According to the Chilkat Valley News weekly newspaper, the community of Haines, Alaska, is starting a bicycle club, and the leaders of the group hope to eventually pursue a Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists (the club plans to use Sitka as a model, since it is a smaller community in Southeast Alaska that was Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Community).
Haines, a community of about 1,900 people located on the northern end of Lynn Canal in Southeast Alaska, already is home to the finish line of the Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay, an annual event that draws between 1,000 to 1,200 cyclists from Alaska and Canada. The 148-mile Summer Solstice Weekend relay race from Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, to Haines, Alaska, nearly doubles the population of Haines with all the cyclists, race officials and support crews.
During community meetings, Haines bike club members discussed improvements such as sweeping out the road shoulders of popular cycling routes, holding educational events, lowering the speed limits on some roads, and building a bike port with bike parking near the downtown port area. The club still is deciding on a name (the current leader is “Haines Bikes,” which can be used as both a noun and verb), but it does have a Google group and e-mail listserve where people can stay on top of developments.
One purpose of the club is to advocate for better conditions for bicyclists in Haines, and another is to promote the healthy physical activity benefits from cycling. On the advocacy front, the club already has the backing of mayor Jan Hill, assembly member Daymond Hoffman, borough manager Mark Earnest, medical staff at the SEARHC Haines Health Center and others. On the physical activity front, the club is working with the Haines Well and Fit Committee which hosts other physical activity programs in Haines.
“It’s time for Haines to step up and make the town more bike friendly,” Haines cyclist Norman Hughes told the Chilkat Valley News.
Heather Lende, a longtime road rider, said she was encouraged that the town’s leadership grasps the importance of roads to users besides motorists. “Haines is a world-class destination for road riding. We’ve known that for years. That’s why people come here for the (Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay).”
The club is making plans for National Bike Month in May and National Bike to Work Week on May 16-20 (National Bike to Work Day is May 20). The mayor plans to issue a proclamation in support of the bike club, and members are working with the local radio station to record bike safety PSAs. It also plans to look at the Haines Comprehensive Plan to see how it can introduce more bike-friendly language into the document.
On another small-town Alaska note, cycling is growing in another of Alaska’s coastal towns. The Seward City News recently posted an article, “Gas Sucks, Rode A Bike,” that discussed the growing number of cyclists in the Kenai Peninsula community. Many of the new cyclists are buying bikes in response to the high price of gas, but some are riding for health reasons.