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(The following article originally appeared on the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition website, Celebrate Sitka Cycling, on May 2, 2012.)

Bill the Giant, left, Michael Bricker, center, and Tess Olympia Ramsey with their Sitka Pedicabs, a new business launching this week in Sitka.

Bill the Giant, left, Michael Bricker, center, and Tess Olympia Ramsey with their Sitka Pedicabs, a new business launching this week in Sitka.

There are three new cabs in Sitka, but these black-and-green cabs are human-powered. Michael Bricker recently bought three pedicabs and he is launching Sitka Pedicabs this week, just in time for the 2012 summer tourism season.

Michael will pedal one of the three pedicabs himself, and he will lease the other two to Bill the Giant (that’s his legal name, it used to be Bill Payton until a few months ago) and Tess Olympia Ramsey. Michael said the pedicabs will be a good way to help tourists get around, especially when they have limited time off the boat and they have to walk three miles to get to Sitka National Historical Park so they can check out the totems before having to hurry to get back to the dock for their lightering boat. The distance sometimes was too much for elderly tourists.

“I saw the tourists looking around for landmarks, and they’d stop to ask you where they were,” Michael said. “When you let them know how far it was, you could see them kind of give up on being able to get there.”

Michael Bricker, left, Bill the Giant, center, and Tess Olympia Ramsey uncrate one of the new Sitka Pedicabs on April 21, 2012.

Michael Bricker, left, Bill the Giant, center, and Tess Olympia Ramsey uncrate one of the new Sitka Pedicabs on April 21, 2012.

Michael said he, Bill and Tess will charge $2 a block per person, or $15 for a half-hour tour of downtown Sitka. He said the rates are an industry standard found in several other communities. In addition to taking tourists on Sitka’s main downtown area of Lincoln and Katlian streets, the pedicabs will be able to take tourists off-the-beaten-path destinations such as the geodesic house. The pedicabs also will be available to hire for weddings, proms and other special events. He also is selling banner space on the back of the pedicabs to advertise local businesses (one of the spots is reserved for Balanced Practice, the massage and yoga studio owned by Michael’s wife Crystal Oostema).

A former member of the U.S. Coast Guard, Michael now works as a massage therapist and is a judo coach. “The judo keeps me strong enough to do this,” he said.

In addition to having a snap-on water-resistant cover to keep passengers dry, the Sitka Pedicabs also feature working running lights and turn signals that are powered by a 12-volt battery.

In addition to having a snap-on water-resistant cover to keep passengers dry, the Sitka Pedicabs also feature working running lights and turn signals that are powered by a 12-volt battery.

The pedicabs were built by Main Street Pedicabs, which sells several varieties. Each pedicab can hold 2-3 people (depending on their size) and has 21 speeds. They also have water-resistant canvas covers to keep passengers dry during the ride. In addition, they have running lights on the front and back, with working turn signals. Michael has been in Ashland, Ore., taking a two-week bicycle mechanics course from the United Bicycle Institute so he can perform his own maintenance on the pedicabs.

While Michael has been at mechanics school, Bill and Tess have been getting used to the pedicabs. They’re looking forward to the summer.

“It seems like fun,” Bill said. “We’ll be getting exercise and fresh air.”

“We already bike everywhere, so we might as well get paid for it,” Tess said. “We can show off Sitka.”

Michael is building a website, http://www.sitkapedicabs.com/, but it’s not live yet. For now, people can contact him at 752-1025 or sitkapedicabs@gmail.com for more information.

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Alaska has two more Bicycle Friendly Businesses, according to the League of American Bicyclists, which sponsors the awards program. When the awards were announced on April 18, CRW Engineering Group LLC of Anchorage received a silver level award and Restoration Science and Engineering of Anchorage earned an honorable mention.

There were 67 new businesses honored during the Spring 2012 Bicycle Friendly Business awards, ranging from large Fortune 500 companies to small professional offices. Since the program started three years ago, there have been 412 businesses honored with the Bicycle Friendly Business designation. The honor is awarded twice a year (spring and fall) and lasts for four years.

The two new Alaska businesses join six other businesses from Anchorage and one from Sitka to have a Bicycle Friendly Business designation (available at Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze levels, plus Honorable Mention). The other Bicycle Friendly Businesses in Alaska are the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (gold), Southcentral Foundation (silver), Providence Alaska Medical Center (bronze), Green Star Inc. (bronze), REI Anchorage (bronze), SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium/SEARHC-Sitka Campus (bronze) and Alaska Pacific University (honorable mention).

According to a press release from the League of American Bicyclists, bicycle-friendly businesses improve the workplace and contribute to the community and improve their overall earnings. CRW Engineering Group encourages bicycling as an easy option for transportation and organizes group rides for a variety of biking levels and distances, including race, mountain, street and trail.

“CRW Engineering Group is at the forefront of a movement to make American businesses more competitive, sustainable and attractive to the best and brightest employees,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. “An investment in bicycling enhances employee health, increases sustainability and improves the bottom line.”

Moving forward, CRW Engineering Group will have access to a variety of free tools and technical assistance from the League to become even more bicycle-friendly. When our employees bike, everyone gets involved and that supports a fun and healthy work culture.

CRW Engineering Group works on a lot of road and park projects in Anchorage, and it uses its design expertise to make them safer for walkers and bikers. In addition, CRW Engineering also is involved in the Anchorage Park Foundation’s 50 Bike for 50 Kids project and CRW staff participate in Anchorage’s National Bike to Work Day events as the CRW CReWsers.

Restoration Science and Engineering is a smaller firm that also works on some road and trail projects (most of its projects are civil or environmental engineering). Staff have participated in Anchorage’s National Bike to Work Day events. Limited details of the firm’s bike-friendly activities were available. An Honorable Mention award doesn’t carry the same weight as a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze level in the Bicycle Friendly Business program.

To learn more about the Bicycle Friendly Business program, go to http://www.bikeleague.org/businesses/. The BFB program is part of the League of American Bicyclist’s larger Bicycle Friendly America program that also includes the Bicycle Friendly Community, Bicycle Friendly State and Bicycle Friendly University programs. Alaska has three Bicycle Friendly Communities — Sitka, Anchorage and Juneau.

• Spring 2012 award list of Bicycle Friendly Business winners

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.”

The League of American Bicyclists on Thursday announced that the Sitka campus of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) has been awarded a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Business award.

SEARHC is the only Alaska organization among the 111 businesses nationwide to earn an award during the Fall 2011 cycle. SEARHC joins six other businesses from Anchorage that earned Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) awards over the past two years — the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (gold), Southcentral Foundation (silver), Providence Alaska Medical Center (bronze), Green Star Inc. (bronze), REI Anchorage (bronze) and Alaska Pacific University (honorable mention). Since the BFB program started two years ago, 344 organizations in 40 states have been honored for making their businesses more bike friendly for employees and customers. These organizations come from a wide range of industries, such as health care, manufacturing and government.

“We are happy to recognize SEARHC’s Sitka campus for its investment in bicycling as a vehicle for improved employee health, social responsibility and economic growth,” League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke said. “Some of the most successful companies in the world are showing that investing in bicycling is not only good for health and sustainability but also for the bottom line.”

The Bicycle Friendly Business program provides a free roadmap for businesses wanting to make their organizations more friendly to bikes. Businesses have to complete a lengthy application that includes information about the number of bike commuters, facilities available for them (such as racks, showers and lockers), education programs and ways the business connects with the local bicycle community. The SEARHC Sitka campus took an active role in Sitka’s 2008 application to become the first Bicycle Friendly Community in Alaska. SEARHC also promotes healthy and safe cycling to its employees and the community through its health promotion, injury prevention and employee wellness programs. The Bike Users Group (BUG) at SEARHC on Tuesday, Sept. 13, launched a new Bicycle Ambassadors program that will help mentor novice bike riders and provide role models for other cyclists.

“As a health organization, it is important that we walk, or in this case bike, the talk,” SEARHC President/CEO Roald Helgesen said. “This award is a good way to demonstrate how small lifestyle changes can lead to better health, and it recognizes the work our employees who are role-modeling these healthy lifestyle changes.”

“Bicycling to and from work is a great way to build some heart-healthy physical activity into the schedule,” said SEARHC Health Educator Doug Osborne, who serves as bike coordinator for the employee wellness team. “Many people like commuter cycling because it’s a knee-friendly/low-impact workout, plus it’s fun. In Sitka we are lucky because things are close together, the vast majority of our motorists are courteous to cyclists, and, with the right gear, it’s possible to safely ride year round.”

Winners of the Bicycle Friendly Business award are allowed to use the designation for the next two years. To learn more about the BFB program, go to http://www.bikeleague.org/businesses/. The BFB program is part of the League of American Bicyclist’s larger Bicycle Friendly America program that also includes the Bicycle Friendly Community, Bicycle Friendly State and Bicycle Friendly University programs. Alaska has three Bicycle Friendly Communities — Sitka, Anchorage and Juneau.

The Municipality of Anchorage will close a mile-long section of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail starting Monday, Aug. 1, so it can begin making the first significant repairs to the trail since it was built back in the 1980s. The closure is expected to last about a week.

The trail will be closed from Milepost 4.1 to 5.1, a section of trail that starts at Point Woronzof near the end of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport runways, wraps around the Anchorage Waste Water Utility sewage treatment plant, then continues along the bluffs toward Kincaid Park. Due to the remote location of the repairs and proximity to the airport, there will be no detours and cyclists, hikers and other trail users are encouraged to find other routes during the closure.

The trail is being closed so it can be leveled and resurfaced, since several large “alligator cracks” have developed which can be dangerous to users. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the repairs will cost about $80,000 and will be funded by the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department’s regular budget. This launches a multi-year project to rehabilitate the entire Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

• Municipality of Anchorage press release about the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail repairs

• Municipality of Anchorage flier/map about the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail repairs

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) is one of 12 U.S. Senators who have signed on to co-sponsor the Complete Streets Act of 2011, which was sponsored May 24 by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). The bill was read twice on May 24 and referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The Complete Streets Act of 2011, aka S.1056, is “a bill to ensure that all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, children, older individuals, and individuals with disabilities, are able to travel safely and conveniently on and across federally funded streets and highways.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

Sen. Harkin introduced similar legislation in 2007 and 2009. This time the introduction comes in the wake of the release of a new safety report, Dangerous by Design 2011, which finds that 67 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the last 10 years took place on federal-aid roads. Children, older adults, and minorities are especially at risk. The report notes that from 2000 through 2009, more than 47,700 pedestrians and thousands of bicyclists were killed in road accidents.

“In many places across the country, there is a complete lack of sidewalks and bike lanes. This not only makes our roadways more dangerous for pedestrians, it discourages people from being more active by walking or riding a bike,” Sen. Harkin said. “The legislation I am introducing today aims to address this issue by making streets safer for everyone and promoting healthier living. It is truly a double win for our communities.”

The Complete Streets Act of 2011 creates a national standard as 25 states and more than 200 communities in the U.S. have adopted Complete Streets policies. The National Complete Streets Coalition and many other public interest organizations support the legislation.

In addition to Sen. Begich, the Complete Streets Act of 2011 is co-sponsored by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).

This bill comes three weeks after Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.)  introduced the similar Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011 (H.R. 1780) into the U.S. House of Representatives, co-sponsored by Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio). That bill has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The Adventure Cycling Association and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) added six new routes, including four in Alaska, to the U.S. Bicycle Route System earlier this month. These are the first official new routes added to the system since 1982.

Alaska submitted its original application to AASHTO last fall, but route numbers for the state hadn’t been developed yet by the Task Force on U.S. Bicycle Routes. In the weeks leading up to the AASHTO spring meeting on May 2, the task force worked with the State of Alaska on the numbering system that was accepted and endorsed by the committee.

“We are excited to be able to promote bicycle tourism in the state of Alaska,” said Bob Laurie, a transportation planner and the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. “We have fabulous vistas and low-traffic highways that beg exploration. Connecting to Washington State via the ferry system and collaborating with Canada is next on our list.”

The Alaska Highway — from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, through Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, through Delta Junction and terminating in Fairbanks — has been designated USBR 8, which comes with two alternate routes. An alternate route from Tok to Anchorage along the Glenn Highway has been designated USBR 108. The Haines Highway from Whitehorse through Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, ending in Haines, Alaska, was designated as alternate USBR 208. The Alaska Highway unofficially is part of the Pan-American Highway, which extends south to Argentina.

USBR 95 is the Richardson Highway from Delta Junction to Valdez, where the route connects to Washington via the Alaska Marine Highway System.

USBR 97 follows the Parks and Seward Highways from Fairbanks through Anchorage to Seward. This route picks up the entrance to Denali National Park.

USBR 87 is from Whitehorse to Skagway, home of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. This route also connects to Washington via the Alaska Marine Highway System.

In addition to the four routes in Alaska, the other two new routes added to the system were USBR 1 in Maine and New Hampshire, and USBR 20 in Michigan. When complete, the U.S. Bicycle Route System will be the largest official bike route network on the planet, encompassing more than 50,000 miles of routes.