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Clyde Young unpacks his electric trimmer from his electric-powered bicycle recently. Young's gardening tools, including his lawn mower, are battery powered and pack up neatly on a bicycle he rescued from the dump and converted to battery power. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Clyde Young unpacks his electric trimmer from his electric-powered bicycle recently. Young’s gardening tools, including his lawn mower, are battery powered and pack up neatly on a bicycle he rescued from the dump and converted to battery power. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo By James Poulson)

HPR fundraiser flyer

There’s good news and bad news about the intersection of Halibut Point Road and Peterson Street. After hearing public comments about the dangers of the intersection, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has approved — but not funded — a plan for the City and Borough of Sitka to install lighted crosswalk lights at the intersection.

To raise funds for the new safety lights, there will be a car wash and hot dog fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at the Sitka Fire Hall (209 Lake Street).

Residents also can contribute to this special public safety fund by mailing or delivering  a check made out to the Sitka Volunteer Fire Department (in care of Dave Miller), 209 Lake Street, Sitka, Alaska 99835.

Project sponsors include, the Sitka Police Department, the Police & Fire commission, Sitka Volunteer Fire Department, Sitka Rotary Club, Girl Scout Troop 4140, the State of Alaska Department of Transportation, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, and Sitka Community Hospital.

For more information, contact Retha Winger at 738-2073.

DougOsborneLeadsBikersDownLincolnStreet

The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22, 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 a debriefing of our recent National Bike Month events, and looking into what we can do to improve our Bicycle Friendly Community status when we reapply in four years (we recently were upgraded from Bronze level to Silver).

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

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Tour de Sitka riders meet at Sea Mart on Sunday, June 12, before riding to the end of each road in Sitka (Photos by Bill Foster)

IMG_0675Even though the City and Borough of Sitka has an area larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, there aren’t that many long roads in Sitka, about 15 miles from the end of Halibut Point Road to the end of Sawmill Creek Road, and a few roads radiating out from there.

But every year a group of Sitka cyclists gets together for an informal Tour de Sitka, where they meet at Sea Mart, then ride to the end of the road at Starrigavan Recreation Area on Halibut Point Road for a photo, ride to the end of Sawmill Creek Road, then ride over the O’Connell Bridge to have a meal at the Nugget at the Rocky Gutierrez Airport on Japonski Island. This year’s Umpteenth Tour de Sitka took place on Sunday, June 12.

IMG_0676The event was first organized by former Sitka school teachers John and Cheryl Hedden, who have since moved, as an excuse to cruise Sitka’s road system by bicycle and afterwards have a hearty brunch at one of Sitka’s restaurants. The event tends to be impromptu, with limited media coverage.

Cyclists pose before the Sitka Community Bike Ride on Saturday, May 28, 2016, through downtown Sitka.

Cyclists pose before the Sitka Community Bike Ride on Saturday, May 28, 2016, through downtown Sitka. The Petro Marine Dock is where the steamer The Mexico would have docked 125 years earlier with the first bike seen in Sitka.

BikersWithStMichaelsBehindSitka cyclists were in the mood to celebrate on Saturday, May 28, and they had two reasons for celebration during the Sitka Community Bike Ride held through downtown.

On May 28, 1891, the first bicycle was seen in Sitka (link goes to a Sitka History Minute episode), when a man (C.H. Calhoun of Washington, D.C.) arriving on the Pacific Coast Steamship Co.’s steamer The Mexico brought one to town. Saturday was the 125th anniversary of the bike’s arrival in Sitka.

The other reason to celebrate was the announcement a week earlier that Sitka had been upgraded to a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community award level, after earning Bronze in 2008 and 2012. Sitka was Alaska’s first community to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community designation.

Here is a slideshow of photos from Saturday’s Sitka Community Bike Ride.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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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

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