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Archive for the ‘Winter biking’ Category

The Municipality of Anchorage has a world-class trail system, and over the next few weeks Anchorage will host four public meetings/open houses to work on an update of the Anchorage Trails Plan.

The Anchorage Trails Plan is the third part of Anchorage’s larger Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, which also includes the Anchorage Pedestrian Plan (adopted in October 2007) and the Anchorage Bicycle Plan (adopted in March 2010). The last time the Anchorage Trails Plan was updated was 1997.

According to AMATS/Transportation Planner Erika McConnell, the Municipality of Anchorage has been contacting local trail user groups to provide them with information and have them complete a survey about the plan. A list of the groups already contacted (bicycle, hiking, running, equestrian, sled dogs, ski, skijoring, snowmachine, water/canoe/kayak, etc.) is available on the Transportation Planning/AMATS Anchorage Trails Plan website, and the site encourages other trail groups to contact the Municipality to be included in the process.

The four public meetings/open houses are scheduled for:

  • Anchorage Bowl (#1) — Thursday, April 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Wendler Middle School, 2905 Lake Otis Parkway (south of Northern Lights Blvd)
  • Anchorage Bowl (#2) — Tuesday, May 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Spring Hill Elementary School, 9911 Lake Otis Parkway (south of Abbott Rd)
  • Chugiak-Eagle River — Thursday, May 3, 5:30-7:30 p.m., C-ER Community Room, Eagle River Town Center, 12001 Business Blvd
  • Girdwood — Monday, May 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Girdwood Community Room, Girdwood Library

The Anchorage Trails Plan website has links to the 1997 version of the plan, so people can review it before making their suggestions about what needs to be updated. If you have comments about the 1997 version of the plan and what needs to be updated, or if you have any other trails-related comment, please send it to amatsinfo@muni.org.

In an e-mail to members of the Alaska Randonneurs bicycle group, Kevin Turinsky wrote: “As cyclists, runners, skiers, and walkers, we use these trails, and we pay for these trails. Therefore, I encourage you to take an active role in the planning of Anchorage’s network of trails. More than just providing recreational and transportation opportunities to Anchorage residents and visitors, our well planned and maintained trail system benefits the quality of life for all residents. It makes Anchorage a more attractive and vibrant place to live and work, which is an important consideration for new and innovative businesses and employers considering locating here, as well as attracting productive talent to our community.”

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Last week was a good week for the City and Borough of Juneau, which found out it not only became Alaska’s third city to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community (bronze level) designation from the League of American Bicyclists, but it  also became the only Alaska city recognized when the first Walk Friendly Communities (honorable mention) were announced.

When the first batch of Walk Friendly Communities were announced on Tuesday, April 26, by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, the list only listed 11 communities — one at the platinum level (Seattle); four gold (Ann Arbor, Mich.; Arlington, Va.; Hoboken, N.J.; Santa Barbara, Calif.); two silver (Charlottesville, Va.; Decatur, Ga.); and four bronze (Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Wilsonville, Ore.). No honorable mention communities were listed in the press release, but eight communities, including Juneau, were listed as honorable mention on the Walk Friendly Communities’ Community Profile page.

According to Juneau’s Community Profile page, Juneau “is designated as an Honorable Mention community due to impressive accessibility of facilities and excellent management of pedestrian facilities in a geographically constrained environment.” Some of the highlights of Juneau’s application included its ADA transition plan, its non-motorized transportation plan, its comprehensive wayfinding program downtown, and the several historic and themed walking maps available to residents and tourists.

The Walk Friendly Communities program is new and modeled after the Bicycle Friendly Community program from the League of American Bicyclists. The application period for the second round of Walk Friendly Communities opened on May 1 and closes on June 15.

On Saturday, April 30, Juneau found out it earned a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists, joining 20 other communities to receive awards. Juneau — incorrectly listed as the City and County of Juneau, Alaska, on the awards press release instead of City and Borough of Juneau (Alaska does not use the county form of government) — joins Sitka (May 2008) and Anchorage (October 2009) as official Bicycle Friendly Communities in Alaska, all at the bronze level. So far there have been 179 total communities (out of 452 applications) in 44 states to receive Bicycle Friendly Community awards at the platinum, gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention levels.

According to the page about Juneau’s Bicycle Friendly Community application, Juneau was honored for building three bicycle/pedestrian-only bridges last year, including two that create new links in Juneau’s non-motorized transportation system that includes 88 miles of bike lanes and 19 miles of shared-use paths; the adoption of the 2009 Non-Motorized Transportation Plan as part of its Comprehensive Plan to put new pressure on the Alaska Department of Transportation to improve bicycle facilities; the plan to implement a Safe Routes To School program at all Juneau elementary and middle schools; and having city health and wellness staff working with major employers and other groups to hold Traffic Skills 101 classes, bike rodeos and other education programs.

The Bicycle Friendly Community program is part of the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly America campaign that also includes Bicycle Friendly Businesses (Alaska has one gold, one silver, three bronze and one honorable mention winners), Bicycle Friendly Universities and Bicycle Friendly State rankings (Alaska ranked 39th out of 50 in 2010, the most recent state rankings). The deadline for the next round of Bicycle Friendly Community awards is July 22.

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Haines cyclist Heather Lende approaches the British Columbia-Alaska border just north of Haines during the 2002 Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay, a 148-mile relay race from Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, to Haines, Alaska.

Haines cyclist Heather Lende approaches the British Columbia-Alaska border just north of Haines during the 2002 Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay, a 148-mile relay race from Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, to Haines, Alaska.

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.

Scott Damman of Boulder, Colo., wins the sprint for the finish line in the Fort William A. Seward part of Haines to become the first solo rider to win the Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay (in 2003). In the background, Juneau riders Scott Fischer, left, and Dave Bartlett sprinted for second place.

Scott Damman of Boulder, Colo., wins the sprint for the finish line in the Fort William A. Seward part of Haines to become the first solo rider to win the Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay (in 2003). In the background, Juneau riders Scott Fischer, left, and Dave Bartlett sprinted for second place.

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.

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Michael Stanfill assembles a new bicycle on Tuesday, March 15, 2011, for a rental program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Stanfill, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, is working with the program approved by the UAF Office of Sustainability to offer bikes for both short- and long-term rentals starting in April. (Photo by Sam Harrel/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)

Michael Stanfill assembles a new bicycle on Tuesday, March 15, 2011, for a rental program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Stanfill, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, is working with the program approved by the UAF Office of Sustainability to offer bikes for both short- and long-term rentals starting in April. (Photo by Sam Harrel/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Office of Sustainability has approved a new campus bicycle rental program, according to a recent article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The bike rental program is funded through a grant of roughly $10,000 from a campus sustainability fee students pay each semester. The bikes will be available for short- and long-term rentals starting in April through the UAF Outdoor Adventures program.

According to the News-Miner, the bike rental program is part of a larger UAF campus drive to reduce vehicle traffic and auto exhaust emissions. The program funds 20 new entry-level Kona mountain bikes, which will be available to students. The campus also has a stockpile of about 100 used bikes that could become available once they are fixed up.

Fairbanks bicycle designer Simon Rakower told the News-Miner that previous attempts to start a campus bike rental program stalled because they relied on donated used bikes, which sometimes required obscure parts or constant repairs. Starting with a fleet of similar-model new bikes will make this effort more successful, he said.

At this time, the plan is for the program to start after spring break-up and continue through the summer and into the fall. But at this time it’s unclear if the bikes will be available for winter riding, even though Fairbanks has a large winter cycling community. Winterizing the bikes costs a lot of money, and riding on the snow and ice is more than most casual cyclists want to attempt.

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I received a message from Mary Jane Shows, a Legislative Aide for Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer), that HB57 (Alaska Bike Bill) will be up for a hearing in the House Transportation Committee at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 10 Friday, March 11. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The time on this hearing has changed from what previously was published. Please note the change.)

This is the second hearing before that committee, and the bill is early on the agenda so hopefully people won’t have to wait long to testify. The committee will vote on the bill, and if it passes it will move on to the House Finance Committee.

If you want to testify, contact your local Legislative Information Office to find out how to conference call into the hearing. If you have written testimony, ask your LIO staff how to make sure the committee members receive it in time for the hearing.

More information about the bill was posted last month on the Alaska Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance website.

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Congratulations to Anchorage, which made the Bicycling magazine “America’s Best Bike Cities” rankings of the top 50 cities for biking.

Anchorage ranked No. 47, and it is the only city in Alaska large enough to qualify for the rankings, which are open to cities with populations greater than 100,000.

Minneapolis earned the coveted No. 1 spot, and the Pacific Northwest did quite well with three of the top five spots in the rankings. Following Minneapolis were Portland, Ore., at No. 2; Boulder, Colo., at No. 3; Seattle at No. 4 and Eugene, Ore., at No. 5. Rounding out the top 10 were San Francisco; Madison, Wis.; New York City; Tucson, Ariz.; and Chicago. Click the link above for the complete list.

Here is what Bicycling magazine had to say about the rankings:

There are many unspectacular but important things a city can do to gain our consideration for this list. Maybe you’ve heard of them, or maybe — given the pace of change these days — you’ve already begun to enjoy them: segregated bike lanes, municipal bike racks and bike boulevards, to name a few. If you have those things in your town, cyclists probably have the ear of the local government — another key factor. To make our Top 50, a city must also support a vibrant and diverse bike culture. It must have smart, savvy bike shops. A few notes: We considered only cities with populations of 100,000 or more. We strove for geographical diversity, to avoid having a list dominated by California’s many bike-oriented cities. If your town isn’t named below — or if it falls on our worst-cities list — then use this as an opportunity to do something about it, like cyclists in Miami did after their city earned a black mark in 2008. And if your city is one of the 50 lauded below? Go out and enjoy a ride.

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If you happen to be in Anchorage during February, you might want to check out the Winter Bike Festival 2011, hosted by the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage.

This event is highlighted by two events — the Winter City 50K Populaire on Sunday, Feb. 13, and the film festival on Thursday, Feb. 17. There also are other events linked to the Winter Bike Festival, such as a Bike First Friday event on Feb. 4.

The Winter City 50K Populaire is 50 kilometers (31 miles) of riding that covers just about all of Anchorage. Registration begins at 8 a.m. at Cafe Amsterdam (in the Metro Mall across Benson from the Sears Mall), and the non-competitive ride starts at 9 a.m. This is a benefit ride for Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage and there is a $10 registration fee. Cyclists wanting to rent fat bikes (the bikes with extra-wide tires for riding on the snow, such as the Surly Pugsley) can contact Arctic Cycles at 351-8545 to reserve a fat bike rental for $35 (a limited supply of fat bikes is available, so first-come, first-served). The tour includes stops at several coffee shop/checkpoints (including the Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop, The Sugar Spoon, The Cake Studio and New Sagaya City Market) before finishing at Moose’s Tooth. A YouTube video is embedded into this post below to give you a preview of the ride.

The film festival starts at 8 p.m. at the Bear Tooth Theatre Pub, and two films will be shown — “Cycling Copenhagen” and “Bicycle Dreams.” Tickets are $7. “Cycling Copenhagen” shows how Copenhagen, Denmark, has been able to become one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities with more than 50 percent of all commutes being by bike. “Bicycle Dreams” is about the Race Across America (RAAM), a grueling race that has featured several Alaska cyclists over the years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here are links to post-event coverage from KTVA-Channel 11 and the Anchorage Daily News (photo slideshow). Don’t forget, this event was a fundraiser for the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage.

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