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WalkToSchoolDay_HomepageMapNot too long ago, most of us walked or biked to school. But now, most kids arrive at school via their parents’ cars or school buses. Wednesday, Oct. 5, is International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, and Sitka parents and teachers are encouraged to help their schoolchildren walk to school on this day.

In 1970, more than half of all elementary school students ages 6-11 walked to school. By 2006, only 15 percent were walking to school. Alarmed by this trend, a group called the Partnership for a Walkable America started National Walk To School Day in 1997 as a one-day event aimed at building awareness for the need for walkable communities. In 2000, the event became international when the UK and Canada (both of which had already been promoting walking to school) and the USA joined together for the first International Walk to School Day. In addition to expanding into several other countries, the dates also have expanded and October is International Walk To School Month.

“Walking or biking to school is an excellent way to add some physical activity into your day,” said Doug Osborne, Sitka Community Hospital Director of Health Promotion. “It can be a great way to start the day. Walking or biking can be a lot of fun. It’s also important to remember to be safe.”

WBTSD_12inch_ColorWalking or biking to school with their children is a good way for parents to catch up on what’s happening in their children’s lives. Other benefits to walking or biking to school include less traffic, cleaner air, and friendlier communities. Walking with their children is a good way for parents see if there are things along the route that can be done to improve safety, such as improving lighting, checking crosswalks and watching for aggressive pets along the route.

International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day is a great teaching tool for safety. Parents and teachers can teach the kids about road safety rules and the importance of being visible when they walk or bike alongside the roads. They also can check their kids’ clothes and backpacks to make sure they have reflective tape on them.

Reflectors Save Lives posterReflective tape is particularly important as we enter the dark months of the winter. Students need to Be Safe, Be Seen, and reflective tape can make a big difference in their visibility. Not only are kids sometimes hard to be seen because they’re blocked by cars, but many cars in Southeast Alaska experience condensation problems during the fall and winter that make it hard to see through windshields. Reflective tape and blinking lights can make it so kids are seen hundreds of feet before they would be if they wore plain dark clothes. The Alaska Injury Prevention Center’s pedestrian safety program will mail free reflective tape to people who call (907) 929-3939. The Alaska Injury Prevention Center also produced a YouTube video that shows how reflective tape makes you easier to see.

To learn more about International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, contact your local school to see if any events are scheduled, or check with the Alaska Safe Routes To School program. The official International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day website also has a lot of information about how to set up an event for your school, including tool kits to help you arrange an event. Even if your kids don’t walk the entire way to school, you can drop them off a mile or so away and walk in with them. Many parents create walking school buses to bring several students who live in the same area to school together in one group.

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kidical_mass_signRaingear was the attire of the day, but the predicted storms held off long enough for Sitka to host a damp second Kidical Mass family oriented bike ride Saturday, Sept. 17.

This event, which drew about 30-40 riders, featured a ride of about 1.5 miles from the tennis courts/playground across from Sheldon Jackson Campus to the Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School covered playground area. It was held in conjunction with dozens of other Kidical Mass rides around the world, as Sept. 17 was declared Kidical Massive with the hope of having the biggest family bike ride ever, according to Kidical Massive organizers in Eugene, Ore.

Kidical Mass is a legal, safe and FUN bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families. The first ride was held in 2008 in Eugene, Ore., and has now spread to dozens of communities throughout North America and beyond. Kidical Mass rides encourage safe riding for kids and families, with education about how to safely ride on the roads.

The Sitka Kidical Mass ride featured bike safety checks, bike helmet fitting (reminder, Sitka has a youth bike helmet ordinance with all riders age 18 or younger required to use a helmet), door prizes (including two traffic yellow rain jackets), bike skills events, and pedal-powered smoothies (where the blender was powered by a bike). In addition, Dave Nuetzel of Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) brought a handcycle to demonstrate how people with lower-leg issues can still ride a bike.

Local organizers included the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition, 4-H, UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District Office, Sitka Conservation Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, the Rotary Club of Sitka, Alaska’s Sesquicentennial Commemoration, and Sitka Community Hospital.

A slideshow of scenes from the ride is posted below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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kidical_mass_signCyclists of all ages are invited to join Sitka’s second “Kidical Mass” family bike ride, which is scheduled to start at the playground/tennis courts across from Sheldon Jackson Campus at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17.

The group will bike to Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, where there will be complimentary pedal-powered smoothies, door prizes (including high visibility coats) and fun activities. There also will be free bike safety checks and helmet-fitting before the ride starts, so get to the playground/tennis courts early.

Each participant will need a bike, a helmet (Sitka has a youth helmet ordinance for everybody age 18 or younger), and an adult to ride with. Kidical Mass events encourage family participation and teaching young riders bike safety on the road. We will have a few new helmets available for those who need them.

Kidical Mass is a legal, safe and FUN bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families. The first ride was held in 2008 in Eugene, Ore., and has now spread to dozens of communities throughout North America and beyond. Kidical Mass rides encourage safe riding for kids and families, with education about how to safely ride on the roads.

Sept. 17 has been dubbed “Kidical Massive” by the Oregon organizers, who are calling for Kidical Mass rides in dozens of communities that they estimate will be the biggest global family bike ride ever. Last year, Sitka hosted its first Kidical Mass event as part of Kidical Massive, and you can see photos by clicking this link.

Local organizers include the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition, 4-H, UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District Office, Sitka Conservation Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, the Rotary Club of Sitka, Alaska’s Sesquicentennial Commemoration, and Sitka Community Hospital.  For more information, call Doug Osborne at 747-0373.

DougOsborneLeadsCyclistsIntoSitkaNationalHistoricalPark

Cyclists are allowed to ride in the road leading to the entrance of Sitka National Historical Park, but once inside the park they need to walk their bikes on the narrow trails.

SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignSitka National Historical Park has recently experienced an increase of individuals riding bicycles on park trails, which is a violation of park regulations. This situation causes a safety hazard for other park users hiking on the same trail system, especially due to the large number of walkers on the narrow trails.

The National Park Service reminds the public that it is prohibited to ride bicycles anywhere in the park, and that if a visitor on a bicycle wishes to enter the park, they must get off and walk the bicycle..

The majority of these violations appear to be occurring in the morning and evening hours as individuals commute to and from work or school. Rangers will be increasing their patrols for violators and will be taking the appropriate law enforcement action, which may include the issuance of a United States Violation Notice in the amount of $75.00.

The National Park Service recognizes and supports the upcoming “Bike Your Park Day” on Sept. 24, promoted by the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition locally and the Adventure Cycling Association nationally, but again would like to remind the community that any bicycles in Sitka National Historical Park must be walked.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 413 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more about the Sitka National Historical Park at http://www.nps.gov/sitk or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaNationalHistoricalPark.

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The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, at the Larkspur Café.

The monthly meeting is open to everyone interested in making Sitka an even better town for cyclists of all ages.

Agenda items include finalizing the plans for a Kidical Mass family friendly bike ride on Saturday, Sept. 17, as part of the national Kidical Massive series of events around the country (details will be posted soon). Last year, Sitka held its first Kidical Mass bike ride, with kids using pedal power to mix smoothies after the ride was finished.

For more information, call Doug Osborne at 747-0373.

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Cyclists ride on the Sitka Cross Trail (Photo courtesy of KCAW-Raven Radio)

SitkaTrailWorkslogoThe public is invited to join Sitka Trail Works on a free guided bike tour Saturday, Aug. 27, on the Sitka Cross Trial. Meet at 9 a.m. at the Indian River trailhead.

The tour is approximately a 10-mile moderate to strenuous ride to Kramer Drive and back to the trailhead. The trailhead is up Indian River Road, take a right across from Peter Simpson Road to the Indian River Trailhead parking lot.

The Cross Trail is about .2 mile up the Indian River Trail. The trail begins on the flood plain of Indian River among huge Sitka spruce and western hemlock. It continues through bogs with stunted forest fringe, intersects the Gavin Hill Trail at about the 1-mile mark and passes through young forests growing back after harvest. At 1.7 miles the trail branches off to Sitka High School and also widens where it is located over an old logging road. The trail continues on 0.2 mile coming out behind the baseball field; then passes the uphill side of the water tower and continues another 0.8 mile crossing a wooden bridge over Cascade Creek, then a short steep uphill and on to the Kramer Avenue trailhead.

Sitka Trail Works board members Sara Bergendahl and Brian Hanson will lead the tour. For more information, call 747-7244 or visit http://www.sitkatrailworks.org.

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The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at the Larkspur Café.

The monthly meeting is open to everyone interested in making Sitka an even better town for cyclists of all ages.

Agenda items include planning a Kidical Mass family friendly bike ride on Sept. 17 as part of the national Kidical Massive series of events around the country. Last year, Sitka held its first Kidical Mass bike ride, with kids using pedal power to mix smoothies after the ride was finished.

For more information, call Doug Osborne at 747-0373.