municipality of Anchorage. So, for example, the AMC does not apply when you are riding your bike in Fairbanks or Juneau but the AAC will, and any other laws adopted by the City of Fairbanks or Juneau. Whenever there is a conflict between the two, state law (the AAC) will prevail. Fortunately, there are no important conflicts, so both of these fit together just fine. Here is what the AMC says about riding bikes in Anchorage:

  1. Parents cannot authorize or knowingly permit their kids to violate these laws. AMC 9.38.010(a).

  2. Laws also apply when a bicycle is operated upon a sidewalk, trail, or pathway. AMC 9.38.010(b).

  3. Every person riding a bike has all the rights, and is subject to all the duties, applicable to drivers of motor vehicles. AMC 9.38.020(a).

  4. Youcan’trideyourbikeoffacurborother“placeofsafety”intothepathofa vehicle that is so close as to constitute a hazard. AMC 9.38.020(b).

  1. Ifyourideyourbikeon(oracross)asidewalk,trail,orpathway,youhaveall the rights and duties of a pedestrian. AND, when riding on a sidewalk, trail, or pathway:

    1. you can’t go more than 10 mph when approaching or crossing an uncontrolled crosswalk or driveway, or crossing a curb cut or pedestrian ramp where a motor vehicle is approaching the uncontrolled crosswalk, driveway, curb cut or pedestrian ramp;

    2. whenenteringacontrolledintersection,shallobeythetrafficcontrol device and enter the intersection at a reasonable and prudent speed;

    3. shall operate the vehicle at a reasonable and prudent speed when in the presence of pedestrians on the same sidewalk, trail or pathway, consistent with section 9.38.070 (13, 14, and 15 below). AMC


  2. When riding a bike, you have to obey all traffic control devices unless otherwise directed by a police officer, school crossing guard, flagman, or other official directing traffic. AMC 9.38.030(a).

  3. Youcannotdisobeyatrafficsignthatsaynoright,left,or“U”turnUNLESS you dismount and make the turn as a pedestrian. AMC 9.38.030(b).

  4. You have to ride on a seat attached to your bike. AMC 9.38.040(a).

  5. Youcan’tcarryanotherpersonunlessyouhaveaseatortrailerfortheother person. AMC 9.38.040(b).

10.You can’t hang on to vehicles. AMC 9.38.050.

11.You have to ride as far to the right of the road, trail, or pathway as practicable, exercising due care when avoiding hazards or passing or meeting other vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, or other users of the road, trail or pathway unless:

  1. Whenpassinganotherbikeorvehicletravelinginthesamedirection;

  2. Whengettingreadytomakealeftturn;

  3. When necessary to avoid hazards (parked vehicles, pedestrians,

    animals, road hazards, etc.);

  4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized;

  5. When necessary to take up a whole lane when waiting to cross an

    intersection to increase visibility; or

  6. When traveling the same speed as traffic. AMC 9.38.060(a).

12.You can’t ride more than two abreast except on paths set aside for bikes or in the case of permitted bicycling events. AMC 9.38.060(b).

13.You can’t ride on a sidewalk in a business district. AMC 9.38.070(a).

14.The Muni Traffic Engineer can erect signs prohibiting bike riding on sidewalks or roadways. AMC 9.38.070(b).

15.When riding on a sidewalk, trail or pathway, you have to yield the right of way to pedestrians, and give an audible signal by voice or audible warning device before overtaking and passing pedestrians. AMC 9.38.070(c).

16.Bicycles must be parked so as not to obstruct traffic or pedestrians. AMC 9.38.080.

17.You can’t carry any package, bundle or article which prevents you from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars. AMC 9.38.090.

18. You have to have a light on your bike or worn on your body when riding after dusk and before dawn that emits a white light visible from 500 feet to the front, and with a red reflector visible from 100 to 600 feet from the rear when in front of a vehicle with low beams on. A red light can be used in addition to a reflector. AMC 9.38.100.

19.You have to have a brake that can stop you in 20 feet when traveling 10 mph on clean, dry, level pavement. AMC 9.38.100(b).

20.You have to have an audible warning device that can give a signal audible for at least 100 feet, but you CANNOT put a whistle or siren on your bike. AMC 9.38.100(c).

21.A rental agency can’t rent a bike unless it complies with the lamp and other equipment requirements of this section. AMC 9.38.170.

22.You can’t remove or destroy the serial number on a bike. AMC 9.38.190.

23.You have to wear a helmet if you are 15 or under when riding in a public place. Failure to do so is a $25 fine, which can be waived if you show proof of purchase of a helmet after the citation was issued. AMC 9.38.200.

The AAC is mostly consistent with the AMC provisions listed above. One important provision to pay attention to (which isn’t in the AMC) addresses making turns. See No. 12 below. So you have the complete set, here is what the AAC says:

1. Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle. 13 AAC 02.385(a).

  1. Parents may not authorize or knowingly permit their children to violate this chapter. 13 AAC 02.385(b).

  2. Whensignsindicatenoright,left,orU-turnispermitted,youcannotdisobey the sign unless you pull over to the extreme right or shoulder of the road, dismount, and make the turn as a pedestrian. 13 AAC 02.385(c).

  3. Youcannotcarryanotherpersononyourbikeunlessyourbikeisequipped with a seat for the person, except that an adult rider can carry a child securely attached to his person in a backpack or sling. 13 AAC 02.395(b).

  4. You can't hold on to a vehicle (or attach your bike to a vehicle) to be towed or pulled. 13 AAC 02.395(c).

  5. Youhavetomaintaincontrolofyourbikeatalltimes,andmustalwayshave at least one hand on the handlebars. 13 AAC 02.395(d).

  6. No unicycles, roller skates, coasters, or similar devices are allowed on a roadway. 13 AAC 02.395(e).

  7. Youmustrideasfartotherightaspracticable,andgivewaytotherightas far as practicable to a motor vehicle traveling in the same direction when the driver gives you an audible signal. 12 AAC 02.400(a).

  8. Youcannotridemorethantwoabreastexceptonpathsorpartsofroadsset aside for the exclusive use of bikes. If you are riding two abreast, you still cannot impede traffic, and must ride in the farthest right lane. 12 AAC 02.400(b)

10.When a shoulder is maintained in good condition, you must use it. 12 AAC 02.400(c).

11.If you are riding on a path, you must exercise care not to collide with others, must give an audible signal before overtaking a pedestrian, and yield the right of way to any pedestrian. 12 AAC 02.400(d).

12.If you are riding on a roadway and want to make a left turn, you must do so just like a car, which means:

  1. You must approach and make the turn from the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction. When you make the turn, you must proceed into the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction, unless conditions prevail that necessitate other action to assure safety;

  2. Where a special lane for making left turns by drivers proceeding in the opposite direction is available (this is the center turn lane that can

be used by traffic going both ways), then you cannot make a left turn from any other lane, and you can’t ride in the lane except to make a turn;

c. If there is a traffic control device in or adjacent to an intersection that requires a different course than specified above, you must follow the direction of the traffic control device to make a turn.

AND, you must signal by hand and arm continuously during the last 100 feet traveled unless the hand is needed for control of the bike. When stopped and waiting to turn, you must give a hand and arm signal continuously. 12 AAC 02.400(f).

13.You cannot ride a bike on a sidewalk in a business district or where prohibited by a traffic control device. 12 AAC 02.400(g).

14. Youcannotparkabikeonastreetorsidewalkinamannerwhichobstructs pedestrian traffic or the driving or parking of motor vehicles. You cannot secure a bike to a (1)fire hydrant, (2) police or fire call box, (3) traffic signal poles, (4) stanchions or poles in a bus zone, (5) stanchions or poles within 25 feet of an intersection, or (6) trees less than10 inches in diameter. 13 AAC 02.420.

There you have it! Everything you need to know about riding bikes "lawfully" in Anchorage. Here's a tip. Many motorists don't know these bike laws. All of them are in vehicles that can kill you. Be polite. Understand some people just don't know the law, and have no patience or tolerance for bikes on the road. When someone yells at you for riding on the road, even when you have the right to be there and are complying with all the laws, just smile and waive, and not with the one-finger salute! I know this can be a challenge, but we need to show we are polite, considerate cyclists.