Posts Tagged ‘bike helmets’

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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Mt. Edgecumbe High School sophomore Nelson Kanuk, who is from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta village of Kipnuk, checks out a bike from the boarding school's bike program so he can run errands in Sitka. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Edgecumbe High School bike program)

Mt. Edgecumbe High School sophomore Nelson Kanuk, who is from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta village of Kipnuk, checks out a bike from the boarding school's bike program so he can run errands in Sitka. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Edgecumbe High School bike program)

Students at Mt. Edgecumbe High School sometimes can feel trapped at the school. A new bike check-out program is giving those students a chance to have a little bit of freedom as they head to downtown Sitka.

For those who haven’t been to Sitka before, a little explaining is in order. Mt. Edgecumbe High School is a state-run boarding school and most of the 400-430 students are from small villages around the state. They come to Sitka to have access to classes they might not be able to get at home.

The Mt. Edgecumbe High School campus is located on Japonski Island, across the O’Connell Bridge from Sitka on Baranof Island. It’s not really that far, about a mile or two, but sometimes that can be a little too far to walk, especially if you have to be back in the dorms by a certain time.

Anyway, the school had several older bikes that had been collected over the years. But they were in poor repair and many of them weren’t safe to ride. Mt. Edgecumbe High School partnered with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Health Promotion and Injury Prevention programs and with Island Fever Diving and Adventures/Sitka Bike and Hike to get the bikes fixed up and safe for students to check out.

“We currently have 15 bikes that can be checked out during the students’ town leave times (4:10-5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 1-5 p.m. on Saturday/Sundays),” said Emily Buck, a dorm recreation assistant for the school. “All of the bikes are now equipped with the proper safety equipment, thanks to a partnering between Mt. Edgecumbe, SEARHC and Island Fever Diving and Adventure. The bikes are equipped with rear-view mirrors, front lights, back lights and reflectors. Island Fever also donated many more helmets to add to our collection.”

Island Fever Diving and Adventures, which also operates the Sitka Bike and Hike company that provides bike tours, repairs and sales, performed maintenance and safety checks on all the bikes. SEARHC Health Educator Doug Osborne, a League Certified Instructor by the League of American Bicyclists and a key member of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition that helped Sitka become Alaska’s first official Bicycle Friendly Community,  gives bike safety instruction to the students. SEARHC is the tribal health organization for the region and it operates the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Student Health Center as one of its clinics. Osborne said he was happy to partner on this project because it gave SEARHC a chance to promote healthy physical activity and injury prevention to the students.

“Before the students are able to check out the bikes, they have to attend a bike safety class,” Buck said. “Doug Osborne led the first class, going over the rules of the road that every biker should follow and giving tips to maximize one’s safety while biking. After the students obtain this knowledge, they are free to check out the bikes. Many students have taken advantage of this opportunity and are enjoying getting around Sitka at a much faster pace than walking. And it’s a much cheaper option than taking a cab.”

Even though the weather is getting somewhat nasty as winter approaches, the students still were checking out the bikes in November. Because Mt. Edgecumbe High School is a boarding school, classes run later in the day than they do at Sitka High School across town, and Mt. Edgecumbe High School sometimes has Saturday classes. Many of the stores in Sitka close by 5-5:30 p.m. on weekdays, earlier on the weekend.

“I have a really tight schedule every week, but having a bike to check out gives me the opportunity to go to town and back very quickly,” said sophomore Nelson Kanuk, who came to Sitka from the tiny Yup’ik Eskimo village of Kipnuk in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of Southwest Alaska.

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If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember walking or biking to school every day. As recently as 1969, more than half of all U.S. students walked or biked to get to school each morning. Now that percentage is less than 15 percent, and in some areas of the country it is against local laws or school district policies (students have to take the bus or be driven to school by their parents).

That’s why today, Wednesday, Oct. 6, is so important. Today is International Walk (or Bike) to School Day, and schools all over Alaska, the United States and in the rest of the world are promoting students walking or biking to school.

Local schools will hold a variety of promotions, including walking school buses (where students walk to school together with parents as a group), bike trains and the like. In addition to presentations on biking and walking safety, schools will distribute reflectives and other safety equipment. They also might offer door prizes to students who walk or bike to school, or there might be a special breakfast or lunch. Parents can get involved by participating in walkability studies around their local schools to see what barriers and safety issues need to be addressed to get more students walking or biking.

Why is it so important to get kids walking and biking to school again? For one, there has been a sharp rise in childhood obesity and that has resulted in more cases of Type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes) appearing in teenagers and even young children. Besides helping improve our children’s health, getting them walking and biking helps them reconnect to our communities and the land. There also is improved air quality, since fewer students rely on the bus or cars to get to school, and routes to school tend to be safer when more students walk or bike to school. One of the biggest issues is changing the culture to promote walking and biking to school, and according to this article in Grist, that starts with the parents.

The International Walk (or Bike) To School Day site for the U.S. lists schools in Anchorage, Wasilla, Cordova, Seward and Tok as places in Alaska with events scheduled today, and there are many more events that aren’t posted on the site. Some events are tied in with education projects, such as one as Anchorage’s Kasuun Elementary School called “Exercise your right to read,” where students are trying to walk/bike 26 miles over a period of time and read 26 minutes a day. There also is a statewide School Health and Wellness Institute meeting in Anchorage today, and many of the state’s injury prevention and health promotion workers at the event will go to Scenic Park Elementary School to assist with its program today.

Since today is International Walk (or Bike) to School Day, people may wonder if it’s too late to stage an event. In many communities, they are making this a year-long event and not linking it to just one day. The CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program has the Kids Walk To School campaign, which includes many of the concepts of International Walk (or Bike) to School Day.

The Safe Routes To School program, which has statewide and national initiatives, promotes International Walk (or Bike) to School Day in Alaska, and it also promotes community design to make walking and biking a year-long event. The program offers tools for parents who want to make their children’s routes to school safer, and it also offers grants to help them promote safe walking and biking to school.

Another good resource is the Safe Kids USA program’s “Safe Kids Walk This Way” initiative, which focuses on injury prevention. The WalkScore.com site is a good resource for checking out the walkability of your neighborhood.

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Congratulations to the Southcentral Foundation and the Providence Alaska Medical Center, which became Alaska’s third and fourth businesses to win a Bicycle Friendly Business Award from the League of American Bicyclists. Southcentral Foundation, a regional tribal health organization based in Anchorage, won a silver level Bicycle Friendly Business Award when the Fall 2010 winners were announced on Thursday, Sept. 23, at the Interbike Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nev. Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, was awarded a bronze level award.

“Bicycle Friendly Businesses are innovative businesses that demonstrate their commitment to encouraging healthy lifestyles, creating more affordable transportation, and leading the way in sustainable business practices and environmental stewardship,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. Since the BFB program started in 2008, there have been 196 businesses in 31 states to win the award.

The Bicycle Friendly Business awards program is part of the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly America program, which also includes the Bicycle Friendly Community, Bicycle Friendly State and starting this fall a new Bicycle Friendly University program. The Bicycle Friendly America programs are designed to help promote cycling in the United States through education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement and evaluation (aka, the Five E’s).

Southcentral Foundation (SCF) has adopted several innovations to get its employees biking to work. SCF recently built a locking cage at a campus parking garage so employees can store their bikes while they work. SCF also built biking to work into its annual employee wellness plan, and employees who participate in National Bike to Work Day are treated to breakfast, a bike blessing, complimentary massages, a live band, pizza party and games for the family after work. The number of employees participating in National Bike to Work Day has increased 75 percent since 2008, and more than 15 percent of employees now ride their bikes to work during the summer months.

“Southcentral Foundation is making simple changes to their transportation policies to encourage biking to work,” Clarke said. “They are setting a community-wide example.”

Specific details were not available for Providence Alaska Medical Center’s award, but the health organization has been active in many bicycle activities such as Anchorage’s community celebration of National Bike to Work Day. Providence also serves as the lead agency for the Safe Kids Alaska childhood injury prevention program that supplies bike helmets to the Municipality of Anchorage to distribute to children whose families can’t afford one (Anchorage has a bike helmet ordinance for kids).

In Fall 2009, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC, which shares a campus with SCF) won a gold level award and Green Star Inc. won a bronze level award to become Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Businesses. Alaska also has two Bicycle Friendly Community award-winners — Sitka in Spring 2008 and Anchorage in Fall 2009. In the 2010 state ranking list for the Bicycle Friendly States program, Alaska was 39th out of the 50 states.

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A cyclist wears a t-shirt reminding motorists that cyclists are traffic during the Sitka Community Bike Ride in August 2007

A cyclist wears a t-shirt reminding motorists that cyclists are traffic during the Sitka Community Bike Ride in August 2007

Over the years, one of the biggest battles for cyclists has been becoming accepted as a legitimate part of traffic in a car-centric world. Cyclists have made several gains in their efforts to become more accepted in city, state and federal transportation plans, but there still is a long way to go.

That’s why this recent news story from KFSK-FM public radio in Petersburg was disheartening (click link for audio). Petersburg police are asking bike riders to obey traffic signs, follow the rules of the road and be more careful around pedestrians and motorists this summer. The department and the city’s public safety advisory board have both been fielding complaints about bikers riding on sidewalks and on the wrong side of the road, among other problems. KFSK news reporter Joe Viechnicki rode his bike down to the police department Monday (June 24), crashing once along the way, and spoke to acting chief Jim Agner about bike safety.

Cyclists round a corner during the Sitka Community Bike Ride in August 2007.

Cyclists round a corner during the Sitka Community Bike Ride in August 2007.

These concerns about cyclists obeying the rules of the road aren’t limited to Petersburg. Even in Sitka, Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Community, there have been education efforts designed to remind cyclists to ride on the right side of the road, obey stop signs, stay off of sidewalks and follow other basic safety rules. The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition’s education campaign included a two-sided flier (see two PDF files posted below) inserted into the Daily Sitka Sentinel reminding people there are Rules of the Road for Motorists (one side) and Rules of the Road for Cyclists (other side). There also were radio PSAs broadcast on Sitka stations KCAW-FM and KIFW-AM (scroll down on link for audio clips). The Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage is another organization that has launched a safety campaign that includes safety courses for commuters.

Just as we ask for motorists to respect our rights to ride our bikes in the road, we also must respect motorized traffic by riding in a safe, sensible manner. This includes knowing the local and state laws regarding cycling (see attached PDF), which may include local helmet laws for children in some communities (Sitka, Juneau, Bethel, Kenai and Anchorage are some of the communities with helmet laws).

You may ask why it is important for cyclists to respect the rules of the road. Well, even though there have been gains in cycling becoming a more accepted form of transportation, there also has been some backlash against cyclists in other communities. For example, recently a couple of mining communities in Colorado (including Black Hawk) banned cycling on city streets. Then there’s St. Charles County, Mo., which is debating a similar ban on bikes using state highways in its part of the state. We can’t expect cyclists to be respected on the roads unless we also respect the rights of motorized vehicles.

• Sitka’s Rules of the Road for Motorists flier

• Sitka’s Rules of the Road for Bicyclists flier

• Alaska Bike Laws flier (last updated in 2003, but reviewed for accuracy in 2010)

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If you’re looking for something to do tonight in Anchorage, the Anchorage Assembly is scheduled to hold a public hearing and possibly vote on passing the Anchorage Bicycle Plan. This is Agenda Item 13-C (supporting material is available on the link). There is a business meeting starting at 5 p.m., and appearance requests should start about 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, at the Anchorage Assembly Chambers at the L.J. Loussac Library. This is a continuation of the discussion that took place during the March 2 meeting, and video from that meeting can be found here.

The Anchorage Daily News this week ran an excellent story by Lisa Demer detailing some of the benefits of the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, such as better trails, better plowing, better health, etc. The article also has good links to a plowing plan for bike paths and sidewalks in Boulder, Colo., as well as info about biking in Minneapolis, two of the more bike-friendly winter cities in the country. The Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage advocacy group also has a wrap-up of the article, as well as links to more information about the plan on its Web site, including a series of talking points for people who testify. If you do attend the meeting, you are encouraged to bring your bike helmet to show your support for the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, even if you don’t plan on testifying. If you can’t attend, the meeting is televised on Channel 10 in Anchorage.

Here is an e-mail Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage President Brian Litmans sent to bike plan supporters on Monday:

Hey, bike enthusiasts,

A last-minute reminder that tomorrow evening (March 23), at Loussac library, the Anchorage Assembly will continue the public hearing on the Anchorage Bike Plan. Many bicyclists came out on March 2nd, to testify about why the Bike Plan is important to them. We hope we again get large numbers of bicyclists out to the Assembly meeting to let the Mayor and the Assembly know how important this Plan is to the Anchorage bicycle community. Even if you don’t testify, it is important to come out and show the Assembly, just by our large presence, that many people support the Plan and want a more bicycle-friendly city.

Implementation of the Plan will lead to more bicyclists, which means less cars, which in turn means less congestion and better air quality. It also means that more Anchorage citizens are leading active healthy lives, which is good for themselves and for the city as a whole.

So we hope to see you at Loussac library tomorrow night. The Assembly is saying that they should get to the Bike Plan sometime after 6 p.m. For those on tight schedules, this go-around, BCA will attempt to blog live from the Assembly through our website and our Facebook page. We will try to let everyone know when in the evening the Bike Plan will be heard. So you can follow along from home and come on down when we know when the Assembly will get to the Plan.

You can find a link to our Facebook page on our website

Also, for those that missed it, the ADN ran a great story on the Bike Plan yesterday.


And you can find talking points, as well as copies of the Bike Plan here:


Looking forward to seeing lots of bicyclists tomorrow night ~ Brian

Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage

Anchorage Bicycle Plan-Public Hearing Draft 08-09

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The Anchorage Bicycle Plan comes up for a public hearing in front of the Anchorage Assembly at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2, at the Anchorage Assembly Chambers at Z.J. Loussac Library.

Longtime Anchorage community trails activist Lanie Fleischer wrote an excellent opinion piece about the Anchorage Bicycle Plan in last week’s Anchorage Daily News. Brian Litmans of Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage and Municipality of Anchorage non-motorized transportation plan coordinator Lori Schanche were guests last week on KSKA-FM’s “Hometown, Alaska” show where they discussed the plan with host Kathleen McCoy.

The Anchorage Bicycle Plan deals with improving bicycle facilities, bike paths, trails, bike racks, safety and other aspects of biking around Anchorage. The Municipality of Anchorage was named Alaska’s second Bicycle Friendly Community (behind Sitka) by the League of American Bicyclists in October 2009, but the plan will make Anchorage more bicycle-friendly.

It’s not part of the bike plan, but one area of concern is a Municipal Traffic Department Title IX rewrite being done by the Anchorage Police Department. This rewrite reverses current code and requires bicycles other non-motorized users to yield to cars at all intersections. Thomas Pease wrote a nice editorial in the Anchorage Press about how this will have a negative impact on cyclists. This rewrite goes against the principles of the plan.

So far several of the local community councils in Anchorage have come out in support of the plan and passed resolutions to show it. So have many local bicycle clubs, such as the Arctic Bicycle Club. Most Assembly members and the mayor also appear to support the plan. If you do show up to the Assembly meeting to show your support, please bring your helmet so the Assembly can see how many bikers are in favor of the plan.

By the way, Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage is hosting the Anchorage Winter Bicycle Festival and Fundraiser from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the BP Energy Center. If the Anchorage Bicycle Plan passes on Tuesday, Saturday night’s event could make for a nice celebration.

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