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The Sitka Cycling Club will host a free workshop on commuting to work by bike and utility cycling (using a bicycle for transportation) from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30, at the Salty Spoke Bike Co-op (located in the back of Hames Wellness Center.

Participants will receive a $10 gift certificate to the Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop, a Bicycle Benefits helmet sticker that gets commuters discounts at 12 local business, a helmet if needed, a place to do some basic bike maintenance, educational resources, and Sitka-specific riding tips for commuters.

The outdoor workshop will start at the Salty Spoke Bike Co-op and will include a short ride downtown. This event is supported by the Sitka Cycling Club and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).

For more information or to sign up for one of the 10 spots, call SEARHC Health Educator Doug Osborne at 966-8674.

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Saturday, June 5, is National Trails Day this year, and the Sitka Cycling Club will celebrate by hosting a work party on its newest single-track mountain bike trail, Haa Latseen.

The work party takes place from 9 a.m. to noon, and takes place on the new loop off the Sitka Cross Trail. To reach the new loop, enter the Cross Trail from the Sitka High School entrance and go north (left from the spur) for about 120 yards. If you get as far as the gravel pile, you’ve gone about 60 feet too far.

The trail was named by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), which contributed $1,500 toward its construction. In Tlingít, Haa Latseen means strength of mind, body, and spirit. Work started on the trail on May 1, and there are regular work parties from 4-6 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons this summer.

This is part of a series of single-track mountain bike trail loops the Sitka Cycling Club started building in 2020. Last summer the club built four loops, plus another loop was built by a group sponsored by the Sitka Conservation Society Community Conservation Corps. The goal is to build three more trails this summer, while also moving forward on a pump track project.

Speaking of the proposed pump track, the City and Borough of Sitka Parks and Recreation Committee will meet at noon on Tuesday, June 8, in Harrigan Centennial Hall, 330 Harbor Drive. Agenda items include: Sitka Cycling Club Pump Track; Upper Moller Field Use; Lower Moller Field; Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan. The meeting is open to the public.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and state health mandates encouraging residents to practice social distancing, and limit group gatherings, individuals that would like to participate by teleconference can contact jessica.earnshaw@cityofsitka.org or call 747-1826 by 10:00 a.m. the day of the meeting to obtain information to join the meeting.

These trails don’t build themselves. While we use (and so much appreciate) our volunteer labor, we still need to purchase gravel, shovels, wheelbarrows and other supplies. That’s where you come in, please donate to our efforts today. 

We are applying for a grant to help finance more trails, and the grant requires matching funding. We need people to pitch in so that we can match dollar for dollar. Please send a few bucks (or a few hundred) to the Sitka Cycling Club through our PayPal site, which accepts PayPal as well as credit/debit cards. You also can mail checks to Sitka Cycling Club, c/o Charles Bingham, treasurer, 405 Marine Street, Apt. No. 6, Sitka, Alaska 99835.

We also are looking for people to volunteer on our trail-building teams, with work parties from 4-6 p.m. every Tuesday and at a time TBA on the first Saturday of the month. We now have an online volunteer registration page, where people can sign up for specific work parties so we can make sure we stay Covid-safe on the trails.

We appreciate everybody’s help on this project. Thank you for your assistance. For more details on how to volunteer, contact single-track project leader Amy Volz at amy.volz@outlook.com.

A slideshow of trail-construction photos from May is linked below. These photos, including the one at the top of this post, were taken by Lione Clare.

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TRAIL HELP –  Jessika Bean, project coordinator in SEARHC’s Health Promotion Department, left, presents a $1,500 check from SEARHC to Amy Volz,  the single-track trails project manager for the Sitka Cycling Club, recently. The money will be used to support the construction of a new single-track mountain bike trail, Haa Latseen, a spur off the Sitka Cross Trail. Volunteer work parties are held from 4-6 p.m. every Tuesday this summer and from 9 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of the month. At the May 1 work party volunteers built the first 40 feet of trail and removed 820 pounds of rusty metal, litter, and trash that was in the area of the new trail behind Sitka High School. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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A Back-to-Biking Workshop takes place from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5, as part of Sitka’s National Bike Month celebration. The free workshop will start at the Salty Spoke Bike Co-op, located in the back of the Hames Wellness Center. 

The purpose of the outdoor event is to review the basics of safe recreational and commuter bicycling in Sitka. The workshop will include a group ride, participation gifts, and a chance to work on maintaining your bicycle.   

For more information, call Doug Osborne at 966-8674 or go to our website at https://sitkacycling.wordpress.com/ to see the full National Bike Month calendar. 

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BIKE MONTH – Ben Hughey, left, and Doug Osborne hang a banner proclaiming May as National Bike Month, Monday at the Crescent Harbor basketball court. The Sitka Cycling Club has a number of events planned for the month including the back to biking workshop from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Salty Spoke Bike Co-op behind the Hames Wellness Center. Organizers say the event will include a group ride, participation gifts and a chance to work on maintaining your bicycle. The League of American Bicyclists is promoting several national events including Bike to Work Week (May 17-21) and National Bike to School Day (May 5). (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo By James Poulson)

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Throughout the month of May, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) invites community members to hike, bike, walk or run for a cause.

Participants of all ages and ability levels can join SEARHC in its month-long “Move for a Cause” campaign that focuses on the mental and physical health benefits of activity.

Registration is free, and the number of miles logged, steps taken, or active outdoor minutes by participants will generate donations to Southeast Alaska Food Bank and CoastAlaska Public Radio through SEARHC. Online registration is free and open now at http://www.searhc.org/moveforacause.

Once registered, participants can log their time spent being active to support partners in community health. In light of food insecurities being faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for advocating local resources, SEARHC will make a donation in honor of every participant that logs all four weeks of activity to SouthEast Alaska Food Bank and CoastAlaska Public Radio through the Move for a Cause campaign.

“Together, we can make great strides in supporting our physical and mental health through activity and come together for important causes in our community during these challenging times,” said Martha Pearson, SEARHC Director of Health Promotion.

Throughout May, weekly prizes will be awarded for those who log their goals and activities. For more information, visit searhc.org/moveforacause or contact SEARHC Health Educator Heleena van Veen at 907-966-8914.

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The Sitka Cycling Club’s monthly group ride, in honor of Earth Week, will be on Saturday, April 24. The ride will start at 1:30 p.m. at the Salty Spoke Bike Co-op (accessed by riding to the back of the Hames Center, below the recycling center, map on link). 

The nine-mile round trip ride will go to Silver Bay via the multi-use path along Sawmill Creek Road. All helmeted cyclists are welcome to join. Cyclists who bring a vaccination card will be entered into a special prize drawing.

For more information or to sign up to be a Sitka Cycling Club member, go to sitkacycling.wordpress.com or call Doug Osborne at 738-8734

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Photo by Lione Clare

The Harry Race Soda Fountain, which donates its tips to a local nonprofit organization each month, will pay it forward to the Salty Spoke Bicycle Cooperative in February.

The Salty Spoke is a membership cooperative (with a sliding fee based on income) located in the back of the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, providing bicycle maintenance and classes on bike repair. It also helps repair older bikes for lower-income riders, especially kids. The Salty Spoke opened in October 2019 and is usually open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

“We are beyond excited to hear that Harry Race Soda Fountain has selected us to receive their soda fountain tips this month,” Salty Spoke co-coordinator Alyssa Russell said. “As a budding cooperative, this support from our community means so much to us, and we are excited to put the funds towards our youth education program. Thank you Harry Race.”

The Salty Spoke will host three bike maintenance workshops from 11 a.m. to noon on the last three Saturdays in February (Feb. 13, 20, and 27). Subjects covered likely will include routine chain maintenance, rust prevention techniques, safety checks, prevention techniques, and brake adjustments.

The workshops are $20 for the general public and free for Salty Spoke members. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the workshops are capped at eight participants and masks and social distancing are required. For more details, contact the Salty Spoke at thesaltyspoke@gmail.com.

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Sitka cyclists are hardy souls, and many of us ride our bikes all year round, not just in the summer. Now Sitka cyclists can ride and win prizes by participating in the ninth annual International Winter Bike To Work Day on Friday, Feb. 12. This year, since so many people are working from home or are out of work due to COVID-19, the event has been rebranded as WinterBikeALoopza, with people encouraged to ride loops around town if they aren’t actually riding to work or school.

Our celebration of winter cycling in Sitka will be simple. First, go to the International Winter Bike To Work Day website, https://winterbiketoworkday.org/, and commit online to riding to work on Friday, Feb. 12 (people who work at home can use a bike ride for errands or sport as their bike commute for the day). Then, on Friday, Feb. 12, during your bike commute, stop by the Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop (329 Harbor Dr.) between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to enter your name and phone number in a contest to win prizes, including a reflective vest from Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop and other goodies from businesses around town.

This is the ninth year of International Winter Bike To Work Day, which started when several communities in Canada challenged each other to see which one could have the highest number of bike commuters. In 2014 the event expanded outside Canada, and Sitka and Anchorage hosted events along with several other communities around the world’s polar regions. Sitka ended up having the second-highest number of participants per capita, trailing only Oulu, Finland, in 2014. We also were the smallest community to have at least 20 participants. In 2015, there were even more winter cyclists participating around the world, and Zagreb, Croatia, became the first community to have more than 1,000 cyclists participate. Zagreb also had the most participants in 2016 (Sitka finished 107th overall, even finishing ahead of some large cities). Zagreb won again in 2017, but in 2018 Novi Sad, Serbia, ended Zagreb’s three-year reign as the top winter biking community. There now are ways businesses and schools can compete.

The 2019 event saw the first winner from the United States, as Denver, Color., had the most points (1,405) and participants (1,207). Boulder, Colo., took second place with 1,174 points; followed in third place by Zagreb, Hrvatska (Croatia), with 520 points; Gdańsk, Polska (Poland), in fourth place with 287 points; and Varaždin, Hrvatska, in fifth place with 264 points.

Sitka finished in a six-way tie for 98th place overall in 2019 with 20 points, matching New York City; Durham, N.C.; Osijek, Hrvatska (Croatia); Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland (Germany); and Getxo, España (Spain). Communities earned points for the number of cyclists who rode and registered their rides with the international website, inviting friends to ride, sharing photos, hosting an event, etc. The only other Alaska community ranked in the top 200 cities was Anchorage in 41st place with 67 points.

In 2020, Sitka finished in a 30-way tie for 180th place overall with six points/riders who recorded their rides on the International Winter Bike To Work/School Day website, matching Warsaw, Poland; Zurich, Switzerland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Madrid, Spain; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and several other much larger communities around the world. Communities earned points for the number of cyclists who rode and registered their rides with the international website. The only other Alaska community ranked in the top 200 cities was Anchorage in a three-way tie for 113th place with 14 points.

The 2020 overall winner was Uppsala, Sweden, with 879 points. Taking second place was 2014 winner Oulu, Finland, with 791 points; followed by Helsinki, Finland, in third with 571; Linköping, Sweden, in fourth with 479; and three-time winner (2015-17) Zagreb, Croatia, in fifth place with 468 points. Boulder, Colo., was the top city from the United States with 413 points.

We encourage all cyclists to be safe in their rides. They should wear helmets, wear bright reflective clothes, and have working solid white headlights in front and blinking red taillights in back. They also should follow all rules of the road, such as riding on the right side of the road (not on the sidewalk) and stopping at all stop lights/stop signs.

We are still gathering door prizes, and businesses or people wanting to donate door prizes to the event can contact Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com or Doug Osborne at douglaso@searhc.org for more information. We are looking for items such as gloves, reflective safety vests, water bottles, helmets, etc., although some businesses donated gift cards, bike books, or non-biking and non-winter items in past years.

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Sitka Cycling Club President Doug Osborne, left, and Sitka Cycling Club Treasurer Charles Bingham show off their Bicycle Friendly Community Silver Level designation swag in 2016. Sitka just renewed its Bicycle Friendly Community designation at the Silver Level for 2020-24.

The League of American Bicyclists announced on Wednesday (Dec. 16) that it has renewed the Silver Level designation for Sitka, Alaska, in the Bicycle Friendly Community program.

The Bicycle Friendly Community program promotes safer streets and better bicycling by awarding various levels to communities based on how their city or town meets standards in the Five E’s — Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation/Planning. A new E, Equity, is being introduced to the judging process and will replace Enforcement in future applications. Communities are required to resubmit applications at least once every four years.

This is the fourth time Sitka has been honored with a Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) award. Sitka became Alaska’s first BFC in 2008, after community members chose becoming a more bike- and walk-friendly community as one of the community wellness projects from the first Sitka Health Summit in 2007. Sitka renewed at the Bronze Level in 2012, and upgraded to the Silver Level in 2016. In addition, Sitka also earned the state’s first Walk Friendly Communities designations with Bronze Level awards in 2013 and 2017 (WFC is a newer program coordinated by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center and supported by the Pedestrian and Bicycling Information Center).

“This is great news,” Sitka Cycling Club President Doug Osborne said. “Thanks to the League (of American Bicyclists) and everyone in town who’s helping us to be a Bicycle Friendly Community. Being a bike friendly community was identified as a top goal at the first Sitka Health Summit planning day in 2007. Since then, we have made steady progress and now we have more places to ride.”

Wednesday’s announcement honored 51 communities as renewing or new Bicycle Friendly Communities at the Platinum (1), Gold (3), Silver (11) or Bronze (38) levels (there also is a Diamond Level that wasn’t awarded this time). In addition, there were 16 communities that earned Honorable Mention status, just below the full BFC designation. Since 2002, the League of American Bicyclists has awarded 485 BFC designations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and has received applications from more than 850 communities. There now are five BFCs in Alaska — Sitka (Silver), Anchorage (Silver), Juneau (Bronze), Kenai (Bronze) and Soldotna (Bronze) — and two Honorable Mentions (Fairbanks and Haines).

“During one of the toughest years in recent memory, we have seen so many Americans turn to biking during the pandemic for fun and for necessary transportation options. It’s so important that communities like Sitka have laid the groundwork over several years to make biking a safe, accessible option for people when we all need as much health and happiness as possible,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “This Bicycle Friendly Community award is the culmination of years of work put in by Sitka and its citizen advocates for better biking. This award round, Sitka joins 51 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Communities in the movement toward healthier, more sustainable and connected places. As we turn the page on 2020 and look ahead to 2021, we’re proud that Sitka and communities like it are embracing bicycling as a solution to our collective recovery.”

The Bicycle Friendly Community program is part of the League of American Bicyclist’s larger Bicycle Friendly America program, which also includes Bicycle Friendly State, Bicycle Friendly Business, and Bicycle Friendly University designations. Sitka’s largest employer, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Sitka Campus, holds a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Business designation.

During normal years, Sitka is known for hosting a variety of community bike rides and education events, such as National Bike Month events in May and a Kidical Mass family friendly bike ride in September, and having one of the state’s highest rates of people who commute to work by bike. But the COVID-19 pandemic limited those activities this spring and summer.

Sitka still accomplished several cycling-positive projects over the past couple of years, such as building four single-track mountain bike trail loops off the Sitka Cross Trail this summer, opening the Salty Spoke bike cooperative at Hames Wellness Center, rebranding the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition as the Sitka Cycling Club and getting nearly 250 club members to register, starting a citywide bicycle parking plan, starting a Sitka mountain bike trails plan, launching a Bicycle Benefits program where cyclists can show participating merchants a sticker on their helmets to receive a discount at local businesses, and hosting the 2019 Alaska Walk and Bike Conference that included a two-day Smart Cycling training (Sitka also was scheduled to host the 2020 conference before it went virtual due to the pandemic).

To learn more about the Sitka Cycling Club, go to https://sitkacycling.wordpress.com or like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaCycling. Links to Sitka’s Bicycle Friendly Community application and report card can be found under the Documents tab on the Sitka Cycling Club website (previous year applications can be found by scrolling down the page). To learn more about the League of American Bicyclists and its Bicycle Friendly Community program, go to http://www.bikeleague.org/community.

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