Now that a runoff is in order for the Anchorage mayoral race, even the small differences between candidates can influence voters casting their ballots.

One week ago, Ethan Berkowitz and Amy Demboski participated in KTVA 11 News’ debate with the top candidates for mayor. They’re the only ones left in the race now, but residents are still talking about their answers when asked, “What will you do to improve bicycle safety for commuters?”

Commuting by bike in the muni is picking up speed. In Anchorage, a busy midtown road is the start of Chelsea Ward-Waller’s trek home.

“Ever since college, I haven’t owned a car,” said Ward-Waller.

Nearly every day, she takes on the rush hour traffic and she pays attention while she rides.

“I have to,” she said. “It’s my life on the line, pretty much. I’m never going to win against a car.”

Ward-Waller doesn’t always feel safe on her commute and says things could be done to help.

At a press event on the Monday following the Municipal Election, mayoral candidate Ethan Berkowitz spoke again about his plan to advance Anchorage as a biking city.

“You need to make sure there’s adequate lighting; it’s a question of making sure people understand that there are bikers out there so there’s a public safety campaign,” said Berkowitz. “And we need to take a good look at if there can be some dedicated biking routes for bikers.”

His opponent, Amy Demboski, declined to comment on Monday. But in last week’s debate on KTVA, she said bicycle commuters are not her priority.

“I don’t mind with helping to raise awareness as far as ‘stop and look both ways before you go,’ but I’m here to tell you my primary focus is the essential services of government,” said Demboski. “I want to make sure all of our citizens are safe, absolutely, but I’m not going to invest millions of dollars into creating new bike paths. That’s not going to happen.”

It’s a sharp distinction between the two candidates in a runoff race.

Berkowitz says everyone, including bikers, deserve to feel safe in their community. At the KTVA debate, Demboski did say bike safety is important — and, if elected, she plans to maintain trails and roads.

The mayoral runoff election is May 5.

Contact Shannon Ballard at and @shannonjballard