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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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Cyclists of all ages are invited to join Sitka’s third “Kidical Mass” family bike ride, which is scheduled to start at the playground/tennis courts across from Sheldon Jackson Campus at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16.

The group will bike to Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, where there will be complimentary pedal-powered smoothies, door prizes and fun activities. There also will be free bike safety checks and helmet-fitting before the ride starts, so get to the playground/tennis courts early.

Each participant will need a bike, a helmet (Sitka has a youth helmet ordinance for everybody age 18 or younger), and an adult (or kid-at-heart) to ride with. Kidical Mass events encourage family participation and teaching young riders bike safety on the road. We will have a few new helmets available for those who need them.

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.

Sept. 16 has been dubbed “Kidical Massive” by the Oregon organizers, who are calling for Kidical Mass rides in dozens of communities that they estimate will be the biggest global family bike ride ever. Sitka hosted its first Kidical Mass event as part of Kidical Massive in 2015, and you can see photos by clicking this link. Sitka’s second Kidical Mass ride was in 2016, and photos can be found here.

Local organizers include the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition4-HUAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District OfficeSitka Conservation SocietyBig Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, and Sitka Community Hospital.  For more information, call Doug Osborne at 747-0373.

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Darby Osborne wears two helmets before a Sitka Community Bike Ride event several years ago.

Thursday, June 1, was the 12th anniversary of Sitka’s youth bicycle ordinance, and it’s a good time to remind parents that their children younger than age 18 are required to wear helmets when biking, skateboarding, inline skating, riding a scooter, or using any other similar vehicle in Sitka. If a child is caught riding without a helmet often enough, the parents will start receiving fines.

“The ground is very hard and unyielding so wearing a helmet that is level, snug and strapped is very important,” said Sitka Community Hospital Director of Health Promotion Doug Osborne, who lobbied for the ordinance 12 years ago when he worked with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). “I know people who might not be here today if it wasn’t for their trusty helmet. Helmets save lives!”

According to the Center for Head Injury Services, 85 percent of all head injuries in bicycle wrecks can be prevented by wearing helmets, and about 75 percent of bicyclists who die after being in a wreck die from head injuries. The lifetime cost of a severe head injury can exceed $4 million. Considering most helmets cost between $10-$50, that’s a cheap investment for injury prevention.

Sitka was one of the first Alaska communities to adopt a youth helmet ordinance, and Sitka’s ordinance has been used as a statewide model by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Here’s the text of Sitka’s youth helmet ordinance.

 

11.70.010 Helmet requirements for young persons riding certain vehicles. (Revised 4/15)

A. It shall be unlawful for any person under eighteen years of age to operate or ride upon in-line skates, skateboards, scooters, coasters, toy motorized vehicles, gasoline or electric motor-driven cycles or scooters, bicycles, tricycles, unicycles, or any similar vehicles on any public property or private property that is open for public use within the city and borough of Sitka, including highways, streets, roads, bikeways or trails, or rights-of-way, unless that person wears a certified protective helmet that is properly fitted and that is properly fastened. This requirement also applies to any minor who rides in a restraining seat, trailer, backpack or similar child-restraining device used by someone who operates in-line or roller skates, skateboards, scooters, coasters, toy motor vehicles, gasoline or electric motor-driven cycles or scooters, bicycles, tricycles, or any similar vehicles. A parent or guardian having control or custody of a minor whose conduct violates this section shall be liable for the fine imposed by this section.

B. No parent or guardian of any minor shall allow the minor to violate this chapter.

C. A certified protective helmet is a helmet containing a manufacturer certification that meets the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

D. For the first violation of this section, the individual cited will be given the opportunity to correct the citation by providing proof to the Sitka police department that a helmet was purchased or acquired otherwise for the minor. If such evidence is presented, the city and borough or court shall dismiss such citation. The fine for a violation of this section following a citation that has been dismissed based on the previous two sentences or sustained shall be twenty-five dollars. The fine for a violation that follows a violation that has resulted in a twenty-five dollar fine shall be fifty dollars. (Ord. 15-11 § 4 (part), 2015; Ord. 05-11 § 4, 2005.)

YoungboyRidesA reminder about bicycle helmets is they are designed for one major impact only and should be replaced after a wreck. The helmet may still look OK, but helmets are designed similar to a car fender where it crumbles to absorb the impact of the blow (so your head doesn’t crumble). You also need to make sure the helmet you use is correct for your activity (for example, a BMX helmet is different than a standard bike helmet). Click this link, http://www.bhsi.org/fit.htm, to learn how to properly fit a bicycle helmet.

“Helmets are a more fashionable than a sidewalk haircut,” Sitka cyclist Bill Giant said. “I’ll happily wear a helmet every day I don’t crash, because the one day I do crash I’ll be delighted I was wearing it. I’ve heard gravel scraping along my bike helmet during a bike crash, and I remember smiling and thinking ‘This helmet is saving my life.’ I lost some beautiful skin from my shoulder, but my face and hair are still impeccable. Some people find helmets uncomfortable. Everyone finds traumatic brain injuries uncomfortable. Wear a helmet.”

Bicycle helmets can be purchased from several locations in town, including Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop, AC/Lakeside Grocery, True Value, Sea Mart, and even the White E thrift shop.

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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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As the temperatures warm up, two events this week will highlight kids’ cycling and safety in Sitka —the fourth annual National Bike to School Day on Wednesday, May 10, and the Sitka Bike Rodeo on Saturday, May 13. These two events and others will help kick off National Bike Month (May) in Sitka.

The Sitka Bike Rodeo is an annual event sponsored by the Sitka Rotary Club and U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka. This year’s bike rodeo takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, at the Coast Guard hangar. The target audience for this event is children age 12 and younger. Kids need to bring their bike, a helmet and a parent to this event, which will happen rain or shine. New this year is a bike swap, where people can sell or giveaway outgrown kids’ bikes.

“It’s a good chance for kids to make sure they and their bikes are ready to hit the roads and sidewalks for the busy spring and summer biking months,” event organizer Shannon Haugland said. “They can get their tires and brakes checked, make sure their helmets fit properly, and put some fresh reflective gear on their bikes and clothing. The favorite event is the obstacle course, where kids learn the rules of the road while testing their bike control skills.”

Other event sponsors include Sitka Community Hospital, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Girls Scouts of Alaska Troop 4140, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and the Sitka Police Department. For more info about the Sitka Bike Rodeo, call Shannon Haugland at 738-0602 or Doug Osborne at 747-0373.

A Sitka student clips the strap on his bike helmet after riding his bike to school during the International Walk (and Bike) to School event in October 2008. Now there is a new and separate National Bike to School Day, this year on Wednesday, May 6. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson).

A Sitka student clips the strap on his bike helmet after riding his bike to school during the International Walk (and Bike) to School event in October 2008. Now there is a new and separate National Bike to School Day, this year on Wednesday, May 10. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson).

On Wednesday, May 10, schools all over the country will encourage students to hope on their bikes for the fourth annual National Bike to School Day. Some schools will offer special events and prizes during the day. Schools in Sitka have signed up to host events, and many other Alaska communities are hosting bike rides to school. It’s not too late to organize one for your school. To encourage safety, parents are encouraged to ride their own bikes with their kids as they head to school.

Since it’s spring and the kids are starting to ride their bikes more often, here are a few bike safety rules for the kids:

  • Wear a properly fitting bike helmet (click here to learn how to fit a helmet). Not only is it a good way to protect yourself from head injuries, Sitka has a youth helmet ordinance that requires all children age 18 or younger to wear helmets when they ride bikes, trikes, skateboards, scooters and similar vehicles.
  • Right on the right side of the road, with traffic not against it. Older kids (age 11 and older) and adults should avoid riding their bikes on the sidewalks, especially downtown where there are lots of walkers (a bike can seriously injure elders who doesn’t hear the bike rider coming up behind them).
  • Wear bright clothes and make sure you have a working solid white headlight and flashing red taillight on your bike, especially if you ride when it’s dark. Wear a reflective vest or arm bands/leg bands, and put reflective tape on your clothes and/or bike frame so it’s easier for drivers to see you on the bike.
  • Know the rules of the road, and follow them. Stop at all stop signs and stop lights. Ride in a safe, predictable manner so cars know where you’re going. Use hand signals for all turns. Yield to traffic when appropriate.
  • Check your bike before riding it, especially the ABCs — Air (tires have the right amount of air), Brakes (the brakes work and will stop your tire so it skids on the pavement) and Chain (make sure the chain is the right tension and there are no damaged links, oil if necessary).
  • For more bike safety rules for kids, click here.

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