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Posts Tagged ‘Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition’

(The following article originally appeared on the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition website, Celebrate Sitka Cycling, on May 14, 2012.)

In 2008, Sitka became the first Alaska community to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community award. On Monday, May 14, Sitka became the first Alaska community to earn a renewal of its Bicycle Friendly Community designation.

With Monday’s national announcement to kick off National Bike to Work Week, Sitka maintained its bronze level designation in the Bicycle Friendly Community program run by the League of American Bicyclists. Sitka now is one of three recognized communities in Alaska (Anchorage earned a BFC designation in 2009 and Juneau in 2011, also at the bronze level). There currently are 214 communities in 47 states with Bicycle Friendly Community designations (at the platinum, gold, silver and bronze levels). Sitka’s award is good for four years, expiring in February 2016.

“Sitka is pleased to once again receive recognition as a Bicycle Friendly Community and the first city in Alaska to be a repeat recipient,” Sitka Mayor Cheryl Westover said. “Thanks to the many Sitkans who actively support bicycling.”

“This is great news and a great time to thank everyone involved in helping us reach this Sitka Health Summit goal,” said Doug Osborne, who coordinates the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition. “Just the other day, I heard a visitor say how neat it was to see all the people in Sitka who are getting around on bikes. I have to agree, because there so many benefits that come from biking and being a bicycle-friendly town. I’m grateful to everyone who helped us get this designation and the positive national attention that comes with it.”

Sitka first applied for the Bicycle Friendly Community program as one of the community health priority projects chosen during the 2007 Sitka Health Summit, and it was the first project completed. The 2011 Sitka Health Summit supported renewing Sitka’s status as a Bicycle Friendly Community. The 2012 Sitka Health Summit takes place on Oct. 3-6 at a variety of locations around Sitka. Over the past five years, the Sitka Health Summit resulted in high-profile projects such as starting the Sitka Farmers Market, expanding community gardens in Sitka, supporting the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, bringing local businesses and insurance companies together to promote employee wellness programs, the Choose Respect mural about domestic violence prevention, planting fruit trees in Sitka and the award-winning Fish to Schools project.

“First and foremost, thanks to the bicycle commuters who are now riding to work at almost 10 times the national average,” Osborne said. “Secondly, thanks to the courteous motorists who are sharing the road. And lastly, thanks to all the groups, workplaces, schools, shops and individuals who have made various contributions over the years.”

In the application feedback form provided by the League of American Bicyclists, Sitka received high marks for its number of regular bike commuters (4.9 percent, nearly 10 times the national average and five times the state average), Sitka’s promotion of National Bike Month events in May, the Share-the-Road and Be Safe Be Seen education campaigns, cycling workshops, the low number of motor vehicle/bicyclist crashes (only eight in five years reported to Sitka Police), and for several unique cycling events. The Sitka campus of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka’s largest employer, earned a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Business designation in September 2011.

“One of the things that impressed our reviewers about Sitka is the one-of-a-kind local biking events, like the Winter Cycling Celebration,” said Bill Nesper, Vice President of Programs for the League of American Bicyclists. “Events like this really help people see that biking is a great way to get around for transportation and recreation all year round.”

In order to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community designation, communities have to complete an application that covers five main focus areas called The Five E’s — Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation/Planning. There are more than 100 questions in the application, asking everything from how many miles of bike lanes to how many schools participate in the Safe Routes To School program. Communities also are asked about their biking or non-motorized transportation plans and how they are meeting their goals.

Monday’s announcement saw 49 communities earn new, improve or maintain current Bicycle Friendly Community designations. The Bicycle Friendly Community program is part of the larger Bicycle Friendly America program that includes Bicycle Friendly State, Bicycle Friendly Business and Bicycle Friendly University designations. In addition to the League of American Bicyclists, the Bicycle Friendly America program is supported by Bikes Belong and Trek Bicycle’s One World Two Wheels Campaign.

“We aren’t surprised that this was the largest number of new and renewing applicants that we’ve ever had,” League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke said. “The popularity of this program is clear evidence that simple steps to make bicycling safe and comfortable pay huge dividends in civic, community and economic development.”

• Feedback for Sitka’s 2012 Bicycle Friendly Community application

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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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One of the problems with being a cyclist or pedestrian in Alaska is we have long, dark winter months. Not only is it dark, which makes cyclists and pedestrians harder to see than they are during the summer, but many Alaska drivers don’t scrape the frost off their windshields the way they should and that also makes it harder to see cyclists and pedestrians.

As part of its pursuit of a Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists, the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition started tracking how many cyclists used headlights and taillights during times of low visibility. During October and November 2008 and again the same months in 2009, several Sitkans completed forms describing what safeguards Sitka cyclists used to “Be Safe, Be Seen,” a local variation of a statewide campaign.

Sitka’s “Be Safe, Be Seen” program also includes an education component with radio PSAs (scroll down for PSAs) to remind cyclists and pedestrians to be visible during the winter. There also were health educators and injury prevention specialists who gave presentations at local schools. In addition, there was an encouragement component where local organizations donated more than $2,000 to by reflective tape and lights to give to local schoolchildren. And the Sitka Police Department increased enforcement of cyclists who used unsafe cycling practices that violate Sitka General Code (see Title 11.64 for pedestrians, 11.68 for bicycles, and 11.70 for Sitka’s youth helmet ordinance) or Alaska Administrative Code (see Title 13, Chapter 2, Sections 150-195 for pedestrians and Sections 385-420 for bicycles)

In 2008, just 32 percent of Sitka cyclists used a white headlight when they rode. This year, 60 percent were using headlights. Last year, 36 percent of Sitka cyclists had a red taillight and this year it was up to 57 percent. The percentage of wrong-way cyclists (those riding on the left, facing traffic) dropped from 11 percent to 6 percent. More details about the surveys can be found in this thank-you letter sent to local media outlets.

“The positive numbers we have seen is a result of using the recommended public health strategy that includes: education, encouragement and enforcement,” said Doug Osborne, a health educator with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and member of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition. “We are very grateful to all the groups and individuals who have helped with one of these three elements.”

While the surveys focused on cyclists, many of the “Be Safe, Be Seen” elements also apply to pedestrians. In good weather, the average driver needs 260 feet in order to come to a complete stop from 60 mph. A person wearing black or blue clothing isn’t seen until 55 feet away, while red is seen from 80 feet away, yellow is seen from 120 feet, white is seen from 200 feet, and someone wearing reflectors is seen from 500 feet away. The person wearing reflectors is the only person who gives a driver time enough to stop. Cyclists and pedestrians are encouraged to use reflective vests, reflective arm or leg bands, put reflective tape on their jackets, wear reflective hats, etc., to make sure they are visible to drivers.

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