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Archive for June, 2010

A black bear fishes for salmon during July 2006 at Gunnuk Creek, near Kake, Alaska.

A black bear fishes for salmon during July 2006 at Gunnuk Creek, near Kake, Alaska.

Living in Alaska, walkers and bikers have more to worry about than vehicle traffic. Sometimes the biggest fear isn’t a truck crowding you out of the bike lane. It’s rounding a corner to find a bear blocking the trail while feeding on a fresh kill.

Sometimes you’ll hear about wildlife encounters that don’t go well for the hiker or biker, such as the Anchorage cyclist who was attacked by a brown bear while riding to work on June 15. (Luckily, the cyclist suffered minor injuries and he eventually was able to finish his ride to the Anchorage hospital where he works. The Municipality of Anchorage is not closing the trail this time, though it did after two maulings in 2008.) But most times, hikers and bikers can avoid problems with wildlife if they follow some basic safety rules.

The State of Alaska has a couple of websites that deal with traveling in bear country. These include “Alaska’s Bears,” “Bears and You,” “The Essentials for Traveling in Bear Country,” “Safety In Bear Country,” and “Living in Harmony With Bears.”

This page about bear safety for kids is from the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers, and this link has bear safety tips from the Municipality of Anchorage. MountainNature.com has this page about mountain bike safety when riding in bear country. AlaskaDispatch.com reporter Craig Medred, who survived his own bear attack about 20-25 years ago, wrote this article on June 10 about biking and bears.

Even with this wealth of information available about living in bear country, some Alaskans still seem shocked to learn bears have wandered into their local downtown area. In recent years, I’ve seen bears in downtown Anchorage (near the Delaney Park Strip), Juneau (in front of the Red Dog Saloon and in downtown Douglas), Sitka (by the fire station and Westmark Hotel), Barrow (three blocks from the North Slope Borough Department of Public Safety) and other communities.

If bears, moose and other large mammals are making their way into downtown areas, then you can expect to find them on the local trails. In most cases, the animals don’t want contact with humans, so there are minimal safety issues. But that can change, especially if the bear or moose doesn’t hear you coming or you get between a mother and its young. Animal encounters can result in severe injuries and even death (moose have been known to kick people).
Here are some basic safety rules (check out the links for more information):

  • Make lots of noise when you travel through bear country. Get bells for your belt or bike, carry a whistle (the sound of a whistle carries farther than a voice), sing, or travel in groups. Your biggest danger is sneaking up on a bear, and mountain bikes can be pretty silent.
  • Be alert at all times while on the trail. Take off the headphones (take out the ear buds) so you can listen for animal sounds. Watch for other animal signs, such as scat in the trail, animal tracks, rubbing patches on trees, birds circling overhead (usually the sign of a fresh kill), etc.
  • Leave the dog at home, or at least keep it leashed. As much fun as it is to take your dog on a hike, they can increase your danger on the trail. Curious dogs have been known to wander into a bear, then bring it back to their humans as the bear chases the dogs down the trail.
  • Properly store food in camp. Bears have a very sharp sense of smell, so make sure all food is stored in air-tight containers. Never leave food out (in fact, hang it between two trees away from your tent so bears can’t reach it). Make your cooking area at least 100 feet away from your sleeping area.

Even though there can be some risk when you go biking or hiking in the Alaska wilderness, you are more likely to be hurt by a twisted ankle than by a wild animal. Please read the safety links, and be alert when in the wilderness. And don’t forget to have fun.

“Bear Safety in Alaska’s National Parklands” flier from the National Park Service (this is a PDF version of the two images posted with the story)

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Local bicycle and pedestrian advocates have two new resources that will help them get Complete Streets for their communities.

The Alliance for Biking & Walking this week released a new edition of its Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns, a 117-page book that updates the 2006 edition with Complete Streets policy examples and other tools for local advocates. To learn more about the book, click here.

The book was made possible with support from Planet Bike and assistance from the National Complete Streets Coalition. Since 2006, more than 100 state and local jurisdictions have adopted new Complete Streets policies that require transportation projects include safe accommodations for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.

According to a press release from the Alliance for Biking & Walking, Alliance President/CEO Jeff Miller says this new manual could be a catalyst for groups to kick-start or super-charge a successful campaign in their area.

“This updated guide is a key resource for grassroots advocates pursuing Complete Streets policies for their states and cities,” Miller says. “This compilation shares the step-by-step actions and lessons learned from peers across the country, making it the most up-to-date and on-the-ground advice for winning Complete Streets.”

The press release also includes the following book description:

Book Description: Our nation’s transportation system poses significant challenges for the third of our citizens who do not drive. A full 13 percent of traffic deaths are bicyclists and pedestrians, yet most roadways are still being built with only motor vehicles in mind. Complete Streets policies require that future transportation projects ensure safe accommodation of all users. Bicyclists, motorists, transit vehicles and users, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities safely and enjoyably travel along and across complete streets. The Alliance for Biking & Walking’s Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns compiles a blueprint for winning a complete streets policy in your city, region, state, or province. Filled with models from past and current campaigns and tips from advocacy leaders in the field, this guide is an indispensable resource for the new or seasoned advocate working towards complete streets.

The Alliance for Biking & Walking’s Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns is part of a series of Alliance guides, which aim to build the capacity of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations. To purchase the guide online visit http://www.PeoplePoweredMovement.org/publications.

Also released this month is a new book from the National Complete Streets Coalition and the American Planning Association, Complete Streets: Best Policy and Implementation Practices. The book was partially funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s STEP program.

Barbara McCann, one of the book’s writers, wrote this description of the project on the National Complete Streets Coalition’s website. “The report is based on thirty case studies of states, cities, counties, and MPOs that have adopted and are implementing Complete Streets policies. Suzanne Rynne, Stefanie Seskin, David Morley, myself, and a number of other APA and Coalition staffers talked to dozens of planners, engineers, and other insiders about what it took to adopt a policy in their state or community and the techniques they are using to fully integrate multi-modal planning into every transportation project.”

The case studies showed the researchers what strategies were working and also added new information about how communities go about getting Complete Streets policies implemented. They also learned how advocating for Complete Streets policies helps communities communicate their transportation priorities to local and state governments.

McCann adds:

A few of the case studies really stand out; their thoughtful and thorough implementation practices can almost be a guide unto themselves. Charlotte, North Carolina (already the basis for our Complete Streets Workshop system) is one of these, as is Seattle, Washington. In fact, Seattle has come up with an elegant answer to the frequent question of what to do when a project budget simply won’t allow full realization of a Complete Streets design. In Seattle, they make sure that this need is added to a future projects list, and they look for ways to fulfill it.

Perhaps the most inspiring theme in the publication is the way that Complete Streets policies have empowered planners and engineers to tackle a new challenge with creativity and innovation. In almost every case study, planners and engineers have invented new ways to consult with partners, deal with limited right-of-way, and save on costs.

You can get an idea of the breadth of the report from the table of contents; the first two chapters focus on policy adoption, and the next two on the steps to integrating Complete Streets into transportation planning processes. Chapters Six and Seven expand on the issue of paying for Complete Streets, and the many different ways communities have tackled design considerations. The final chapter summarizes twelve lessons learned; readers will undoubtedly draw many more. You can get a sneak peak by reading Chapter Five: Making the Transition, which we have posted to our website (as a PDF file). The full report is available for purchase from the American Planning Association, and please let us know what you think of it.

At this point, no Alaska communities nor the State of Alaska have adopted Complete Streets policies, but several Alaska groups are encouraging their implementation. The Alaska Public Health Association passed a resolution advocating for Complete Streets at the Alaska Health Summit in December. The Anchorage Bicycle Plan unanimously passed by the Anchorage Assembly in March includes several proposals based on the Complete Streets model, but doesn’t fully implement Complete Streets. The Alaska Transportation Priorities Project also promoted Complete Streets principles when it released its Alaska Campaign for Active Transportation: Anchorage, Palmer and Wasilla in 2008.

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