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The expected record year of tourists is making Sitka look for ways to reduce traffic downtown by encouraging more people to commute by biking or walking.

But when you bicycle to work, you need a good, safe place to park your bike. You want a good, secure place to lock the bike; you want a covered shelter to protect against rain; and you want the bike parking to be close to your destination.

As part of the Walk, Bike, Win! downtown commuter challenge this summer, we are installing new bike racks to help you get physically active in Sitka. Click this link to help us decide where Sitkans most need bike racks in the downtown area.

Not sure where Sitka already has bike parking, check out this online map compiled by Joshua Houston. Note, some places on this map may have older, fender-bender style bike racks that need to be upgraded to newer racks that meet industry standards.

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The 38th running, biking and swimming of the Julie Hughes Triathlon starts at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, at Blatchley Middle School. This is the first full triathlon after two years of people completing the course on their own because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The event is a fundraiser for the Sitka Cancer Survivors Society and honors the memory of a young Sitka woman who passed away from leukemia at the age of 15. (Click here for an April 2013 Capital City Weekly article about Julie Hughes.) Day-of-race registration ends at 8 a.m., followed by a pre-race briefing, and the race starts at 8:30 a.m. The bike staging area opens at 7:15 a.m.

JulieHughesTriathlon

For the 10th straight year, the Baranof Barracudas Swim Club is organizing the race, having taken over event hosting duties from the Hughes family. Registration takes place online at http://juliehughestri.com/. The entry fee is $40 per person ($20 per child age 17 or younger), and people can enter as individuals or teams. Day-of-race registrations are $50 for adults and $20 for children. Participants are encouraged to have bike safety checks done at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop before the race.

The course is a five-mile run from Blatchley Middle School to the U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka gate and back, a 14-mile bike ride from Blatchley to the Starrigavan Recreation Area at the end of Halibut Point Road and back, and a 1,000-yard swim at the Blatchley Middle School swimming pool. There is a shorter course available for participants who are age 12 or younger (1.5-mile run, six-mile bike, 500-yard swim).

For more information, contact Kevin Knox at 907-738-4664, or send an e-mail to bbsc.sitka@gmail.com.

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With a record number of cruise ship visitors expected in Sitka this summer, the new Walk, Bike, Win! downtown commuter challenge will help reduce car traffic while also offering Sitka residents a fitness challenge.

Walk, Bike, Win! starts on Saturday, May 7, which is the first day when downtown streets are closed to cars because more than 3,000 cruise ship passengers are expected in Sitka that day. The contest runs through Thursday, Sept. 29, which is when the last large cruise ship of the season is scheduled.

This free challenge is co-sponsored by Visit Sitka, the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce, the City and Borough of Sitka, Sitka Conservation Society, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka Trail Works, and the Sitka Cycling Club.

So how does the challenge work?

Sitka residents first need to register by going to the online registration link and submitting name and email, etc. Next, any time you walk or bike to a destination in the blue zone of this downtown map, record the trip and earn points. You earn points for any human-powered trip downtown, the time of the trip, and if it’s on a Lincoln Street closure day, plus there are bonus points for people who are new to active transportation.

There are a variety of prizes available from local merchants, including many that participate in the Bicycle Benefits program. The first 150 people to hit three points win gift cards from the Backdoor Cafe, Highliner Coffee, Wild Flower Cafe, Sitka Flowers and Chocolate Moose, and Fisheye Coffee. If you earn 25 points you get a gift card to the Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Sitka Farmers Market or Old Harbor Books. If you earn 75 points you win a gift card from BEAK Restaurant or Mean Queen. For 150 points you win a gift card to Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop, Russell’s, or Work and Rugged Gear/Mountain Miss.

Those who earn 200 points will be entered into a grand prize drawing for $100 cash plus your choice of a three-month membership at the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, two tickets on a 2022-23 Sitka Trail Works boat trip hike, or a one-year membership at the Salty Spoke Bicycle Cooperative.

People can pick up their prizes at the front desk of the Planning Department at City Hall. Every Friday, Sitka Trail Works will send out an email that announces that week’s prize winners. If you need a paper copy to log your trips, click this link and download it.

For more information, Doug Osborne at 966-8674 or douglaso@searhc.org.

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The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 22, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

With the new tourism plan, the club has $10,000 for downtown bike parking and $12,000 for an incentive program to get people commuting by bike or on foot. Meeting topics includes planning local events for National Bike Month in May, a new summer commuter challenge (Walk, Bike, Win!) that starts in May, trail updates, the status on a new pump track to be built this summer, scheduling community bike rides, and more. We also will set the date for our next meeting for May.

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

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The Salty Spoke Bicycle Cooperative will be able to spread out in its new space, which is larger, more accessible, and heated.

After spending much of the weekend moving, the Salty Spoke will host an open house from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, April 17, at its new location of 1 Lincoln Street, the small building that used to house Devil Fish Gallery next to the historic Cable House with KCAW-Raven Radio and Beak Restaurant.

In addition to the open house, Charlie Lowell of the Susitna Bicycle Institute in Anchorage will teach a basic bicycle mechanics workshop from 12:30-4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The workshop is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $25 for Salty Spoke members and $40 for non-members.

The new space is partially funded by a grant from the Outride Fund, for mentoring rural Alaska youth bike mechanics. The Salty Spoke’s old space was in the back of the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, but the co-op had outgrown that space and needed more room.

From left, Joel Hanson and Alyssa Russell of the Salty Spoke Bicycle Cooperative and Charlie Lowell of the Susitna Bicycle Institute pose after completing the Salty Spoke’s move to its new location. There will be an open house and Charlie will teach a basic bike mechanics workshop on Sunday, April 17.

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The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at noon on Friday, March 25, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

With the new tourism plan, the club has $10,000 for downtown bike parking and $12,000 for an incentive program to get people commuting by bike or on foot. Meeting topics include an update on a recent grant application to the Crossett Fund for the pump track project and Salty Spoke Bicycle Co-op, our first monthly group bike ride of the season on Saturday, a new fitness challenge for April, planning for National Bike Month in May, and more. We also will set the date for our next meeting for April.

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

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In December, Sitka artist Ilgavak Peter Williams, owner of Shaman Furs, at right, donated $5,275 to the Salty Spoke Co-op. Pictured from Salty Spoke are Joel Hanson, left, and Seung Baang. (Photo provided)

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

By GARLAND KENNEDY
Daily Sitka Sentinel Staff Writer

The Salty Spoke, Sitka’s bike cooperative, will be able to hire staff members thanks to a sizable donation from a local artist and a matching grant from a national organization.

After only a year in operation, the Salty Spoke has raised $15,351 from local donations and an equal amount from the Outride Fund, a group that promotes cycling among young people.

For Ilgavak Peter Williams, cycling has long been a way of life. He donated $5,275 to the Salty Spoke’s fundraising campaign in late December, putting the group over its $15,000 threshold to receive matching funds from Outride.

“I got into biking .. at a young age,” Williams said told the Sentinel by phone. “My family didn’t have a car growing up and I really enjoyed the independence I got as a form of transportation as a kid, and would also prefer to get myself to school via bicycle than take the bus.”

Originally from Akiak, near Bethel, Williams moved to Sitka when he was a small child.

The Salty Spoke offers bike repair workshops at the back of the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center and focuses on educating young people.

Speaking for Salty Spoke, Joel Hanson was grateful for William’s donation.

“We want to thank Shaman Furs and Ilgavak Peter Williams,” Hanson said. “We’re grateful to him and his company for putting us past our matching grant goal of $15,000 from the Outride Fund. He was able to finish off what other people have started.” 

As stated on its website, saltyspoke.com, the organization hopes to “build an inclusive and strong bicycling culture in Sheet’ká by increasing equitable access to safe, affordable transportation, decolonizing cycling by supporting women, youth and Indigenous bikers as well as Sitkans with income limitations, and offering programs that allow riders to have more agency over maintaining their own bikes.”

Williams has been active with Salty Spoke since its inception.

“I’ve been involved with the Salty Spoke for a while and was involved in trying to help it get started and then also involved in actually applying for the Outride grant,” he said. “And so I’ve been aware of what it’s been doing and the purpose of the grant and I’ve just been really blessed this year with my business, Shaman Furs.”

As an artist working with fur as a medium, Williams has been featured in the New York Times and the Guardian for his sea mammal fur artwork. His company website is seaotterfur.com, though he noted that recently he has branched out to work with fish skin and deer hides.

Williams travels by bike in his daily routine – he enjoys the independence and low costs associated with cycling.

“As an adult I also really appreciate it as a form of independent transportation and I really love riding a bicycle,” he said. “I really enjoy the freedom… costing less, not having to be dependent on insurance, gas. Maintenance is a lot easier, that kind of thing. And also just how it’s really good exercise – and mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. So I enjoy riding a bike for these reasons and I’ve never gotten a driver’s license.”

He was glad for the chance to donate money to help increase access to biking in Sitka.

“It means a lot that I’m in a position where my business can donate that money. I guess it’s pretty cliche but it’s giving back. I’m really excited about the Salty Spoke’s mission of trying to decolonize and disrupt patriarchy in cycling and trying to make cycling more accessible as a form of transportation in this community,” Williams said.

Salty Spoke offers people a place to work on their bikes, or to repair older bikes and return them to service.

“The Salty Spoke offers a space for people to maintain and work on their bikes. We have some volunteer co-op members that are trained in mechanics and maintenance and can assist on projects. Another service we offer is a work-trade for a bike, so if someone doesn’t have a bike, they can come in and work on a bike and eventually they are able to take that bike when it gets to the point of being safe and usable. We don’t want the bikes to be sitting around. We want people to be safe and use human-powered transportation instead of vehicles. Generally, there are a lot of good opportunities for particularly young people to work with their hands and learn skills,” Hanson summarized.

The Salty Spoke is open Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and operates on a cooperative membership program.

Bike mechanic Alyssa Russell said the Outride grant is well suited to reaching young people.

“They’re really focused on how equitable access to biking is a really healthy outlet to youth and so having access to biking as a source of exercise, a source of community, a source of empowerment,” Russell said. “That’s kind of their focus and that’s what we’re really excited about with these funds… I think we do have an opportunity to reach youth.”

The cumulative $30,000 in new funding will enable the group to finance more youth cycling education.

“We will use the generous donations of people and companies like Shaman Furs to start a youth education program,” Hanson said. “This summer, we will hire a part-time staff member who will coordinate those youth programs and teach young people life skills and bike mechanics skills.”

With about 40 people currently in the co-op, Hanson said, most services involve oiling bike chains and adjusting brakes, though sometimes more significant repairs are needed.

Russell was eager for the chance to offer additional services.

“We really want to expand our youth program – we see a lot of potential with that. I personally have found a lot of joy and empowerment through working with bikes… The youth we’ve worked with so far have been super excited and into it,” she said. “Some youth are more tactile learners and it’s cool to be able to provide something totally different that they might not have tried before.”

As a female mechanic, Russell stressed the importance of providing an inclusive space.

“The biking world can be not very diverse and if you go into a bike shop, chances are most of the people working there will be male… For me it’s been really exciting. I didn’t feel like as a woman I could be mechanical, and so we were also really excited to be a safe space for all,” she said.

Hanson stressed his desire to maintain a low barrier to entry.

“We want to have really low barriers… and hopefully this summer we’ll be able to have a staff member that is specifically dedicated to making programs like that happen,” he said. 

Hanson was also appreciative for support from SEARHC, the Sitka Legacy Foundation and other individuals.

As the nationwide shortage of bikes and bike parts continues, Hanson hopes to provide a place for Sitkans to keep their bikes running.

“There is definitely a shortage of bikes, bike parts and bike tools,” he said. “The Salty Spoke wants to create opportunities for people to learn skills and have the resources needed to do that right here in our town.”

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The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at noon on Friday, Dec. 17, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

Meeting topics include introductions, coordinating a Crossett Fund grant application for the pump track and Salty Spoke Bike Cooperative, planning an annual meeting, discussion of our final club newsletter for the year, recruitment and next steps, and summary and close. We also will set our next meeting for January.

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

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The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at noon on Friday, Nov. 19, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

Meeting topics include introductions, coordinating a Crossett Fund grant application for the pump track and Salty Spoke Bike Cooperative, planning an annual meeting, discussion of our final club newsletter for the year, recruitment and next steps, and summary and close. We also will set our next meeting for December (usually at noon on the fourth Thursday of the month, unless we need to move it).

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

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The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at noon on Thursday, Oct. 28, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

Meeting topics include refining our mission statement and club goals for 2021, a review of our single-track mountain bike trail-building accomplishments (three new single-track trails this summer) and fundraising efforts, an update on our pump track project (which was heard by the Sitka Assembly at its Oct. 26 meeting), an update on the Salty Spoke Bike Cooperative, working on a bicycle safety plan for Sitka (which includes reminders about cyclists not riding on sidewalks downtown and drivers giving cyclists three feet of clearance when they pass), a discussion of steering club committee roles and recruitment of new members, a discussion of club membership and possibly adding annual dues, creating a fundraising plan, and setting our next meeting for November (usually at noon on the fourth Thursday of the month).

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

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