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Posts Tagged ‘Sitka Trail Works’

KK Prussian, left, and Laurent Deviche work on the Middle Machete Loop during a recent Sitka Cycling Club work party. The loop is nearly finished and when completed will be the fourth loop built this summer. The Sitka Cycling Club finished the loop in early October 2020.

In late November 2020, the Sitka Cycling Club initiated a survey to begin a master plan for mountain biking trails in Sitka. Our ultimate goal is to provide more mountain biking opportunities to the Sitka community.

With more than 70 responses, the club received a community-wide picture of respondents’ desires for trail length, difficulty and location as well as long-form comments to the four trails built in 2020. If you took the survey, we are thankful for your involvement in the project, and we are so happy to have a chance to develop this fantastic sport here in Sitka.

For context, half of respondents classify themselves as intermediate level bikers, and are most likely to bike between 20-60 minutes an outing. As far as near-term projects that entail a low budget and volunteer labor, the most requested advancement was adding to the current network of single-track in and near the Sitka Cross Trail in town. Development of No Name Mountain also received strong support.

In the long term for projects that require more fundraising and partnership with other entities, expansion of the Indian River Trail to bikes received the most interest by a fair margin. (It’s important to note that if any work were to happen here, we would ensure that trail expansion is permitted in the area and that there is consideration put toward those who walk the trail.) The Green Lake area received the second most interest.

Regarding difficulty, preference was split between easy and more difficult, with the latter carrying more interest. Additionally, close to three-fourths of respondents showed interest in both a skills park and a pump track individually. However, when asked to rank them, more interest was shown in a skills park.

In the longer answer sections, we saw patterns in responses requesting more opportunities for flow, jumps, smaller gravel on the track, and longer trails. Another interesting point that was mentioned multiple times was interest in a Harbor Mountain downhill trail. While only 36 percent of respondents flagged it as a near-term preference, the written responses regard it as an ideal opportunity for the jumps, flow, and length that many riders want to see developed.

As for next steps, based on this information, we plan to start developing a comprehensive plan schedule to prioritize, budget and plan for work parties. We will brainstorm ways to collaborate with other Sitka organizations throughout the project.

Thanks go out to Amadea Wilhite and Reese Jacobs, both students at Outer Coast, for leading the survey effort. The club hopes to enlist more Outer Coast students in the coming months to continue the master planning process.

As well, our partners in trail building during 2020 were crucial — Raven’s Way, Youth Advocates of Sitka, Joel Hanson of Southeast Alaska Independent Living, Rotary Club of Sitka, Troy’s Excavation, Sitka Trail Works, Sitka Conservation Society, Outer Coast, City and Borough of Sitka, and our donors.

We began our efforts to build single-track mountain bike trail loops last spring, and have completed four loops to date — 907, Ewok, Little Machete, and Middle Machete. When added to the new Xóots Dei trail recently constructed by Sitka Conservation Society’s Community Conservation Corps, we now have about a half-mile of dedicated single-track mountain bike trail close to town.

Thanks to all who hauled gravel, stomped on trail, cut logs, and sent moral support messages along the way; many hands make light work. We are gratified to see so many Sitkans responding to the survey, indicating their interest in volunteering to help build trail or donate money to help fund the work. We will post progress updates on our website, https://sitkacycling.wordpress.com, and on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaCycling.

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(The following article and photographs were produced by Sitka Conservation Society winter fellow Amy Li and a version originally appeared on the Sitka Trail Works website. It is reprinted here with permission.)

Bikes have been making a comeback. From the drastic increase in bike purchases to a newfound dependence on biking as a means of transportation, the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new age for bicycles and Sitka has been no different.

Sitkans have been rediscovering the power of the pedal, both as a cost-effective means for getting around town and for exercise. By the end of June, Sitka’s bicycle shop Yellow Jersey Cycling Shop had sold out of its inventory and has had difficulty restocking ever since. The skyrocketing interest has also led to more creative approaches to biking. This summer, the Sitka Cycling Club spearheaded an innovative effort within the community: mountain bike trails. With the socially-distanced dedication of volunteers from all ages and backgrounds, four new mountain bike trails were brought to life along the Sitka Cross Trail.

Mountain biking offers a different way of engaging with the sport for the new wave of Sitka cyclists. “Sitka has been deficient in mountain bike trails over the years. We’ve had dirt roads that you could ride on, but as far as mountain biking, there weren’t any significant trails in town,” Yellow Jersey Cycling Shop owner Bill Hughes said. “But now with the new trails, I think it’s going to open up a lot of new recreational opportunities for people.”

Mountain biker and Sitka Cycling Club volunteer KK Prussian concurs. “I think the diversity of recreation that mountain bike trails bring is a whole new thing for Sitka. I’m really hoping it will give the youth something they’re really excited about and build stewardship with them,” she said.

Although Sitka might seem like the perfect place for mountain biking enthusiasts, with its lush forested scenery and steep inclines, mountain bike trails, and trails in general, but building trails is a large undertaking.

Despite these challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic, community members came out in force to build new MTB trails along the Cross Trail this summer. Hauling five-gallon buckets of gravel by hand, the trails — named 907, Ewok, Little Machete, and Middle Machete Loop — were brought to life by volunteers with the Sitka Cycling Club. These four trails, however, are rated for more advanced mountain bikers.

Both Hughes and Prussian advocated for easier routes for those new to the sport, as well as adding length to the newly built trails.

Prussian explained that the amount of “easy” trail that was feasible to build was minimal “because of the terrain we have, the limited scope we have with volunteers, and the lack of heavy equipment.”

Indeed, building mountain bike trails requires planning, labor, gravel and fill, and, ideally, heavy machinery. Fortunately, Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) Community Conservation Corps (CCC) program lead Ben Hughey, project lead Blain Anderson, and the hard-working Corps have pulled together all of those prerequisites. In partnership with Sitka Trail Works, Sitka Cycling Club, Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL), and others, the Community Conservation Corps has constructed an additional trail in the recently built mountain bike trail network.

The new spur, which comes in on the Cross Trail connector behind Sitka High School, connects with two existing MTB trails, Ewok and 907. It is roughly 600 feet in length and, with smaller grades and elevation changes, is well-suited for beginning mountain bikers. Thanks to a mini excavator and motorized gravel dump, the newly built section of single-track trail has a wider and smoother tread compared to the existing MTB trails. This beginner trail will allow community members a safe and approachable entry point for the sport.

Prussian hopes that the MTB community in Sitka will expand, thanking the City for supporting recreation projects like this.

“I’d love to see a year-round program of young adults adding to the length and maintaining the trails on an annual basis,” she said, citing benefits of healthy lifestyles and land stewardship. “I think that would be outstanding.”

For now, the Corps will continue to clear hazard trees, lay logs, and pile gravel in the hopes that this new trail will get more people outside, on their bikes, exploring their public lands.

A slideshow of images showing trail construction follows below.

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Sitka Trail Works members and the public are cordially invited to join the group’s annual meeting, which will be held on Zoom. The meeting will be held from 6-7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 19. 

To join online visit https://www.zoom.us/join, enter meeting ID 439 583 8904 and password “trail”.  To connect by phone instead, please contact the STW office in advance for details.

Those with questions may call Sitka Trail Works at 747-7244 or visit http://www.sitkatrailworks.org.

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Volunteers are needed to pull alders along the Sawmill Creek Road separated path during the Sitka Trail Works trail maintenance event at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 2.

Individuals should bring water and gloves and meet at the gravel parking lot about a quarter of a mile past Whale Park on the left side of the road.

Tools and a limited number of gloves will be provided. A mandatory COVID-19 pre-screening questionnaire and a liability waiver must be completed prior to participation.

Social distancing between different household groups and the wearing of face coverings (masks) are being encouraged. Teens wanting to help must attend with an adult.

On Saturday, Aug. 8, there will be a 14-mile Herring Cove to Medvejie Bike Ride (seven miles each way). For this event, meet at 10 a.m. at the Herring Cove Trail parking area off Sawmill Creek Road. This mountain bike ride is moderate in difficulty over gravel roads.

On Saturday, Aug. 15, there is a five-mile Verstovia Hike. Meet at 9 a.m. at the Verstovia Trailhead for a strenuous uphill climb.

There also is a Sitka Half-Century Bike Ride scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 22-23, where people will ride a course as individuals then record their rides with the Sitka Cycling Club. Last year there also were shorter courses for those riders who didn’t feel up to doing a full 50 miles. Details for this event are still being finalized, so watch the Sitka Cycling Club website for more info.

These events are free, but donations to Sitka Trail Works will be accepted. The donations for the Verstovia Hike will be split 50-50 with Waypoint For Veterans, a Sitka-based nonprofit that provides outdoors opportunities for veterans and first responders.

For more information about these events, call 747-7244 or visit http://www.sitkatrailworks.org.

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Sitka Trail Works members and the public are cordially invited to attend the annual meeting and potluck. The meeting will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The agenda includes highlights from the year. This year’s guest speaker will be Bill Foster giving a talk, “Destination Havana – The 60th Anniversary of a Bike Trip to Cuba.” Also, two board members are up for re-election.

Please bring a main dish, side, or dessert to share. Please also bring your own cutlery and plate, if possible. Those with questions may call Sitka Trail Works at 747-7244.

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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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Cyclists ride on the Sitka Cross Trail (Photo courtesy of KCAW-Raven Radio)

To celebrate National Bike MonthSitka Trail Works and the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition invites the public to a free bike tour, guided by Doug Osborne, on the Sitka Cross Trail. The event is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 4,  and will meet at the Cross Trail access near the Sitka Performing Arts Center.

The tour is approximately a 10 miles, moderate to strenuous ride to Kramer Drive and back to the trailhead. The Cross Trail access point is behind Sitka High School, near the Sitka Performing Arts Center.

For more information, call 747-7244, or visit http://www.sitkatrailworks.org.

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National Bike Month kicks off on Wednesday, May 1, and Sitka residents are encouraged to find ways to get out and ride your bike this month. The seasons are changing, so make sure you get out on your bike and enjoy a ride.

This is a great time to help Sitka show why it earned an upgrade to the Silver level of the Bicycle Friendly Community program in 2016, and was featured on the cover of the Winter 2017 edition of Bicycle Friendly America magazine in February.

Our National Bike Month schedule concludes with the annual Sitka Community Bike Ride on Saturday, May 25, where we celebrate the 128th anniversary of the first bike seen in Sitka (on May 28, 1891) with a ride through downtown Sitka. This is a great family friendly event to celebrate cycling in Sitka, and people are encouraged to bring any classic or unusual bikes they have to this event. We hope to have someone available to do minor maintenance before the ride (pump up tires, oil chains, tighten brake cables, etc.).

Also on the agenda are National Bike to School Day on Wednesday, May 8; the Sitka Bike Rodeo for kids on Saturday, May 11; our annual National Bike to Work Week (May 13-18) drawing for prizes for those who commute to work or school by bike during the week; two Sitka Cycling Club monthly meetings on Wednesday, May 1, and Friday, May 24, at the Sitka Public Library; a brown bag lunch-and-learn about cycling in Sitka on Friday, May 3, at Sitka Community Hospital; the Julie Hughes Triathlon on Saturday, May 18; and the Sitka Trail Works Cross Trail guided bike ride on Saturday, May 4.

In addition, we plan a special second annual Blessing of the Bikes and Worldwide Ride of Silence on Wednesday, May 15, at Crescent Harbor. This event honors those cyclists who have been killed or injured by cars or trucks and also celebrates cyclists’ rights to use the roads.

As in past years, those cyclists who ride their bike to work, school or on errands during National Bike To Work Week (May 13-17) can fill out tickets at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop for a chance to win a gift certificate from Yellow Jersey, with other prizes possible. The prize drawing will be at the Julie Hughes Triathlon on May 18. To donate a prize, contact Doug Osborne at dosborne@sitkahospital.org.

Over the last year or so, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has been updating the Alaska Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. They are on the final draft, and Sitka cyclists can still submit feedback on the website. This is important since Alaska’s last update to the plan was more than 20 years ago (1994).

In addition, Sitka cyclists are encouraged to join with thousands of others from around the country as they ride in the fifth annual National Bike Challenge, a free event that runs from May 1 through Sept. 30.

Cyclists can ride in the National Bike Challenge as individuals, for their workplaces or on other teams, and the mileage they log also will help their cities and states in the rankings. In 2016 more than 45,000 cyclists rode nearly 25 million miles during the five months of the National Bike Challenge (stats weren’t available for 2017 or 2018).

Don’t forget to sign up for the free Sitka Cycling Club by clicking the link at the top right of the website page. Also, join Sitka’s Bicycle Benefits program at any of our local business partners and get a sticker for your bike helmet that gives you discounts at several businesses around time when you show your helmet.

Finally, Sitka will host the inaugural Alaska Walk and Bike Conference on June 4-8 at the Aspen Suites Hotel. You can get information and a tentative schedule at the Walk/Bike Alaska website, and you can register online at this site. The first two days will focus on the Smart Cycling training program from the League of American Bicyclists, which helps people be safer cyclists. The next two days feature presentations on walking and bicycling. The final day has an optional bike ride, an optional hike with harbor cruise (with fee), and a Walk/Bike Alaska organizational meeting. The cost is $40 for the full conference, and $25 each for the two-day Smart Cycling and walk/bike presentations programs.

• 2019 National Bike Month list of Sitka events (PDF flier to print and post)

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Cyclists ride on the Sitka Cross Trail (Photo courtesy of KCAW-Raven Radio)

To celebrate National Bike MonthSitka Trail Works and the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition invites the public to a free bike tour, guided by Doug Osborne, on the Sitka Cross Trail. The event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 5,  and will meet at the Indian River trailhead.

The tour is approximately a 10 miles, moderate to strenuous ride to Kramer Drive and back to the trailhead. The Indian River trailhead parking lot is up Indian River Road a half mile; take a right off Indian River Road across from Peter Simpson Road.

The trail parallels Yaw Drive and then crosses a beautiful muskeg with stunted forest fringe, travels through old growth forest to the Gavin Hill Trail intersection at about the one-mile mark and passes through young forests growing back after harvest. At 1.7 miles the trail branches off to Sitka High School and also widens where it is located over an old logging road. The trail continues on 0.2 mile coming out behind the Kimsham ball fields; then passes the uphill side of the water tower and continues another 0.8 miles, crossing a wooden bridge over Cascade Creek, then a short steep uphill and on to the Kramer Avenue trailhead.

For more information, call 747-7244, or visit http://www.sitkatrailworks.org.

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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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