Bikes connect the Spenard community

Spenard is a hub for biking culture. There are a plethora of cycle shops that have settled into the neighborhood, including The Bicycle Shop, Speedway Cycles and Fatback Bikes, but more continue to flock to the area.

Many residents who live in the neighborhood live close to good food and local businesses, which makes traveling on two wheels oftentimes a healthier and more eco-friendly alternative to driving a car. Spenardians don’t have to travel very far when they are neighbors with places that they want to go out and socialize with.

Cary Shiflea is the owner of Alaska eBike, an electric bike shop in Spenard. The business used to be located in Midtown for a year and a half before relocating to Spenard. He saw the Spenard Road project as a great reason to move into the neighborhood.

“From the very start, I wanted to put my business, Alaska eBike, in Spenard,” Shiflea said. “It seems like the community really understands that you can get a lot done by walking or biking rather than getting in your car.”

Other bike shops in the neighborhood have been really welcoming, Shiflea says.

“Anchorage overall is just, the community that comes together… Once you’ve [ridden] a bike once on the trails, you’re sort of a member of that community,” Shiflea said.

Lindsey Hajduk has been involved with Bike Anchorage, the city’s largest bicycle advocacy organization, for five years as a volunteer and treasurer. As a resident of Spenard herself, she believes that bike culture has really bloomed the last several years, especially with winter riding.

Hajduk says the need for safer streets has increased over time. It’s been a primary focus of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and his administration to work towards reducing all major injuries and deaths in traffic collisions and fatalities.

In 2016, the mayor launched Vision Zero, an Anchorage initiative to eliminating traffic deaths for all road users. The initiative added lighting around the city and improving and expanding roads, including the Spenard Road project. The plan looks at designing roads for everyone, including pedestrians, people who ride the bus, and those who travel on bikes or in cars.

A lot of the work Hajduk does with Bike Anchorage is connecting with businesses in town to support a more bikeable city.

“People identify as bike commuters, so it isn’t just that people bike a lot for exercise or for recreation, but that they also bike because they want to be able to get to Bear Tooth on their bikes, or they want to be safe along the roadways because we’re such a connected community,” Hajduk said.

One of the businesses that Bike Anchorage works with is Off the Chain, a bicycle collective for the Anchorage community. It’s a volunteer-run nonprofit that teaches people how to fix their bike and increase bicycle awareness and safety, according to their website.

Caitlin Rodriguez has volunteered at Off the Chain for seven years. She had previously worked at bike collectives in other cities that she lived in, so she was familiar with the concept.

“One of the things I love about Spenard is [that] the bike culture is super diverse. Depending on what you consider Spenard proper, you have families biking on trails, you have commuters that are biking to work,” Rodriguez said. “We can get really hung up on the idea that we need certain equipment or a fat tire bike or certain types of bikes to get around,” Rodriguez said.

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