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YoungCyclistAndDirectionalArrow

Alaska state law requires cyclists to ride on the right side of the street, with traffic. But to watch some Sitka cyclists, they don’t seem to care even though they can be stopped and ticketed by the police for wrong-way riding.

Recently, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities painted a few directional arrows in the bike lanes of Halibut Point Road to help remind cyclists to ride on the right.

The reason cyclists are required to ride with traffic in the far right lane (unless pulling into a turn lane) is because riding with traffic is safer than riding against it. Even though you might think you’re safer riding against traffic because you can see opposing traffic, you really are increasing your risk. When you hit a car head-on, your impact is more likely to cause injuries or death than when a car hits you from behind (and you can absorb some of the blow because you’re traveling in the same direction).

This study of car-bike collisions from Northern California is a bit old (1990s, see Table 4), but it shows cyclists riding against traffic had a higher risk factor of 3.6 times those riding with traffic.

According to the study, “Table 4 shows that all categories of bicy­clists traveling against the direction of traffic flow are at greatly increased risk for accidents — on average 3.6 times the risk of those traveling with traffic, and as high as 6.6 times for those 17 and under. This result is readily explained: because motorists normally scan for traffic trav­eling in the lawful direction, wrong-way traffic is easily overlooked. To give only a single example, a motorist turning right at an intersec­tion scans to the left for approaching traffic on the new road, and cannot see or anticipate a fast-moving wrong-way bicyclist approaching from the right. (This is one of the most common types of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions in Palo Alto.)

“This finding provides compelling justifica­tion for current traffic law, which requires bicy­clists on the roadway everywhere in the United States to travel in the same direction as other traffic. It also implies that vigorous enforcement of this law, for both adults and children, can substantially reduce the number of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions, and should receive high priority in any bicycle program.”

Doug Osborne, left, and Charles Bingham of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition hold Sitka's new Bicycle Friendly Community sign and certificate letter. The League of American Bicyclists announced on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, that Sitka is now a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community after winning the Bronze level award in 2008 and 2012. (Photo by Ken Sprague)

Doug Osborne, left, and Charles Bingham of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition hold Sitka’s new Bicycle Friendly Community sign and certificate letter. The League of American Bicyclists announced on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, that Sitka is now a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community after winning the Bronze level award in 2008 and 2012. (Photo by Ken Sprague)

BFC_Silver_Seal_2016Sitka is moving up. After winning two Bronze-level designations in the Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) program in 2008 and 2012, the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) announced on Wednesday, May 18, that Sitka is now at the Silver level for the next four years.

With the announcement of 34 new and renewing BFCs Wednesday, Sitka is one of 372 communities in all 50 states to hold a Bicycle Friendly Community designation. Of those 372 communities, there are zero at the Diamond level (the highest), five at the Platinum level, 25 at the Gold level, 73 at the Silver level, and 269 at the Bronze level.

Sitka was Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Community in 2008, and the first to repeat in 2012. Since then, Anchorage (Bronze level 2009, Silver 2013) and Juneau (Bronze level 20011, Bronze level 2015) have joined the ranks of Bicycle Friendly Communities. According to the League of American Bicyclists, the BFC award recognizes Sitka’s commitment to improving conditions for bicycling through investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell, right front, prepares to lead cyclists in the 2015 Sitka Community Bike Ride

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell, right front, prepares to lead cyclists in the 2015 Sitka Community Bike Ride and Picnic

“We applaud these communities for making bicycling a safe and convenient option for transportation and recreation,” said Bill Nesper, Vice President of Programs at the League of American Bicyclists. “We are encouraged by the growing number of leaders who see bicycling as a way to build more vibrant, healthy, sustainable and connected communities and be a part of the solution to many complex challenges faced at both the community and national levels. We look forward to continuing to work with these communities as we move closer to our mission of creating a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.”

“Sitka moving from the Bronze level to Silver shows that cycling is an important part of our community for many Sitkans,” Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell said. “Initiatives have occurred in recent years that are focused on bicyclists, such as raising awareness of bicycle safety, and providing wide bike lanes on a repaved street.”

Becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community was one of the community wellness initiatives from the first Sitka Health Summit in October 2007. At the summit, Sitkans said they wanted to become friendlier to bikers and walkers in town, and residents started gathering information for our first application in 2008. A few years later, a Walk Friendly Communities program (modeled after the BFC program) was initiated and in 2013 Sitka became the first Alaska community to win a Bronze level award. Juneau has an honorable mention WFC designation.

When Sitka first applied for a BFC designation in 2008, it led the state (for communities larger than 600 people) with 2.87 percent commuting to work by bike, according to the American Community Survey compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. By the time Sitka sent in its second renewal application in February 2016, Sitka had nearly doubled its bike commuting percentage to 5.42 percent. That’s nearly 10 times the percentage of bike commuters nationwide (0.6 percent), and five times the Alaska average of 1.1 percent.

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Cyclists pose for a group photo after Sitka’s first family friendly Kidical Mass ride in August 2015.

“Your application really painted a great picture of the improvements made in Sitka since its last application,” said Ken McLeod, State and Local Policy Manager for LAB. “Sitka was on the border of earning a Silver in its Spring 2012 application due to the high percentage of people biking to work, strong youth education programs, and a diversity of initiatives that pointed toward a shared community investment in creating a great place to ride a bike.

“In Sitka’s most recent application we saw that all of the great things that were in place in 2012 had been expanded upon. In particular, we were happy to see that bicycle facilities expanded with an additional 10 miles of on‐street bike facilities and seven more miles of off‐street paths. It also was great to hear that there was a noticeable culture shift so that motorists were more accommodating and considerate to bicyclists, thanks to the sustained high levels of bicycling in Sitka. This culture change may have been reinforced by an expansion of community bike activities, including the creation of a Bicycle Advisory Committee — a key feedback point from the 2012 application — and the creation of the Sitka Community Bike Ride and Potluck (in 2015), which included the Mayor as its lead rider. While Sitka is a unique community given its location and weather, we see it as a great example of the power of low‐stress streets and the ability of any community to become a great place to ride.”

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Bike mechanic Bill The Giant works on a bike before the Sitka Community Bike Ride and Picnic in May 2015.

Sitka has a unique bicycle culture compared to many noted bike communities. While Sitka has had a few cyclists do well in state and national races, there isn’t much of a racing community in Sitka like there is in other cities. You rarely see the Spandex-clad bicycle racers in Sitka. Instead, most Sitka cyclists are biking to work or school, to run errands or just to have fun, frequently wearing rain gear or using studded tires in the winter. In recent years Sitka has hosted bike safety camps for youth riders, held a campaign to get bicyclists and walkers to be more visible when they ride (note all the traffic yellow jackets or reflective tape people now wear), and increased the number of cycling events such as hosting the Sitka Community Bike Ride in May, a Kidical Mass family friendly ride in August, and on the International Winter Bike To Work/School Day in February.

“This is a great accomplishment for our town and so many people have played a role in helping us to advance,” said Doug Osborne, co-coordinator of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition. “A big thanks to all the courteous cyclists who share the road, all the drivers who drive free of distractions, all the cyclists who model safe practices such as riding with traffic, and finally all the organizations that provide accommodations for bikes and places for people to ride.”

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Sitka cyclist Stan Schoening rides his bike to KCAW for his radio show on International Bike To Work Day in February 2016.

This week (May 16-20) is National Bike To Work Week, and Friday, May 20, is National Bike To Work Day. Sitka cyclists who commute to work or school can enter for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate from the Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop or a $50 massage from Oceanside Physical Therapy by filling out tickets each time they ride at Yellow Jersey. The winning tickets will be drawn at the Julie Hughes Triathlon on Saturday, May 21, at Blatchley Middle School.

On National Bike To Work Day on Friday, cyclists who show their bike helmets between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. will receive a 15-percent discount on lunch at the Larkspur Café. The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet at noon on Friday at the Larkspur to finalize plans for the Sitka Community Bike Ride on Saturday, May 28, when we will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the first bike seen in Sitka (on May 28, 1891). People should meet at 10 a.m. on May 28 for bike checks and maintenance, helmet fittings and a variety of contests such as oldest bike, most unique bike or most visible bike. At 11 a.m. on May 28 we will have a group ride through downtown Sitka.

For more information about the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition and the Bicycle Friendly Community award, go to https://sitkacycling.wordpress.com/, or contact Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or Charles Bingham at 623-7660.

• Bicycle Friendly Community report card for Sitka, Spring 2016

Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition member Aaron Prussian helps hang a National Bike Month banner on Thursday, May 12, on the fence around the tennis courts above Crescent Harbor. May is National Bike Month, with May 16-20 being National Bike To Work Week and Friday, May 20, is National Bike to Work Day.

Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition member Aaron Prussian helps hang a National Bike Month banner on Thursday, May 12, on the fence around the tennis courts above Crescent Harbor. May is National Bike Month, with May 16-20 being National Bike To Work Week and Friday, May 20, is National Bike to Work Day. (Photo by Doug Osborne)

National Bike To Work Week is May 16-20, and Sitka residents are encouraged to get on their bikes and ride this week. Also, Friday, May 20, is National Bike To Work Day.

Forty percent of people have commutes of less than two miles, which makes cycling to work about as time-consuming as driving. Not only is biking to work healthy, but it reduces pollution in the environment. Commuting by bike also is a great way to jump-start your day with a short workout.

bike_month_8.5x11This year, those cyclists who ride their bike to work, school or on errands during National Bike To Work Week can fill out tickets at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop for a chance to win a couple of prizes. There is a $100 gift certificate from Yellow Jersey and a $50 massage certificate from Oceanside Physical Therapy as the top prizes, with other prizes possible. The prize drawing will be at the Julie Hughes Triathlon on May 21. You fill in one ticket for each trip to work by bike.

On National Bike To Work Day on Friday, May 20, those cyclists who show their helmets at the Larkspur Café from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. will receive a 15-percent discount on their lunch. Larkspur Café owner Grace Roller said the daily special will be called The Spokes-man, which probably will be a veggie burger “with goat cheese, olives, red onion, spinach, and maybe sun-dried tomato spread or pesto aioli.”

SitkaCommunityBikeRideFlierIn addition, the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet at noon on Friday, May 20, at the Larkspur Café to finalize plans for the Sitka Community Bike Ride. The Sitka Community Bike Ride takes place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 28, with a ride through downtown Sitka to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the first bike seen in Sitka (on May 28, 1891). We will meet at 10 a.m. at Totem Square, where there will be bike mechanics doing minor maintenance (checking tires, oiling chains, adjusting seats, etc.), people fitting bike helmets, and a variety of contests (such as oldest bike, most visible bike, most unique bike, etc.).

We also will have an update later this week on the results of Sitka’s Bicycle Friendly Community renewal application, which was submitted in February. We were Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Community in 2008, and the first to renew in 2012, earning a bronze award  both time. We are hoping to upgrade our status from bronze to silver or gold.

For more information, contact Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or Charles Bingham at 623-7660.

Volunteer bicycle mechanic Bill The Giant, left, adjusts the seat height of a bicycle owned by Ayla Ferguson, 4, kneeling at right, Saturday afternoon during the annual Bike Rodeo at Air Station Sitka. The event was hosted by Rotary Club of Sitka, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, Sitka Community Hospital, SEARHC and the Sitka Police Department. May is National Bike Month. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Volunteer bicycle mechanic Bill The Giant (his legal name), left, adjusts the seat height of a bicycle owned by Ayla Ferguson, 4, kneeling at right, Saturday afternoon during the annual Sitka Bike Rodeo at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka hangar. The event was hosted by Rotary Club of Sitka, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, Sitka Community Hospital, SEARHC and the Sitka Police Department. May is National Bike Month, and there are a variety of bicycle-oriented events in Sitka this month. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson)

Jesse Hanson locks up his bicycle at Blatchley Middle School today (Wednesday, May 4), National Bike to School Day. May is National Bike Month and there are a number of bicycling events planned for the month. The annual Sitka Bike Rodeo takes place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 7, at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka hangar. The event is free and open to the public, especially kids younger than 12.

Jesse Hanson locks up his bicycle at Blatchley Middle School today (Wednesday, May 4), which is National Bike to School Day. May is National Bike Month and there are a number of bicycling events planned for the month, including National Bike To Work Week (May 15-20), National Bike To Work Day (Friday, May 20), the Julie Hughes Triathlon (Saturday, May 21), and the Sitka Community Bike Ride (Saturday, May 28). The annual Sitka Bike Rodeo takes place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka hangar. The event is free and open to the public, especially kids younger than 12. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson)

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Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell, right front, prepares to lead cyclists in the 2015 Sitka Community Bike Ride

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell, right front, prepares to lead cyclists in the 2015 Sitka Community Bike Ride

The Sitka Community Bike Ride is the perfect way to celebrate the spring and National Bike Month in May. It also is a chance to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the first bike seen in Sitka, which arrived on May 28, 1891, on the cruiser Mexico.

Join us on Saturday, May 28, at Totem Square (near the Petro Marine dock, where the Mexico likely docked) as we host a short kid-friendly bike parade through downtown starting at 11 a.m. (get there early for quick bike tune-up and for contest judging for oldest bike, most unique bike, most visible bike, etc.). Hopefully, we’ll also have an update on our recent renewal application for Bicycle Friendly Community (we were a bronze level award winner in 2008 and 2012).

Our bike maintenance specialists will be available to assist cyclists from 10 a.m. at Totem Square. They will be able to check chains, brakes, tire pressure and other minor maintenance needs, but won’t be able to do major repairs. We also will have someone available to help check bike helmet fits.

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Riders after the 2015 Sitka Community Bike Ride

We held a community bike ride a few years ago that had about 300-350 cyclists, so let’s see if we can top that crowd. Last year we had a smaller crew at our community bike ride, but it still was lots of fun.

Since we will be on busy city streets for this event, we encourage everybody to wear helmets and bright clothing for safety reasons. All cyclists should ride on the right side of the road (with traffic) and ride in a predictable manner. We ask drivers to be aware there will be a lot of cyclists out on May 28 and to please slow down and give them a safe space to ride. Thanks.

For more information, contact the Doug Osborne at dosborne@sitkahospital.org.

2016 Julie Hughes Triathlon Flyer

The 32nd running, biking and swimming of the Julie Hughes Triathlon starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, at Blatchley Middle School. The event is a fundraiser for the Sitka Cancer Survivors Society and honors the memory of a young Sitka woman who passed away from leukemia at the age of 15. (Click here for an April 2013 Capital City Weekly article about Julie Hughes.) Day-of-race registration ends at 8 a.m., a pre-race briefing takes place at 8:45 a.m., and the race starts at 9 a.m.

JulieHughesTriathlonFor the fifth straight year, the Baranof Barracudas Swim Club is organizing the race, having taken over event hosting duties from the Hughes family. Registration takes place online at http://juliehughestri.com/. The entry fee is $35 per person ($15 per child), and people can enter as individuals or teams. There is an additional $10 charge for day-of-race registration. Participants are encouraged to have bike safety checks done at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop before the race.

The course is a five-mile run from Blatchley Middle School to the U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka gate and back, a 14-mile bike ride from Blatchley to the Starrigavan Recreation Area at the end of Halibut Point Road and back, and a 1,000-yard swim at the Blatchley Middle School swimming pool. There is a shorter course available for participants who are age 12 or younger.

For more information, contact Kevin Knox at 738-4664, or send an e-mail to bbsc.sitka@gmail.com.

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