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The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) launched a bike loan program early this spring as a way to increase opportunities for physical activity for all SEARHC employees in Sitka. SEARHC’s CEO, Chuck Clement, is dedicated to supporting the health of his employees and wanted to make bicycles available to them, SEARHC Health Educator Holly Marban wrote in an email. Clement is a former competitive cyclist.
In response, the consortium purchased three bikes that are available for SEARHC employees to borrow for up to a few days at a time. They are each branded with reflective SEARHC logo decals and each have a front basket, lights, a cable lock, and a helmet. Employees can check out a bike at the SEARHC Fitness Center using the sign-out sheet inside the main entrance.
If SEARHC employees have questions about the bike loan program, they can call Emma Klein at 966-8785. SEARHC is the only Bicycle Friendly Business designee in Sitka, having a Bronze level award from the League of American Bicyclists.
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Rev. Julie Platson of St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church sprinkles holy water during the blessing of the bikes and local Worldwide Ride of Silence event held May 15, 2019. (Photo by James Poulson / Daily Sitka Sentinel)

The Sitka Cycling Club (formerly known as the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition) will hold its monthly meeting from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, May 24, at the Fisheye Organic Café (note time and location change from last meeting). This meeting is open to all interested folks.

The monthly meeting is open to everyone interested in making Sitka an even better town for cyclists of all ages. Topics include brainstorming ideas on how to grow our Sitka Cycling Club; approval of a new Sitka Cycling Club logo; planning the Alaska Walk and Bike Conference in Sitka in early June, a review of National Bike Month events in May; a discussion about the Sitka Community Bike Ride on Saturday, May 25; the creation of a statewide biking/walking advocacy group (tentatively called Walk/Bike Alaska); a discussion about what we can do to make Sitka more bicycle friendly (such as the installation of a new FixIt bike repair station downtown, donated to Sitka by CRW Engineering Group of Anchorage); a discussion of monthly club bike rides later this summer; and other topics.

For more information, call Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or Holly Marban at 966-8938.

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National Bike To Work Week is May 13-17, and Sitka residents are encouraged to get on their bikes and ride this week. Also, Friday, May 17, 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 18. You fill in one ticket for each trip to work or home by bike.

This year, we’ll hold our second annual Worldwide Ride of Silence bike ride and blessing of the bikes event. Meet at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15, at the Crescent Harbor shelter for a blessing of the bikes with local clergy. We’ll have a short ride of silence at 7 p.m.

On National Bike To Work Day on Friday, May 17, and the Sitka Cycling Club invites bike commuters to Fisheye Organic Café’s new location at 327 Seward St. (next to Subway). The first 20 bike commuters who present their bike helmets between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. will be given a free smoothie.

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 inaugural Alaska Walk and Bike Conference takes place June 4-8 in Sitka — Alaska’s only community to hold national Walk Friendly Communities and Bicycle Friendly Community designations.

The conference opens with two days of Smart Cycling training from the League of American Bicyclists, followed by two days of walking and biking presentations. The fifth day includes an optional bike ride, an optional hike with harbor cruise, and a Walk/Bike Alaska organizational meeting. The conference costs $40 for the full conference, or $25 for each two-day segment. People can register at http://akwalkbikeconference.eventsmart.com. The Aspen Suites Hotel, where much of the conference will take place, has a block of rooms reserved for the conference, but will release them to the general public on May 3, so book now.

“Having this conference in Sitka is a great opportunity and I’m particularly excited about the team of speakers we have lined up,” said Doug Osborne, Sitka Community Hospital director of health promotion and one of the conference organizers. “The conference is designed so that people can participate ways that fit their interests and schedule. Some will want to complete the Smart Cycling course on Tuesday and Wednesday, others will enjoy doing the whole four-day conference while many will go for an individual session, a lunch and learn, a late afternoon group ride/walk or one of the evening special events. It’s going to be a fun week with a lot of learning, good discussion, and physical activity along the way.”

“The State of Alaska Physical Activity and Nutrition Program is excited to support the 2019 Walk Bike Conference in Sitka occurring at the same time as the Sitka Summer Music Festival,” said Dawn Groth, who works for the Alaska Division of Public Health’s Chronic Disease and Health Promotion program and is another conference organizer. “Sitka’s recognition as both a walk and bicycle friendly city make Sitka the perfect community to host a walk-bike conference. Building active and walkable communities can help support local economies, reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, and encourage safe walking and biking for all ages. Sitka is an example of a community Sitka is an example of a community working to create activity friendly routes to everyday destinations to encourage active people and a healthy nation.”

Elle Steele of Sacramento, Calif., shown here with her two sons (now ages 8 and 10), will lead the Smart Cycling training.

Sitka was honored with a Bronze level Walk Friendly Community designation in 2013 and 2017, and earned a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2016 (with Bronze level designations in 2008 and 2012). Both designations came out of Sitka Health Summit projects, which also led to the creation of Walk Sitka and the Sitka Cycling Club groups to promote walking and biking in Sitka.

The Smart Cycling training part of the Alaska Walk and Bike Conference is designed to help cyclists feel more comfortable and safer riding in traffic. It also is good for educators (especially physical education teachers), youth leaders, and others who might be leading group bike rides with younger students.

The second two-day segment focuses on the Five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation) that are the main components in the Walk Friendly Communities and Bicycle Friendly Community applications. In addition, there will be presentations on the health benefits of active transportation, accommodations needed for the elderly and disabled, how to start a bike school, and how to conduct a walk audit.

Elle Steele of Sacramento, Calif., who is a League Certified Instructor from the League of American Bicyclists and will lead the Smart Cycling training, will be one of the keynote speakers. She is board president of Trips For Kids Sacramento, a nonprofit that provides bike adventures for underserved youth, and also owns Whimsical Cycle, which promotes riding bikes for everyday transportation.

Lee Hart of Valdez and the Anchorage-based Confluence coalition promoting the outdoor recreation economic sector in Alaska will be a keynote speaker.

Another keynote speaker is Lee Hart of Valdez, who founded an Anchorage-based coalition called Confluence to promote the outdoor recreation economic sector in Alaska. She also founded the Valdez Adventure Alliance which introduced fat-biking and big mountain downhill fat-biking to new riders. Hart spoke about the benefits of outdoor recreation in Sitka in February 2019.

Other speakers include Doug Osborne, Charles Bingham, Holly Marban, Lynne Brandon and Rick Petersen of Sitka; Dawn Groth, Pierce Schwalb, Charlie Lowell and Sarana Schell of Anchorage; and others.

A tentative agenda is posted below. For more information, contact Doug Osborne at (907) 747-0373 or akwalkbikeconference@gmail.com.

• Tentative agenda for 2019 Alaska Walk and Bike Conference in Sitka (last updated May 30, 2019)

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The Sitka Cycling Club is hosting a group ride at noon on Saturday, March 23, starting and ending at BEAK Restaurant.

The event includes live music and 20 percent off food purchases as part of the new Bicycle Benefits program (cyclists must show Bicycle Benefits helmet sticker to receive discount). The group ride will last about 45 minutes and will consist of riding on the Cross Trail.

For more information and to sign up for the Sitka Cycling Club, go to https://sitkacycling.wordpress.com or call Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or Emma Klein at 966-8785.

• Sitka Cycling Club 2019 monthly bike rides, tentative schedule

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The Sitka Cycling Club will meet from noon until 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, at the Fisheye Organic Café (formerly North Sister Juice and Crepe Company, located on Seward Street next to Subway). Fisheye Organic Café is one of the Bicycle Benefits businesses in our new program, so cyclists who show their helmet stickers will receive 20 percent off their purchases.

The monthly meeting is open to everyone interested in making Sitka an even better town for cyclists of all ages. Topics include brainstorming ideas on how to grow our Sitka Cycling Club, planning for National Bike Month in May, planning the Alaska Walking and Bicycling Conference in Sitka in early June, discussion of a series of summer bike club rides, the creation of a statewide biking/walking advocacy group (tentatively called Walk/Bike Alaska), a discussion about what we can do to make Sitka more bicycle friendly, and other topics.

For more information, call Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or Holly Marban at 966-8938.

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Residents of Sitka can now participate in Bicycle Benefits, a commuter discount program that has rolled into Sitka to offer deals to those who choose bicycle transportation.

This year-round program promotes cycling and boosts local business by offering discounts and rewards to cyclists who bike to and display their sporty Bicycle Benefit helmet sticker at participating establishments. The program sticker can be purchased at local participating businesses for $5.

Bicycle Benefits is a nationwide program that supports local communities interested in growing bicycle use. On March 1, Sitka became the first community in Alaska to bring the program to life.

About the Bicycle Benefits program

Bicycle Benefits is a progressive bicycling program, which began in Saratoga Springs, New York, and is designed to reward individuals and businesses for their commitment to cleaner air, personal health, and the use of pedaling energy in order to create more sustainable communities where healthy transportation thrives.

The program’s continual growth decreases parking demand, increases helmet use, and improves cyclists’ safety and health by putting more people on bikes. For more information about Sitka’s participation in the Bicycle Benefits program, visit sitkacycling.wordpress.com or www.bicyclebenefits.com.

Bicycle Benefits participating businesses in Sitka

A handful of local businesses have stepped up to support and encourage cycling in Sitka. The current participating businesses and their offers include:

  • Beak Restaurant — 20% off*
  • Backdoor Cafe — 20% off
  • LFS Marine Supplies — 20% off all high-visibility gear
  • Russell’s Sporting Goods — 10% off
  • Mean Queen — 10% off*
  • Mean Queen @ Totem Square (opening in March) — 10% off*
  • Harry Race Pharmacy — 20% off all GNP products
  • Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop — 10% off lights and reflective gear
  • Old Harbor Books — 15% off book purchases
  • Fisheye Organic Cafe — 20% off
  • Fisheye Coffee — 20% off
  • Spinning Moon Apothecary — 10% off
  • SEARHC Island Skillet — 15% off
  • Sitka Farmers Market — 20% off produce at the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand

*alcohol is excluded from all Bicycle Benefits discounts

Other local businesses interested in participating in the Bicycle Benefits program can contact Doug Osborne at (907) 747-0373 or Holly Marban at (907) 966-8938.

Kick-Off ride on March 23

The program will do a soft launch on March 1, and the Sitka Cycling Club will hold a kick-off ride on Saturday, March 23, to celebrate as a group. To join the ride, meet at the Beak Restaurant at noon. We will ride on the Cross Trail and end again at the Beak, where participants can grab a bite to eat together and continue to build community.

The Sitka Cycling Club will host monthly group rides throughout the summer, and each one will start or end at a different Bicycle Benefits participating business to show our support.

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