A new proposal before the Anchorage Assembly would prohibit right-on-red turns in much of downtown.
North Anchorage Assembly member Daniel Volland, who represents the downtown area, introduced the ordinance. If passed, it would ban right-on-red turns in the area between 3rd and 9th avenues and Gambell and L streets, officially referred to as the Central Business Traffic District.
He said it’s primarily an issue of safety.
“Motorists are so intent on looking for the traffic approaching on their left, that they might not be alert to pedestrians on their right,” Volland said. “You’re constantly checking over to see, are cars coming? Is it clear for you to make that right turn? Well, you might miss somebody who’s just entering the cross section.”
Federal highway officials have noted in studies that while the right-on-red concept was introduced in the 1970s as a fuel-saving measure, it has had some harmful impacts on pedestrians, since “many motorists do not fully comply with the regulations.”
Volland said it’s a concerning issue in Anchorage.
“Our three-to-five-year moving averages for pedestrian collisions are typically about double the national average,” he said.
The city reported 109 vehicle-pedestrian crashes in 2022, the most recent data available. About 10 of them happened downtown. In the same report, there were 93 vehicle-cyclist crashes in 2022, with about five happening downtown.
Volland’s proposal is part of a growing national trend aimed at boosting pedestrian safety. Washington, D.C., recently enacted a ban on right-on-red, effective next year, with major cities like Seattle, Denver and Chicago are floating the idea as well.
Volland said his measure isn’t just about safety. He says fostering more foot traffic downtown would be beneficial to the local economy.
“When you think about downtown, we really want a lot of foot traffic,” Volland said. “We want people walking around visiting local businesses, you know, shopping and going into restaurants, and to have that bustling positive activity.”
Volland said, in its current form, his proposal wouldn’t impact left-on-red turns, which are legal in the state of Alaska if a vehicle is turning onto a one-way street from another one-way. However, he’s open to restricting those turns in an updated version of the ordinance.
Volland said his proposal is scheduled for public comment during next Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, but he intends to delay the hearing to March. That way, he said, he can discuss the proposal with the Downtown Community Council and have a worksession to hash it out with the rest of the Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration.
A spokeswoman for Bronson said Tuesday that the administration hasn’t yet had a chance to review the proposal in full.
If enacted, the right-on-red ban in Anchorage’s Central Business Traffic District would take effect on Oct. 1.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include data from the city’s Annual Traffic Report.