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Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

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 will host an open house and accept public comments for the Sawmill Creek Road resurfacing and pedestrian improvements project between the roundabout and Jeff Davis Street.

The open house takes place from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Public comments will close on Jan. 30, 2018, and construction is expected to start in 2019.

This meeting will only deal with Option 2 from the two options the Alaska DOT&PF presented Sitka with in May. Option 2 was passed unanimously by the Sitka Parks and Recreation Commission in June, and it passed 5-1 (with one absent) during a September meeting of the Sitka Assembly. Option 2 narrows traffic lanes, removes parking on the south side of the street (the water side), and creates new bike lanes on both sides of Sawmill Creek Road. Option 1 kept the status quo (other than to widen the traffic lanes in a coupe of spots), which did not improve the safety for bikers and walkers.

“At this meeting, only Option 2 will be presented for public comment,” said Aurah Landau, a public information officer with the Alaska DOT&PF. “It is the preferred option, and Option 1 is off the table.”

The two options were first 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 a May 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 May 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 a May 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 May 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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Are you a cyclist who’s never tried bike commuting in the winter? Are you an experienced winter bike commuter looking for ways to make the ride better?

Join us for a free winter bike commuting workshop from 5:30-7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, at the the Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop. Robert Hattle of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will lead this workshop, which includes tips on winter gear, studded tires, being visible to drivers, basic bike maintenance, and more. In addition, cyclists are welcome to share their winter biking stories, and Yellow Jersey will offer a special discount on winter clothing and equipment to workshop participants.

For more information, contact Robert Hattle at 738-2230. Also, the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition now has a Sitka Cycling page on Facebook. Please like our page.

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Getting around Sitka on foot or bike is good for the environment and your health. It is important to make sure it’s done safely, especially while traveling at night.

Walkers — people who travel by foot, wheelchair or stroller — and bicyclists are among the most vulnerable users of our roads. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the next 24 hours, on average, 445 people in the U.S. will be treated in an emergency department for traffic-related pedestrian injuries.

Sitka can be dark, especially in the winter months, and many of the bicyclist and walker fatalities happen in low visibility. Drivers can only stop or swerve for the people they see. Lights, reflectors and high-visibility coats offer a level of protection.

Thanks to Grundens and Murray Pacific, Sitka Community Hospital will be raffling off high-visibility rain coats at various locations throughout Sitka. These raffles will take place at Sitka Public Library, Hames Center, Salvation Army Little Store, Tongass Threads, Sitka Tribe of Alaska Social Services, Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop, Swan Lake Senior Center, Sitka Public Health Center, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School and Sitka Community Hospital’s Oceanside Therapy Center.  The drawings will start as early as Oct. 30 and are open to all.

Having a coat that covers you and can be seen from all sides is a great way to stay safe and seen. For more information on the Safe and Seen in Sitka campaign, contact Sitka Community Hospital’s Director of Health Promotion Doug Osborne at 747-0373.

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The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, at the North Sister Crepes and Juice Company (located on Seward Street next to Subway).

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 the Kidical Mass family friendly bike ride held on Saturday, Sept. 16, a series of winter cycling workshops, a discussion of bike racks and bike infrastructure, and a conversation about our goals for the next six months.

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

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walk-to-school-1

WalkToSchoolDay_HomepageMapNot too long ago, most of us walked or biked to school. But now, most kids arrive at school via their parents’ cars or school buses. Wednesday, Oct. 4, is International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, and Sitka parents and teachers are encouraged to help their schoolchildren walk to school on this day.

In 1970, more than half of all elementary school students ages 6-11 walked to school. By 2006, only 15 percent were walking to school. Alarmed by this trend, a group called the Partnership for a Walkable America started National Walk To School Day in 1997 as a one-day event aimed at building awareness for the need for walkable communities. In 2000, the event became international when the UK and Canada (both of which had already been promoting walking to school) and the USA joined together for the first International Walk to School Day. In addition to expanding into several other countries, the dates also have expanded and October is International Walk To School Month.

“Walking or biking to school is an excellent way to add some physical activity into your day,” said Doug Osborne, Sitka Community Hospital Director of Health Promotion. “It can be a great way to start the day. Walking or biking can be a lot of fun. It’s also important to remember to be safe.”

WBTSD_12inch_ColorWalking or biking to school with their children is a good way for parents to catch up on what’s happening in their children’s lives. Other benefits to walking or biking to school include less traffic, cleaner air, and friendlier communities. Walking with their children is a good way for parents see if there are things along the route that can be done to improve safety, such as improving lighting, checking crosswalks and watching for aggressive pets along the route.

International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day is a great teaching tool for safety. Parents and teachers can teach the kids about road safety rules and the importance of being visible when they walk or bike alongside the roads. They also can check their kids’ clothes and backpacks to make sure they have reflective tape on them.

Reflectors Save Lives posterReflective tape is particularly important as we enter the dark months of the winter. Students need to Be Safe, Be Seen, and reflective tape can make a big difference in their visibility. Not only are kids sometimes hard to be seen because they’re blocked by cars, but many cars in Southeast Alaska experience condensation problems during the fall and winter that make it hard to see through windshields. Reflective tape and blinking lights can make it so kids are seen hundreds of feet before they would be if they wore plain dark clothes. The Alaska Injury Prevention Center’s pedestrian safety program will mail free reflective tape to people who call (907) 929-3939. The Alaska Injury Prevention Center also produced a YouTube video that shows how reflective tape makes you easier to see.

To learn more about International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, contact your local school to see if any events are scheduled, or check with the Alaska Safe Routes To School program. The official International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day website also has a lot of information about how to set up an event for your school, including tool kits to help you arrange an event. Even if your kids don’t walk the entire way to school, you can drop them off a mile or so away and walk in with them. Many parents create walking school buses to bring several students who live in the same area to school together in one group.

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Raingear was the attire of the day, but the predicted storms held off long enough for Sitka to host a damp third Kidical Mass family oriented bike ride Saturday, Sept. 16.

This event, which drew about 40-60 riders, featured a ride of about 1.5 miles from the tennis courts/playground across from Sheldon Jackson Campus to the Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School covered playground area. It was held in conjunction with dozens of other Kidical Mass rides around the world, as Sept. 16 was declared Kidical Massive with the hope of having the biggest family bike ride ever, according to Kidical Massive organizers in Eugene, Ore.

Kidical Mass is a legal, safe and FUN bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families. The first ride was held in 2008 in Eugene, Ore., and has now spread to dozens of communities throughout North America and beyond. Kidical Mass rides encourage safe riding for kids and families, with education about how to safely ride on the roads.

The Sitka Kidical Mass ride featured bike safety checks, bike helmet fitting (reminder, Sitka has a youth bike helmet ordinance with all riders age 18 or younger required to use a helmet), door prizes, bike skills events, and pedal-powered smoothies (where the blender was powered by a bike).

Local organizers included the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition4-HUAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District OfficeSitka Conservation SocietyBig Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, and Sitka Community Hospital.

A slideshow of scenes from the ride is posted below.

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The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition will meet from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, at the North Sister Crepes and Juice Company (located on Seward Street next to Subway).

The monthly meeting is open to everyone interested in making Sitka an even better town for cyclists of all ages. Topics include finalizing plans for the Kidical Mass family friendly bike ride on Saturday, Sept. 16, and planning other events in October (including National Walk/Bike To School Day on Wednesday, Oct. 4, and some winter cycling education events).

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

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