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Archive for May, 2017

There will be a “Planning Our Future Together” open house from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6, for the Sitka 2030 Comprehensive Plan project, and part of that open house includes training for a bicyclist and pedestrian count on Tuesday, June 13. The open house will be set up so you can stay for 15 minutes or the full three hours, depending upon your interest in the topics.

Over the past year or so, the Sitka Planning Commission, city planners and contractor Barbara Sheinberg have been working on an update of the Sitka Comprehensive Plan, which was last updated in 2007. They have been working on the plan by topics, with the first Planning Commission meeting each month usually devoted to one topic from the plan.

The open house will feature updates on three sections of the comprehensive plan — Transportation; History, Culture and Arts; and Parks, Trails and Recreation — and residents will be able to vote on the actions they favor. There also will be an introduction to the S-MAP, an idea wall where people can draw “Ideas For A Better Sitka,” and a haiku contest where you can win a $100 gift card. Oh, yeah, there also will be pizza.

In addition, there will be short 10-minute training sessions for the Sitka bicyclist and pedestrian count scheduled for Tuesday, June 13. This bike/ped count will give city planners information about how many people are biking or walking to get around downtown Sitka.

From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 13, Sitka residents will take one-hour shifts to count walkers and bikers at two major intersections in Sitka. This information will help Sitka obtain funding for safety improvements. It also will provide data so Sitka can track changes over time in the number of people who are biking and walking in Sitka. According to the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, Sitka has 5.2 percent of its residents who commute to work by bike and 15.1 percent who commute to work by walking. But Tuesday, June 13, is a cruise ship day, when there will be more bikers and walkers out than usual and this will help us be able to tell if our infrastructure can handle the extra people.

For more information, contact the Sitka Planning Department at 747-1814.

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Eric Haseltine fixes the brakes on Jeremiah Ward’s bicycle Saturday, May 13, during the annual Sitka Bike Rodeo, hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka and Sitka Rotary Club. Scores of children turned out to learn about bike safety and have their bicycles tuned up. May is national bike month, and this week is bike to work week. Cyclists commuting to work this week are invited to register at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop for a prize. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, May 19, at the North Sister Crepes and Juice Company (located on Seward Street next to Subway). Please note this is a change of location from where we usually meet. Also, this is National Bike To Work Day, so ride your bike.

The monthly meeting is open to everyone interested in making Sitka an even better town for cyclists of all ages. Topics include a review of our series of events for National Bike Month in May (as well as National Bike To Work Week/Day and National Bike To School Day events), including a community bike ride through downtown on May 6, the Sitka Bike Rodeo on May 13, the Julie Hughes Triathlon on May 20, and a guided bike ride May 27 on the Sitka Cross Trail. We also will discuss the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities‘ plan to upgrade the bike and pedestrian infrastructure on Sawmill Creek Road from the roundabout to Jeff Davis Street.

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)

To celebrate National Bike Month, Sitka Trail Works and the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition invites the public to a free bike tour, guided by Doug Osborne, on the Sitka Cross Trail. The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 27,  and will meet at the Indian River trailhead.

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

The trail parallels Yaw Drive and then crosses a beautiful muskeg with stunted forest fringe, travels through old growth forest to the Gavin Hill Trail intersection at about the one-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 Kimsham ball fields; then passes the uphill side of the water tower and continues another 0.8 miles, crossing a wooden bridge over Cascade Creek, then a short steep uphill and on to the Kramer Avenue trailhead.

For more information, call 747-7244, or visit http://www.sitkatrailworks.org.

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There are power poles in the middle of the sidewalk and shrubs from the yards of area houses creeping into the sidewalk on Sawmill Creek Road across from Baranof Elementary School and the Elks Lodge. Note the pedestrian under the speed limit sign to get a scale of how tight things are when you try to get by the poles.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has proposed two options for the Sawmill Creek Road resurfacing and pedestrian improvements project between the roundabout and Jeff Davis Street.

The proposal was announced at a poorly advertised open house on Monday, May 8, at Harrigan Centennial Hall (there was no mention of the meeting in the Friday, May 5, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel), when DOT staff from Juneau showed maps and diagrams detailing the two options. The DOT staff was supposed to give a report at the Tuesday, May 9, meeting of the Sitka Assembly, but the report was tabled to a later meeting when the Assembly shrank the meeting agenda to time-sensitive items only following the weekend shooting death of a city employee by another city employee.

“We’re just looking for public input, what people like and what people don’t like,” Colleen Ivaniszek, a designer and engineering assistant with DOT told the Daily Sitka Sentinel in an article in the Wednesday, May 10, edition.

“I just looked at the Assembly agenda for tomorrow (Tuesday, May 9) night and it looks like DOT is presenting two options for the design of Sawmill Creek from the Roundabout to Jeff Davis,” Sitka Trail Works Director Lynne Brandon wrote in an email shared with the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition. “It looks like they want the Assembly to choose the option. I don’t think there has been any other input from the community. This isn’t enough public process. It’s a report, so I don’t think the Assembly can make a decision at the meeting, but I think they should know that more public process is necessary and the bike-friendly option is the only way to go, not the share-road.”

The last major public meeting for this project was in December 2015 at the Sealing Cove Business Park.

This section of Sawmill Creek Road has narrow sidewalks blocked by power poles (see photo above), which prevent people in wheelchairs or using rolling walk-assist carts from being able to get by. Cyclists consider it the most dangerous section of major road in Sitka because it is the only stretch of major road without a designated bike lane or multi-use path from the ferry terminal at the end of Halibut Point Road to the industrial park at the end of Sawmill Creek Road. There also is motor vehicle parking along both sides of Sawmill Creek Road, which means cyclists have to worry about getting doored until they get past Jeff Davis Street.

“I’m really hopeful for the proposed changes to SMC Road between Baranof and Jeff Davis,” William The Giant said in a Facebook post. “I’ve been bike commuting in Sitka for about eight years now, and this small chunk of road is easily one of the most dangerous stretches for a biker in town. It might seem like a lazy little street to a driver, but for a biker it’s a choice between being firmly in traffic, or riding along in the ‘door zone’ of all the parked vehicles. It’s a no-win situation either way, since a bike accident along this road is almost guaranteed to jam up some poor driver’s axle.

“I have a baby I’m now hauling around in a bike trailer almost daily, and I absolutely dread this section of road. Honestly, I’m really surprised we’ve been providing parking to a handful of residents at the cost of safety along a major road for so long. When I read we’d only give up parking along one side of the road to create two bike lanes it sounded like a dream come true to me. Especially, since the area is being improved one way or the other, it would be strange to ‘upgrade’ it to be a new version of the same terrible layout. I will be eternally thankful to those who have to walk across the street each morning to get to their cars to make our roads safer.”

Of the two options, Option One is closest to the unacceptable status quo. In fact, it widens the driving lanes from 12 feet to 13.5 feet (and wider lanes lead to higher road speeds, which lead to more serious injuries and fatalities). It keeps the current eight-foot parking lanes on both sides of the street, but it does relocate some power poles and makes some upgrades to the sidewalk and curb ramps. This option is not an improvement for the most dangerous stretch of road and sidewalk in Sitka.

Option Two is the safer option, as it shrinks the driving lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet, eliminates the parking lane on one side of the road, and creates five-foot bike lanes on both sides of the road. This is by far the better option of the two. You can learn more about both options in the link posted at the bottom of the article.

“I agree that Option Two is the best,” Sitka cyclist Dave Nuetzel wrote in an email. “This removes parking on one side and adds two bike lanes. I also commented that bump-outs for crosswalks and a flashing crosswalk at Baranof Street are needed. … Option One with ‘shared’ lanes would basically be the same as it already is.  This stretch of highway is the only area in Sitka without a bike lane or wide shoulder. … Not sure how they plan to move cyclists from the multi-purpose path to the bike lane on the other side of the road. Currently no crosswalk at Jeff Davis.”

Girl Scout Troop 4140, which recently worked with the state and city to get a solar-powered flashing crosswalk sign for the Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection, wants to see a similar flashing crosswalk sign on Sawmill Creek Road.

“Girl Scout Troop 4140 would like to have solar-powered crosswalk signs at SMC/Baranof Street (at the Baranof Elementary crosswalk) included in the design, but we need your help,” troop leader Retha Winger wrote in a Facebook post encouraging people to contact DOT about the crosswalk. “DOT is currently accepting comments about their design changes and they are requesting comments from Sitkans. You can review the design changes here, http://dot.alaska.gov/sereg/projects/sitka_sawmill_rd/index.shtml. Please send comments to Chris.Schelb@alaska.gov. PLEASE EMAIL CHRIS AND LET HIM KNOW THAT WE WANT A SOLAR-POWERED CROSSWALK AT THE BARANOF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CROSSWALK! All comments are important and appreciated. They need to hear our collective concern for the safety of our children. Thank you!”

Both options will make the intersection of DeGroff Street and Sawmill Creek Road a 90-degree turn, which will reduce car speeds as drivers leave Sawmill Creek Road for the residential DeGroff Street. Another change will move the bike path that crosses Jeff Davis Street a bit closer to the highway, so it’s easier for drivers to see the cyclists. Another plan is to improve the sidewalks by Monastery Street.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is taking public comment on the two options for the next 30 days. You can email comments to Chris.Schelb@alaska.gov, or send them by regular mail to Sawmill Creek Road Resurfacing and Pedestrian Improvements, c/o Alaska DOT&PF, P.O. Box 112506, Juneau, Alaska, 99511-2506.

• Sawmill Creek Road Resurfacing and Pedestrian Improvements Options

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Sitka Mayor Matt Hunter is a regular bike commuter to his job teaching at Mount Edgecumbe High School.

National Bike To Work Week is May 15-19, and Sitka residents are encouraged to get on their bikes and ride this week. Also, Friday, May 19, 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.

This 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 prizes, including a $100 gift certificate from Yellow Jersey and other prizes possible. The prize drawing will be at the Julie Hughes Triathlon on May 20. You fill in one ticket for each trip to work or home by bike.

On National Bike To Work Day on Friday, May 19, and the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will hold its monthly meeting at noon at the North Sisters Crepes and Juice Company‘s new location at 327 Seward St. (next to Subway). This meeting is open to the public.

In 2016, Sitka found out it had been upgraded to a Silver level designation in the Bicycle Friendly Community program. We were Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Community in 2008, and the first to renew in 2012, earning a Bronze award both times. In 2016, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Sitka Campus earned a renewal of its Bronze award in the Bicycle Friendly Business program (it originally won the designation in 2011).

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

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The 33rd running, biking and swimming of the Julie Hughes Triathlon starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, 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 and the race starts at 8:30 a.m. The bike staging area opens at 7 a.m.

JulieHughesTriathlonFor the sixth 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 age 17 or younger), and people can enter as individuals or teams. Day-of-race registrations are $40 for adults and $20 for children. 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 (1.5-mile run, six-mile bike, 500-yard swim).

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

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(Photo by Denise Denherder)

Three young cyclists from Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School will be serving as bike ambassadors at the Sitka Bike Rodeo from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, at the U.S. Coast Guard Hangar.

The Keet Gooshi Heen Bike Ambassadors (from left in photo, posing with their new bicycles) are Madison Campbell, Aryana Smith and Brigit Wentworth. The three girls filled out successful applications, completed safety training, and will assist with the bike rodeo.

The new program was made possible with the organizational and financial support from Sitka Community Hospital (Doug Osborne, back left), the Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop (James Pelletier and Bill Hughes, back center), Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School (represented by Twila Keaveny, back row right), as well as the Mount Verstovia Masonic Lodge and Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers.

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