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National Bike Month kicks off on Tuesday, May 1, and Sitka residents are encouraged to find ways to get out and ride your bike this month. The seasons are changing, so make sure you get out on your bike and enjoy a ride.

This is a great time to help Sitka show why it earned an upgrade to the Silver level of the Bicycle Friendly Community program in 2016, and was featured on the cover of the Winter 2017 edition of Bicycle Friendly America magazine in February.

Our National Bike Month schedule concludes the annual Sitka Community Bike Ride on Saturday, May 26, where we celebrate the 127th anniversary of the first bike seen in Sitka (on May 28, 1891) with a ride through downtown Sitka. This is a great family friendly event to celebrate cycling in Sitka, and people are encouraged to bring any classic or unusual bikes they have to this event. We hope to have someone available to do minor maintenance before the ride (pump up tires, oil chains, tighten brake cables, etc.).

Also on the agenda are National Bike to School Day on Wednesday, May 9; the Sitka Bike Rodeo for kids on Saturday, May 12; our annual National Bike to Work Week (May 14-18) drawing for prizes for those who commute to work or school by bike during the week; a Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition monthly meeting on Friday, May 4; two SEARHC-hosted Doc Talks about cycling and exercise (on Tuesday, May 1, and Tuesday, May 15, at the Sitka Public Library); the Julie Hughes Triathlon on Saturday, May 19; and the Sitka Trail Works Cross Trail guided bike ride on Saturday, May 5. SEARHC also is offering a $100 discount on the purchase of a bike at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop during May for Sitka residents who saw SEARHC health providers from October 2017 through May 2018 (with extra safety equipment provided by Yellow Jersey).

In addition, we plan a special event each day of National Bike Week, including free coffee or tea at the Backdoor Cafe on Monday morning, May 14; a Doc Talks at the Sitka Public Library on Tuesday, May 15; a Ride of Silence event to honor cyclists killed or injured in traffic on Wednesday, May 16; pedal-powered smoothies and a lunch discount at North Sister Juice and Crepe Co. on Thursday, May 17; and a celebration of cyclists at the Sitka Health Summit‘s Wooch.een luncheon on Friday, May 18 (National Bike To Work Day).

As in past years, those cyclists who ride their bike to work, school or on errands during National Bike To Work Week (May 14-18) can fill out tickets at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop for a chance to win a gift certificate from Yellow Jersey, with other prizes possible. The prize drawing will be at the Julie Hughes Triathlon on May 19. To donate a prize, contact Doug Osborne at dosborne@sitkahospital.org.

Over the last year or so, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has been updating the Alaska Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, and Sitka cyclists can still submit feedback on the website. This is important since Alaska’s last update to the plan was more than 20 years ago (1994).

In addition, Sitka cyclists are encouraged to join with thousands of others from around the country as they ride in the fourth annual National Bike Challenge, a free event that runs from May 1 through Sept. 30.

Cyclists can ride in the National Bike Challenge as individuals, for their workplaces or on other teams, and the mileage they log also will help their cities and states in the rankings. In 2016 more than 45,000 cyclists rode nearly 25 million miles during the five months of the National Bike Challenge (stats weren’t available for 2017).

• 2018 National Bike Month list of Sitka events (PDF flier to print and post)

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(This photo and caption appeared in the Friday, March 16, 2018, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It is reprinted here with permission.)

BIKE PRESENTED —Mount Verstovia Masonic Lodge members, Ed Phillips, left, and Darrell Windsor, second from left, present a new bicycle to third-grader Alice Ann Ricketts, 8, center, at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School class recently. Her mother, Kristin Bartels, right, and brother, Blake Ricketts Jr., sitting at right, are with her. The Sitka Mount Verstovia Masonic Lodge is once again donating a bicycle to one student from each third-grade class, who are selected by their teachers based on the students’ behavior in class and display of good citizenship. Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop donates a helmet and lock as part of the prize. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson).

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Alaska was listed in 36th place when the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) released its 2017 Bicycle Friendly State rankings in mid-October.

The Bicycle Friendly State ranking provides a ranking for all 50 states based on four public data sources and a Bicycle Friendly State survey that is answered by each state’s Department of Transportation and/or a statewide bicycle advocacy organization. Each state is ranked in five categories — infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, and evaluation and planning.

The 2017 rank of 36th is within the normal range for Alaska, which typically ranks in the 30-40 range in this annual survey of bike advocates. In the last ranking in 2015 (there was no ranking in 2016), Alaska ranked 41st. Alaska’s top ranking was 29th in 2011 and its worst ranking was 47th in 2009. There have been several changes to the ranking system over the years, which caused some large rises and falls in the rankings.

The 2017 Bicycle Friendly State ranking includes a ranking of each state, but crucially also includes a report card summarizing the data analyzed for each state and giving comparisons and feedback meant to help states, citizens, and advocates better understand where each state can improve.

According to Alaska’s scorecard, “Alaska is a unique state, large and largely rural. Alaska typically has higher per capita transportation spending and their data on biking and walking reflects this as well, easily being the highest per capita spending figure in the United States, despite Alaska spending a smaller percentage of federal funds on biking and walking than average. Each category reflects that Alaska does not have much supportive policy infrastructure to ensure the safety and mobility of people who bike. This may reflect the uniqueness of Alaska, which may make it more difficult to adapt successful policies and practices from more urban or more compact states. However, the state would benefit from a plan for promoting the safety and mobility of people who bike in Alaska in a way that is geared towards the unique characteristics of Alaska and takes advantage of the tourism potential and already relatively high percentage of the population that bikes to work. The experiences of states like Vermont (#14) and Maine (#17) may be instructive.”

In the five categories, Alaska ranked 37th in infrastructure and funding and in evaluation and planning, 45th in policies and programs, 47th in education and encouragement, and 50th (last) in legislation and policies. Alaska was able to move up in the overall rankings because it ranked first in spending ($9.71 per capita in Federal Highway Authority spending on biking and walking), sixth in ridership (1.0 percent statewide commute to work by bike, 5.42 percent in Sitka), and 12th in safety (3.9 fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters).

The Bicycle Friendly State rankings are part of the Bicycle Friendly America program (click Alaska on map to see list of awards) from the League of American Bicyclists. Alaska has three official Bicycle Friendly Communities (Sitka at the Silver level, Anchorage at Silver, and Juneau at Bronze, plus Fairbanks is honorable mention). There are 10 Bicycle Friendly Businesses in Alaska ranking from Bronze to Gold level (nine are in Anchorage and the Bronze-level SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium-Sitka Campus is the only one outside Anchorage). The University of Alaska Fairbanks (Silver) is Alaska’s only Bicycle Friendly University.

• 2017 Bicycle Friendly State scorecard for Alaska

•Guide to the 2017 Bicycle Friendly State report card

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(This photo and caption appeared in the Friday, April 7, 2017, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It is reprinted here with permission.)

BIKE PRESENTED — Finneus Wentworth holds onto a new bicycle and helmet after they were presented to him by Sitka Masons Darrell Windsor, right, and Jerald Neel recently in Megan Fondell’s Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School class. The Sitka Mount Verstovia Masonic Lodge is once again donating a bicycle to one student from each third-grade class, who are selected by their teachers based on the students’ behavior in class and display of good citizenship. Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop donates a helmet and lock as part of the prize. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson).

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(This photo and caption appeared in the Friday, March 24, 2017, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It is reprinted here with permission.)

BIKE PRESENTED — Roger Manzanilla, center, stands with Mount Verstovia Masonic Lodge members Bob Purvis, left, and Darrell Windsor, right, as Roger’s daughter Sandy, 9, is presented with a new bicycle recently at her Keet Gooshi Heen class. The lodge is once again donating a bicycle to one student from each third-grade class, who are selected by their teachers based on the students’ behavior in class and display of good citizenship. Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop donates a helmet and lock as part of the prize. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson).

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Cyclists pose before the Sitka Community Bike Ride on Saturday, May 28, 2016, through downtown Sitka. The event also celebrated the 125th anniversary of the first recorded arrival of a bicycle in Sitka, which arrived at this dock.

The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, at the Larkspur Café (NOTE: This is a change of date from what originally was announced).

The monthly meeting is open to everyone interested in making Sitka an even better town for cyclists of all ages. Topics include planning a series of events for the upcoming National Bike Month in May (as well as National Bike To Work Week/Day and National Bike To School Day events), and planning for a “Ride ‘Em All” program this summer to encourage cyclists to ride every road and trail in Sitka.

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

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Doug Osborne, front, wears one of the GAGE high-visibility jackets during the Sitka Winter Cycling Celebration in January 2012. Sitka Community Hospital will distribute 18 of the high-visibility jackets to walkers and cyclists during an event Wednesday night at the Stratton Library.

Doug Osborne, front, leads cyclists during the Sitka Winter Cycling Celebration in January 2012.

The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the Larkspur Café.

The monthly meeting is open to everyone interested in making Sitka an even better town for cyclists of all ages. Topics include the recent Bicycle Friendly Business award renewal for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and discussion of how we can get other Sitka businesses to apply, planning for the upcoming International Winter Bike to Work/School Day events on Feb. 10, and planning for a “Ride ‘Em All” program this summer to encourage cyclists to ride every road and trail in Sitka.

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

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