Feeds:
Posts
Comments

For the fifth straight year, Washington ranks No. 1 in the Bicycle Friendly State rankings compiled by the League of American Bicyclists. Alaska dropped from No. 29 to No. 33 in this year’s rankings, which were released on May 22 as part of National Bike Month.

Trailing Washington in the rankings were Minnesota, Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Maryland, Maine and Delaware, all states above the Mason-Dixon Line. The bottom five states were Montana at No. 46, Alabama, West Virginia, North Dakota and Arkansas at No. 50. Even though Washington ranked No. 1 for the fifth straight year, the Seattle Bike Blog wrote there are several improvements the state can make to be even friendlier to cyclists. CNN posted this article about the Bicycle Friendly State rankings.

States were ranked using a 1-5 scale (1 is bad, 5 is good) in five categories — legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning. Alaska received a 4 in policies and programs, a 3 in education and encouragement, and a 2 in each of the other three categories.

One of Alaska’s strengths was its bicycle commuter mode share is nearly double the national average (and it’s nearly 10 times the average in Sitka). The top tip for improvement was to adopt a vulnerable user law that includes a minimum safe passing distance and stricter consequences for violations by motor vehicle drivers.

Alaska has made great strides to move up the rankings, where it ranked just 43rd in 2008 and a dismal 47th in 2009. Alaska moved up to 39th in 2010 and 29th in 2011. Since 2008, Alaska has added three Bicycle Friendly Communities — Sitka (2008, bronze, renewed in 2012, bronze), Anchorage (2009, bronze) and Juneau (2011, bronze). Alaska also has added nine Bicycle Friendly Businesses — Anchorage Native Tribal Health Consortium (2009, gold), Southcentral Foundation (2010, silver), Green Star Inc. (2009, bronze), Providence Alaska Medical Center (2010, bronze), REI-Anchorage (2011, bronze) and Alaska Pacific University (2011, honorable mention), SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium-Sitka Campus (2011, bronze), CRW Engineering Group LLC (2012, silver) and Restoration Science and Engineering (2012, honorable mention). Alaska has no universities recognized by the Bicycle Friendly University program.

• 2012 Bicycle Friendly State scorecard for Alaska

EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of National Bike To Work Week on May 14-18, we will be running a series of features of bike commuters who work at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Southcentral Foundation and Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka. Thank you to Laura Kotelman of Southcentral Foundation for supplying the Anchorage profiles (written by Janice Swier) and SEARHC for the Sitka profile (note, most profiles appeared previously in newsletters for the various organizations).

James Temte, Assistant Consultant of Environmental Health Support and Management Operations Support at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, believes in the words of John F. Kennedy, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”

Using his bike as a mode of transportation has been something Temte has been doing since he was young.  When Temte was a child his mother would make him ride his bike to school every day.  The activity became something Temte looked forward to and he has continued to use his bike as a mode of transportation in adulthood.

“I like to enjoy a bike ride daily,” Temte says of commuting to work by bicycle.  Temte admits that scheduling extra time to bike versus drive can be difficult at first, but starting off your day with fresh air and saving money on gas are both reasons that make the adjustment worth it.

Temte encourages those thinking of starting to commute by bicycle to schedule a few extra minutes so they don’t have to rush on their bike ride and can really enjoy it, “Bike commuting should be fun.  Allow enough time to enjoy the ride; then it won’t be a drag.”

Temte has enjoyed Bike to Work events in the past and is volunteering this year with Team Alaska Native Medical Campus (Team ANMC) in planning many of their Bike to Work Week activities. “Bike to Work activities are totally a bonus. The Blueberry Breakfast and the Bike Bash should be fun, I’ll be there.” Temte said of some the events that will take place on ANMC this year during Bike to Work Week.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of National Bike To Work Week on May 14-18, we will be running a series of features of bike commuters who work at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Southcentral Foundation and Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka. Thank you to Laura Kotelman of Southcentral Foundation for supplying the Anchorage profiles (written by Janice Swier) and SEARHC for the Sitka profile (note, most profiles appeared previously in newsletters for the various organizations).

Lisa Sadleir-Hart has been commuting to work by bicycle off and on for 20-25 years, beginning shortly after she started working for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) in Sitka. But she didn’t become more consistent about riding her bike until about 2004.

“My husband has consistently biked to work, and then when the Bike to Work Week was launched at SEARHC I started riding more,” Lisa said.

Lisa is community nutrition department manager for SEARHC and the coordinator of SEARHC’s employee wellness program, so she knows all about the health benefits of riding. But she also enjoys some of the mental benefits.

“I enjoy the natural beauty I encounter, and going fast on the downside of the bridge” (the O’Connell Bridge, which connects Japonski Island where SEARHC is located with downtown Sitka on Baranof Island), Lisa said.

Lisa’s commute is about 12-20 minutes, and she rides about 2-3 times a week. When the weather is bad or she has to run errands, she will drive. But as a member of SEARHC’s Green Team, she likes to save energy by riding.

Sitka is in a temperate rain forest, which means about 80-120 inches of rain a year. But Sitka’s mild climate means the winters have more rain than snow, which gives riders more of a chance to bike to work all year round.

When asked if she had any tips for new riders, Lisa said, “Invest in good gear, such as fenders, dry bags and rain gear.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of National Bike To Work Week on May 14-18, we will be running a series of features of bike commuters who work at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Southcentral Foundation and Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka. Thank you to Laura Kotelman of Southcentral Foundation for supplying the Anchorage profiles (written by Janice Swier) and SEARHC for the Sitka profile (note, most profiles appeared previously in newsletters for the various organizations).

Biking started as just a recreational sport for Southcentral Foundation Clinical Exercise Specialist Andrew Cunningham, but as he used his bike for recreation he realized how easy it would be to use it as a form of transportation as well.

Cunningham has now been riding to work for two years, trying to ride every day, regardless of weather conditions.  “This winter threw some minus-20-degree (Fahrenheit) days at me, and I had to dress and prepare for that,” Cunningham acknowledges of one of the challenges he has faced with biking through the winter season.

According to Cunningham planning ahead and being prepared for all conditions is the most difficult aspect of commuting by bike every day.  Initially when he started commuting by bike, Cunningham had to take the time to figure out a reliable route and an alternate route, just in case.  Cunningham admits, “Changing my routine at first was a challenge,” but Cunningham now bikes 7-10 miles, depending on the route, to work nearly every day.

He would tell you that there are a lot of good reasons to use your bike as transportation: getting a workout, saving money on fuel, less wear and tear on your vehicle, etc.; but Cunningham says that for him, “The most rewarding part of commuting by bike is feeling energized first thing in the morning, which helps me through the rest of the day.  Also, I love getting outside every day, year round.”

Cunningham encourages others, “If you are considering commuting to work on a bike, give it a try!  If you don’t feel like you are fit enough to ride the full distance for your commute, start by driving a little closer and find a place you can park your car and ride to work from.  Build up from there and make gradual increases in your distance.  Not only will you eventually save gas and wear and tear on your vehicle, but your health will also benefit, mental and physical.”

Cunningham has participated in the last two Bike to Work weeks and will be participating in events again this year by both riding his bike and volunteering at an event.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of National Bike To Work Week on May 14-18, we will be running a series of features of bike commuters who work at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Southcentral Foundation and Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka. Thank you to Laura Kotelman of Southcentral Foundation for supplying the Anchorage profiles (written by Janice Swier) and SEARHC for the Sitka profile (note, most profiles appeared previously in newsletters for the various organizations).

Richard Hall, Director of Statewide Health Information Management Service for Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, first started using his bike to commute to work in 1975 and didn’t stop when he moved to Anchorage in 1978.

Hall typically bikes to work two or three days a week during the fair weather seasons — spring, summer and fall — only deterred from biking when he has events that will require the car during the day or when the elements of the day are not conducive to biking.  Hall says, “There are three factors that determine whether it is a yucky day to ride: dark, cold and wet.  I can deal with any one at a time, but two or three at the same time can stop me from riding.”

“It [biking to work] is fun, good exercise and cheap,” Hall says of his three mile bike commutes.  Back when the Alaska IHS (Indian Health Services) Area Office was downtown, Hall would have to ride in some busy traffic lanes in order to get to work.  Hall much prefers the trails and often carries his camera while he bikes as he likes to occasionally stop and take pictures of wildlife or pretty vegetation.

Hall concedes that there are challenging aspects of commuting by bike: weather, what to do on days you are running late, bike storage, and worrying about being presentable for work; but these are all challenges that can be overcome.  His advice for people who want to start commuting to work: dress appropriately: stay dry, warm and visible.  Hall also warns, “Watch out for geese and dogs, they do nasty things on trails.”

(The following article originally appeared on the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition website, Celebrate Sitka Cycling, on May 14, 2012.)

In 2008, Sitka became the first Alaska community to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community award. On Monday, May 14, Sitka became the first Alaska community to earn a renewal of its Bicycle Friendly Community designation.

With Monday’s national announcement to kick off National Bike to Work Week, Sitka maintained its bronze level designation in the Bicycle Friendly Community program run by the League of American Bicyclists. Sitka now is one of three recognized communities in Alaska (Anchorage earned a BFC designation in 2009 and Juneau in 2011, also at the bronze level). There currently are 214 communities in 47 states with Bicycle Friendly Community designations (at the platinum, gold, silver and bronze levels). Sitka’s award is good for four years, expiring in February 2016.

“Sitka is pleased to once again receive recognition as a Bicycle Friendly Community and the first city in Alaska to be a repeat recipient,” Sitka Mayor Cheryl Westover said. “Thanks to the many Sitkans who actively support bicycling.”

“This is great news and a great time to thank everyone involved in helping us reach this Sitka Health Summit goal,” said Doug Osborne, who coordinates the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition. “Just the other day, I heard a visitor say how neat it was to see all the people in Sitka who are getting around on bikes. I have to agree, because there so many benefits that come from biking and being a bicycle-friendly town. I’m grateful to everyone who helped us get this designation and the positive national attention that comes with it.”

Sitka first applied for the Bicycle Friendly Community program as one of the community health priority projects chosen during the 2007 Sitka Health Summit, and it was the first project completed. The 2011 Sitka Health Summit supported renewing Sitka’s status as a Bicycle Friendly Community. The 2012 Sitka Health Summit takes place on Oct. 3-6 at a variety of locations around Sitka. Over the past five years, the Sitka Health Summit resulted in high-profile projects such as starting the Sitka Farmers Market, expanding community gardens in Sitka, supporting the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, bringing local businesses and insurance companies together to promote employee wellness programs, the Choose Respect mural about domestic violence prevention, planting fruit trees in Sitka and the award-winning Fish to Schools project.

“First and foremost, thanks to the bicycle commuters who are now riding to work at almost 10 times the national average,” Osborne said. “Secondly, thanks to the courteous motorists who are sharing the road. And lastly, thanks to all the groups, workplaces, schools, shops and individuals who have made various contributions over the years.”

In the application feedback form provided by the League of American Bicyclists, Sitka received high marks for its number of regular bike commuters (4.9 percent, nearly 10 times the national average and five times the state average), Sitka’s promotion of National Bike Month events in May, the Share-the-Road and Be Safe Be Seen education campaigns, cycling workshops, the low number of motor vehicle/bicyclist crashes (only eight in five years reported to Sitka Police), and for several unique cycling events. The Sitka campus of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka’s largest employer, earned a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Business designation in September 2011.

“One of the things that impressed our reviewers about Sitka is the one-of-a-kind local biking events, like the Winter Cycling Celebration,” said Bill Nesper, Vice President of Programs for the League of American Bicyclists. “Events like this really help people see that biking is a great way to get around for transportation and recreation all year round.”

In order to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community designation, communities have to complete an application that covers five main focus areas called The Five E’s — Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation/Planning. There are more than 100 questions in the application, asking everything from how many miles of bike lanes to how many schools participate in the Safe Routes To School program. Communities also are asked about their biking or non-motorized transportation plans and how they are meeting their goals.

Monday’s announcement saw 49 communities earn new, improve or maintain current Bicycle Friendly Community designations. The Bicycle Friendly Community program is part of the larger Bicycle Friendly America program that includes Bicycle Friendly State, Bicycle Friendly Business and Bicycle Friendly University designations. In addition to the League of American Bicyclists, the Bicycle Friendly America program is supported by Bikes Belong and Trek Bicycle’s One World Two Wheels Campaign.

“We aren’t surprised that this was the largest number of new and renewing applicants that we’ve ever had,” League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke said. “The popularity of this program is clear evidence that simple steps to make bicycling safe and comfortable pay huge dividends in civic, community and economic development.”

• Feedback for Sitka’s 2012 Bicycle Friendly Community application

EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of National Bike To Work Week on May 14-18, we will be running a series of features of bike commuters who work at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Southcentral Foundation and Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka. Thank you to Laura Kotelman of Southcentral Foundation for supplying the Anchorage profiles (written by Janice Swier) and SEARHC for the Sitka profile (note, most of the  profiles appeared previously in newsletters for the various organizations).

One could argue that Christopher Campbell could be the poster child for Bike to Work.  Pulling his 1 1/2-year-old son behind him in the Chariot; Campbell commutes to work by biking, skiing, snowshoeing, or jogging year-round.

Campbell, a provider at Southcentral Foundation’s Anchorage Native Primary Care Center, started commuting by bike for a few reasons: to be more physically active and to both save money and add fewer pollutants into the air by not driving.

After starting to commute by bike Campbell recognized additional benefits, “I found that biking home from work helped me unwind from a busy day…[and] my son enjoys going by bike much more than by car.”

Campbell and his son have been commuting together for almost a year, though when it is below zero Campbell’s wife drives their son to daycare.  Campbell encourages other parents thinking about commuting by bicycle with their children to, “Give it a try, it is more fun and easier to do than most people believe.”

For those commuting during the winter, Campbell encourages, “You don’t need any special equipment besides studded tires, good snow boots and a decent light.”  Campbell uses his ski helmet rather than a regular bike helmet during the winter, since it is warmer, and he purchased a good head lamp.

Campbell contends that, “the most challenging part [of biking in the winter] was trying to dress with the right layers for the temperature.”  Campbell admits he doesn’t like being cold, so when he first started biking in the winter he would dress too warmly for the commute.  He learned to dress in one less layer than he thought he’d need since he would quickly warm up as he biked.

With all the snow Anchorage got last winter, Campbell had some additional challenges as some days there was just too much snow to bike.  If Campbell knew in advance there was going to be a lot of snow he would ski or snowshoe with his son rather than bike.

This coming May 14-18 Campbell will participate in his third Bike to Work week.  Campbell likes how many people ride their bikes for that week but he wishes that more people would continue to ride after the week’s events are over.  Riding his bike is only one of the things he likes about Bike to Work Week, “I also like the food stations.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.