Archive for November, 2011

Pacific High School students and staff ride their new classroom set of bikes from Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop to a storage facility in October. The bikes, to be used for PE classes, were funded by an Alternative Schools Healthy Students Initiative grant from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. Pacific High School is an alternative school operated by the Sitka School District. Pictured from left: Hillary Seeland, William Biggs, Raven Young, Eric Matthes, Carson Conner, Jill Williams, Scott Thomas, Ryan Kauffman, and Tommy Svilar. Not pictured are Sarah Ferrency and Jessie Young. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Ferrency, Pacific High School co-principal)

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(NOTE: This letter to the editor from Carrie Johnson, manager of the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, was printed in the Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

Dear Editor,

Rain, snow, sleet, hail, rain, snow. That was the story told by Sitka weather this past weekend and this upcoming week. Moving from Arizona with no car and my bike as my sole transportation option, I needed to figure out how to get myself through the winter. I purchased studs for my tires, but still was uncomfortable riding in the snow and ice.

Luckily, Doug Osborne and Adam Andis held a class on “All-Weather Cycling” at the Hames Center. Adam individually taught us how to take care of our bikes during the winter months. He nurtured bikes that needed that extra love.

I learned all about how I need to be more safety sensitive when it comes to riding. My helmet is all blinged up now with reflectors from Doug. Doug discussed the major importance of being seen by drivers, which means I need to amp up my gear.

The participants that were involved in the class had so much knowledge about riding in Sitka that it makes me much more comfortable riding in the winter months. When in doubt, “every bicycle comes with a pedestrian!” Thanks, Doug and Adam, for making this community bike friendly and keeping us safe on the roads.

— Carrie Johnson

Hames Center Manager

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Alexei Desatoff, a physical therapist at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), rides his bike toward the O’Connell Bridge and home after completing his shift on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011.

Even though Sitka received nearly 36 inches of snow at the end of November, people were still riding their bikes. If you do plan to ride in the winter, please wear bright, reflective clothes and have a strong white headlight and blinking red taillight. Also, many people find studded mountain bike tires work well on Sitka’s icy roads.

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Bicyclists and walkers enjoy trips along Halibut Point Road because of the scenic views, such as this fishing boat and some of Sitka's barrier islands.

Bicyclists and walkers enjoy trips along Halibut Point Road because of the scenic views, such as this fishing boat and some of Sitka's barrier islands.

During the Nov. 17, 2011, meeting of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition, Sitka resident Harvey Brandt made a presentation about an upcoming state Department of Transportation project to repave Halibut Point Road.

Included in Harvey’s presentation was a letter he wrote to engineering manager Keith Karpstein (a former Sitka resident) who is the project manager. In the letter, Harvey made a plea for better bicycle and walking sidepaths along HPR, since the road receives a lot of use by cyclists and walkers. He also presented a letter to Sitka residents encouraging them to contact Karpstein and the Alaska DOT to put the pressure on them to make sure the project includes better walking and biking infrastructure.

According to Marie Heidemann, the Southeast Regional Non-Motorized Planner for DOT, the project is almost finalized and she isn’t sure how many changes can be made. If people are going to contact DOT about this road, please do so now (supposedly there is a staff meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, when this project will be discussed).

During the Nov. 17 Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition meeting we mentioned several issues with the road, such as kids from Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary crossing HPR at Peterson to get to the McDonald’s, narrow and unmaintained road shoulders, no bike lanes on the bridges, etc. The more personal-experience issues you can mention about biking and walking on HPR the better.

Here is Harvey’s letter to Sitka residents about the project.


Next summer a $17 million improvement project is scheduled for Halibut Point Road – Two new bridges, paving, etc. is currently scheduled for 2012.

HPR is far more than a state highway.  It is a busy bicycle and pedestrian traffic corridor.   You have probably noticed mothers with babies, kids and their beach toys (near Sandy Beach) walking & dodging cars on this busy road.   This pedestrian/bicycle traffic is busier in the summer, but there are still walkers/bikers on those dark winter days all along this road from  SeaMart to the Ferry Terminal.  

What Can Be Done to Improve the Current HP Highway?

Here are some possibilities that would make a difference:

  1. Do a pedestrian traffic survey of HPR
  2. Widen the paved area of the  highway (on both sides) at least 3 feet to create a safer walkway/bicycling zone.  If necessary – move guard rails out a few feet to allow for this widening of paved area of road.
  3. Pave underneath guard rails so we don’t have a hedge of alders, terrace of sand that pools water on the highway
  4. CONSTRUCT a sidewalk/bike path (similar to Sawmill Crk)  from Pioneer Park to Sandy Beach – AND, make specific plans to continue  this sidewalk/bikeway path to HP Rec Area in the future
  5. Safe pedestrian bridges on BOTH sides of BOTH new bridges.
  6. Pave AND maintain highway to driveway transitions so bicyclers and walkers can travel safely past driveways – (no chuckholes).

If you agree please include these six points in a letter or e-mail to:

Keith Karpstein, P. E.

Engineering Manager

State of Alaska DOT & PF,

SE Region

6860 Glacier Hwy

Juneau, AK  99801-7999




A more family-friendly, pedestrian/biker-friendly HPR would be energy-efficient, safer and an economic asset for Sitka.   Please contact  Keith Karpstein if you wish to express your support for these improvements.

Here are the meeting minutes from the Nov. 17, meeting of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition and Harvey’s three handouts.

• Minutes from the Nov. 17, 2011, Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition meeting

• Harvey Brandt’s letter to Sitka residents about the Halibut Point Road project

• Harvey Brandt’s letter to Keith Karpstein of the Alaska DOT about the project

• Harvey Brandt’s list of contacts and notes about the Halibut Point Road project



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(NOTE: The following letter to the editor about Safety First from bike advocate Doug Osborne appeared in the Daily Sitka Sentinel on Nov. 18, 2011.)

Dear Editor,

Doug Osborne rides with his daughter, Darby, during the 2007 Sitka Community Bike Ride

Doug Osborne rides with his daughter, Darby, during the 2007 Sitka Community Bike Ride

On Thursday, I heard a bicyclist went down on black ice and a car had to go over the curb to avoid hitting the downed cyclist.   A scary situation for everyone and a reminder that some times and in some places it’s better to walk then bike.

With the right gear, routes and safety precautions the bicycle is a great vehicle for many trips during the winter.  However it’s not necessarily the best way to go for all trips.  My wide, partially deflated tires have studs on them, I take back roads, use good riding technique and have been called blindingly visible.  Even with all this some roads, some times and some conditions are just not conducive to cycling next to cars on our Sitka Streets.

This week I left my bike on the porch and walked four of the five days.  Walking, with Spiky’s on for traction, seemed like a safer and better option.  If you are biking and have a doubt about safety, please walk your bike or go with another option until conditions are better.

For me the goal isn’t just to bike, it’s to get physical activity going from point A to point B in a way that is safe and environmentally responsible.

Thank you for your consideration and please remember safety first

— Doug Osborne

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Bill Hughes demonstrates his climbing technique during the 2007 Sitka Fun Fair.

Bill Hughes demonstrates his climbing technique during the 2007 Sitka Fun Fair.

Sitka cyclist Bill Hughes first started going to Utah several years ago for some recreational mountain biking. Since then, he started competing in the Huntsman World Senior Games in Zion National Park, Utah, and he now holds the overall title in mountain biking for the age 70-74 division.

The owner of Sitka’s Yellow Jersey Bicycle Shop, Bill competed in both the mountain and road bike competitions in October. He won all three events in the mountain biking competition, which gave him the overall title. In the four road cycling events, he added a couple of bronze medals in the hill climb and time trial.

“I won the mountain bike this year, but I didn’t do much road biking,” Bill said. “I’ve won the mountain biking (overall title) before a couple of times.”

In the mountain biking hill climb, Bill posted a time of 18 minutes, 45 seconds to beat Rex Farnsworth of Redondo Beach, Calif., by three seconds. In the downhill, Bill posted a time of 7:15 to beat Ron Near of Toronto by five seconds. He also posted a time of 1 hour, 20 minutes, 46.0 seconds to win the 25-mile cross country event featuring single-track trails through canyon country by nearly four minutes over Farnsworth’s time of 1:24:40.0.

Bill Hughes adjusts the spokes on a bike tire at his Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop.

Bill Hughes adjusts the spokes on a bike tire at his Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop.

“I started going down there just to mountain bike, and then I started going to race,” Bill said. “Now I go down for recreation and competing.”

In addition to his exploits at the Huntsman World Senior Games, Bill also has competed as a solo racer in the 148-mile Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay from Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, to Haines, Alaska. And about 7-8 years ago Bill did a solo bike ride across the United States.

When he trains, Bill said he rides out to Green Lake to climb the hill. He also trains with Dean Orbison and other cyclists on the Thimbleberry to Heart Lake Trail then to Blue Lake and then Green Lake, a distance of about 30 miles, about 40 of the 52 weeks each year.

“The training’s not so bad on the mountain bike, but with the road bike the boredom sets in,” Bill said, referring to Sitka’s 15 miles of road from one end of town to the other. “But you can go to Juneau for some higher endurance.”

Even though there aren’t a lot of places to train on a road bike in Sitka, Bill said he does feel Sitka is a Bicycle Friendly Community. “I like how compact the community is. You can ride anywhere on the bike and it’s fairly safe.”


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On Thursday, Nov. 10, Doug Osborne and Adam Andis were the guests of Rob Woolsey on the KCAW-Raven Radio Morning Edition interview show, and they discussed all-weather biking in Sitka.

In addition to providing listeners with tips about how to safely navigate your bike through the snow and ice of winter, they plugged an all-weather cycling workshop Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center hosted by the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition.

Doug and Adam also discussed what type of lights and reflective items are needed for winter cycling and what types of clothing to make the ride more comfortable. Click here to listen to the interview.

In addition to the workshop, there also was a chance for people to bring their bikes in for Adam to give them a safety check.

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The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The coalition will discuss upcoming bike workshops and events. It also will work on getting all the necessary information for our renewal application for a Bicycle Friendly Community award, which is due to the League of American Bicyclists in February 2012. In May 2008, Sitka became the first community in Alaska to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Since Sitka received its bronze level BFC award, good for four years, Anchorage and Juneau also have received bronze awards.

To learn more about our application process and what we need to be renewed as a Bicycle Friendly Community, please attend the meeting and/or watch this site. For more information, contact Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or doug.osborne@searhc.org, or contact Charles Bingham at 738-8875 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com.

• Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition meeting flier (feel free to print and post around town)

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Bicycling in Sitka frequently means riding in lousy weather. But people still ride, even during the icy winters. To learn some tricks to safely riding in winter, join the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition for an all-weather cycling workshop from 2-3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center classroom, 121 John Brady St.

This workshop will be led by Doug Osborne, a SEARHC Health Educator and League Certified Instructor (LCI) who rides all year long. Doug will provide tips about studded tires for traction, lights and other reflective items so you can be seen by traffic, proper riding gear so you stay warm when you ride, and more. We also will have a bike stand set up so Adam Andis can provide bike safety checks for anybody who brings a bike to the workshop. This is the first of several upcoming cycling workshops hosted by the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition.

This event costs $5 for Hames members, while non-members pay $5 plus the all-day drop-in fee ($4 for children, $6 for seniors and $8 for adults). The fees help support the non-profit Hames Athletic and Wellness Center. Non-members who pay the drop-in fee will be able to use the other Hames facilities on Saturday, so bring your racquetball racket or a basketball for added fun. For more information and to reserve a spot (space is limited), contact Hames at 747-5080.

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(NOTE: This article originally was posted in December 2009 on the Alaska Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance website.)

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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