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Posts Tagged ‘Juneau’

For the fifth straight year, Washington ranks No. 1 in the Bicycle Friendly State rankings compiled by the League of American Bicyclists. Alaska dropped from No. 29 to No. 33 in this year’s rankings, which were released on May 22 as part of National Bike Month.

Trailing Washington in the rankings were Minnesota, Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Maryland, Maine and Delaware, all states above the Mason-Dixon Line. The bottom five states were Montana at No. 46, Alabama, West Virginia, North Dakota and Arkansas at No. 50. Even though Washington ranked No. 1 for the fifth straight year, the Seattle Bike Blog wrote there are several improvements the state can make to be even friendlier to cyclists. CNN posted this article about the Bicycle Friendly State rankings.

States were ranked using a 1-5 scale (1 is bad, 5 is good) in five categories — legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning. Alaska received a 4 in policies and programs, a 3 in education and encouragement, and a 2 in each of the other three categories.

One of Alaska’s strengths was its bicycle commuter mode share is nearly double the national average (and it’s nearly 10 times the average in Sitka). The top tip for improvement was to adopt a vulnerable user law that includes a minimum safe passing distance and stricter consequences for violations by motor vehicle drivers.

Alaska has made great strides to move up the rankings, where it ranked just 43rd in 2008 and a dismal 47th in 2009. Alaska moved up to 39th in 2010 and 29th in 2011. Since 2008, Alaska has added three Bicycle Friendly Communities — Sitka (2008, bronze, renewed in 2012, bronze), Anchorage (2009, bronze) and Juneau (2011, bronze). Alaska also has added nine Bicycle Friendly Businesses — Anchorage Native Tribal Health Consortium (2009, gold), Southcentral Foundation (2010, silver), Green Star Inc. (2009, bronze), Providence Alaska Medical Center (2010, bronze), REI-Anchorage (2011, bronze) and Alaska Pacific University (2011, honorable mention), SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium-Sitka Campus (2011, bronze), CRW Engineering Group LLC (2012, silver) and Restoration Science and Engineering (2012, honorable mention). Alaska has no universities recognized by the Bicycle Friendly University program.

• 2012 Bicycle Friendly State scorecard for Alaska

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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

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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.

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Last week, the League of American Bicyclists released its annual Bicycle Friendly State rankings as part of National Bike Month celebrations. Here is a USA Today story about state improvements in bicycling, with a sidebar listing the Bicycle Friendly State rankings for 2011.

“The good news is Alaska rose from 39th last year to 29th this year,” Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities bicycle and pedestrian coordinator Bob Laurie wrote in an e-mail. “The bad news is that the League gives Alaska a ‘D’ for its efforts, meaning there is still much work that needs to be done to make bicycling better.”

For the fourth year in a row, Washington leads the rankings. But Maine has moved into the No. 2 spot, followed by Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Jersey to round out the top five. The bottom five states are Montana at No. 46, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota and West Virginia at No. 50.

Alaska has made great strides to move up the rankings, where it ranked just 43rd in 2008 and a dismal 47th in 2009. Since 2008, Alaska has added three Bicycle Friendly CommunitiesSitka (2008, bronze), Anchorage (2009, bronze) and Juneau (2011, bronze). Alaska also has added six Bicycle Friendly BusinessesAnchorage Native Tribal Health Consortium (2009, gold), Southcentral Foundation (2010, silver), Green Star Inc. (2009, bronze), Providence Alaska Medical Center (2010, bronze), REI-Anchorage (2011, bronze) and Alaska Pacific University (2011, honorable mention).

These are great strides, but Alaska still has a long way to go before it really is a true Bicycle Friendly State. Like most of the states in the rankings, Alaska earned a D for its cumulative score in the 95-question survey the League of American Bicyclists gives to state coordinators each year to compile the ranking (which are verified by bicycle advocates). No state earned an A, and only the top six states earned B’s and the next 12 states earned C’s. The bottom 12 states earned F’s.

The survey ranks states in six different categories. Alaska received two F’s in individual categories (Policies and Programs, and Enforcement) and four D’s (Legislation, Infrastructure, Education and Encouragement, and Evaluation and Planning). Last year, Alaska received three F’s, two D’s and a C.

How can Alaska improve its ranking? Getting the Legislature to pass HB 57 (Alaska’s Bike Bill) will help. HB 57 passed the House Transportation Committee and will be in the House Finance Committee when the Legislature reconvenes in January. It needs to pass both the House and Senate next year, then be signed by Gov. Sean Parnell. Other ways  to improve our ranking include passing a three-foot safe passing law (found in 19 states so far), a vulnerable user bill (found in four states so far) and a Complete Streets law (just introduced on a national level).

• 2011 Bicycle Friendly State rankings and grades

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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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May is National Bike Month, and several Alaska communities have planned a variety of events to help celebrate this national event designed to promote and encourage the use of bikes as a regular form of transportation. In addition, National Bike to Work Week is May 16-20, and National Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20, so there will be community rides to celebrate those events, too.

The Municipality of Anchorage kicks off the month with a Bike to Work Festival from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, May 6. This event was a fun way to get people ready for a month of bike commuting. It features bike safety workshops, repair and maintenance, information on local bike clubs, bike rentals and tours, and registration for Bike to Work Day. The awards for the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage “Freeze Your Keys” bike commuting challenge in April also will be presented. These events are a partnership between the Municipality of Anchorage, the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage, Green Star Inc., the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), Southcentral Foundation, Chain Reaction Cycles, REI Anchorage, the Alaska Club, the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services, the Alaska Injury Prevention Center, Off the Chain Bicycle Cooperative and Screamin’ Yeti Designs.

The Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage will be helping several organizations with National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week/Day activities in Anchorage. In addition to helping host the Bike to Work Day Festival on May 6, BCA will host a Bike to Work Day clinic at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, at REI Anchorage to help remind cyclists about the rules of the road and other safety tips, help people find gear and learn how to make their rides more enjoyable. Look for more details in the upcoming events box in the right column of BCA’s website link above.

Fairbanks will be celebrating its third annual Bike to Work Week. This event started when the Fairbanks, North Pole and Fairbanks North Star Borough mayors got together and decided to organize a challenge for bike commuters, encouraging residents to “Burn Calories, Not Gas.” Participants in the Fairbanks area can log their bike trips each day during the week for a chance to win prizes. Details for this year’s challenge still aren’t on the website (other than the date and some partners/sponsors), but you can see information from last year’s event.

In Juneau, the Juneau Freewheelers will host events for National Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day, but details haven’t been posted on the club’s website yet. According to Dan Robinson, one of the organizers, a challenge between local office buildings, branches of government and schools is being organized to see who can get the most trips/miles in for the week. Cycle Alaska will provide simple repairs on Bike to Work Day, and will also hold onto people’s bikes during the day if they don’t have bike parking. Another event is a free movie, “Take a Seat,” about a guy who biked from Prudhoe Bay to South America, after work on May 20 at the Gold Town Nickelodeon Theater. In past years, Juneau has hosted group rides from several locations in to town with a stop for breakfast along the way.

In Sitka, there will be a variety of events during the month (see flier next to this paragraph), including three lunch-and-learn panel discussions at the SEARHC (SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium) S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, Kettleson Memorial Library and Sitka Community Hospital; the Sitka Bike Rodeo for kids at the U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka hangar (co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of Sitka); radio interviews; a National Bike to Work Week contest for bike commuters; capped off with a National Bike to Work Day pancake breakfast at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus.

Also, if other communities are interested in hosting their own events, they should check out the League of American Bicyclists site for National Bike Month. This page includes planning guides, promotional materials, radio/TV PSAs and other helpful items for communities wanting to plan National Bike Month and/or Bike to Work Week/Day events.

Bob Laurie, the Statewide Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, compiled a list of talking points last year with bike safety information and reasons why more people should bike to work or school. That list is posted below as a PDF file. Gov. Sean Parnell also issued a proclamation honoring May as National Bike Month, May 16-20 as National Bike to Work Week and May 20 as National Bike to Work Day.

• National Bike Month Talking Points 2010

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Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer (Juneau Empire photo)

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer (Juneau Empire photo)

Bicycle riders might want to keep an eye on HB 57 (Bicycle Program), a bill filed in the Alaska House of Representatives by Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer) and co-sponsored by Rep. Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage).

The bill, which Rep. Seaton is calling “Alaska’s Bike Bill,” is “an Act authorizing municipalities and non-profit organizations to sponsor a program to encourage the safe use of bicycles as a mode of transportation, and amending the duties of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to include administration of state funds appropriated for that purpose.”

According to Rep. Seaton’s sponsor statement, the bill creates the Safe Bicycle Ridership grant program for municipalities and non-profits, which will provide increased access to bikes so Alaskans have a choice of transportation modes during an unstable economy with high fuel costs. The House Transportation Committee held a hearing about the bill on Thursday, Feb. 10. The bill also has been assigned to the Finance Committee.

If the bill passes, the Department of Transportation will develop regulations establishing criteria for community grant awards so municipalities and non-profits can propose programs to increase bicycle ridership in their communities. Some of the suggested programs include bike-share programs, safety education, voucher systems or other program variations that meet the unique needs of the community. Rep. Seaton filed a similar bill during the last session (HB 132), but this version (HB 57) doesn’t have the path construction and maintenance sections listed in HB 132 because those items are taken care of by other DOT and Parks and Rec programs.

“The Safe Bicycle Ridership program would give government agencies and non-profits the opportunity to apply for grant monies to promote sage bicycle use with the intent of using it as a mode of transportation,” said Mary Jane Shows, a Legislative Aide for Rep. Seaton. “This could be a non-profit wanting to distribute bicycle helmets to kids who ride their bikes to school, or to educate the public about the proper way to ride on the bike routes. Money also could be used for bike racks or covers for bike racks, etc.”

In his sponsor statement, Rep. Seaton highlighted a program in Juneau called “Bikes, Bikes, Bikes Community Program,” which is a bike-loaner partnership between the City and Borough of Juneau and several local non-profit groups. The program offers a healthy learning environment for youth and, in turn, provides free bikes for community members to use around town. The Zach Gordon Youth Center provides a maintenance room where young adults can learn to fix up and take care of the program’s bikes (they all are painted the same color). Members of the community are encouraged to stop by and borrow a bike as a healthy alternative to moving around Juneau.

To learn more about the bill, or to find out how to testify when it next appears in committee, contact Rep. Seaton’s office at 1-800-665-2689.

In addition to Rep. Seaton’s bill, there are several other bills before the Alaska Legislature of interest to cyclists and pedestrians.

SB 37 (Transportation Infrastructure Fund) has been introduced by Sen. Joe Thomas (R-Fairbanks) to endow a $1 billion transportation infrastructure fund that would be supplemented by state fuel taxes, motor vehicle registration fees and other appropriations to the fund. This bill doesn’t specifically mention bicycles, pedestrians or other alternate forms of transportation, but in one section it does promote public transportation.

Finally, there are four different bills in the State House to ban the use of cell phones while driving — HB 22 (Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau), HB 35 (Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage), HB 68 (Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage) and HB 128 (Rep. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage). The first three bills are somewhat similar as they ban the use of cell phones while driving, except in an emergency or when used in a hands-free mode. Rep. Gardner’s bill prohibits the use of cell phones while driving for minors (the other three apply to drivers of all ages).

Of the four bills, Rep. Muñoz’s bill is given the best chance of advancing, and Rep. Doogan and Rep. Gruenberg acknowledge Rep. Muñoz’s bill has an advantage since she’s in the majority party. Rep. Gruenberg said he plans to make a couple of technical changes to Rep. Muñoz’s bill and co-sponsor it. Cell phone bills have been popular in several state legislatures in recent years, especially as more research shows distracted drivers are as dangerous on the road as drunk drivers.

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