Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘walking’

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Sitka Health Summit Poster FINAL

newsitkahealthsummitlogoDo you have any good community wellness ideas for Sitka? It’s time 10th annual Sitka Health Summit planning day, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, in Room 229 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

The Sitka Health Summit got its start in 2007 when then-Sitka Community Hospital CEO Moe Chaudry and then-SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Vice President of Hospital Services Frank Sutton decided they needed to bridge the gaps between Sitka’s largest two health services. They launched the Sitka Health Summit, with the help of other supporters in Sitka, as a way to improve community wellness, honor local wellness champions, and more.

One of the highlights of the Sitka Health Summit has been the annual community wellness planning day. During planning day, Sitka residents get together to discuss the health needs of the community and create community wellness projects to address these needs.

Over the years there have been a variety of Sitka Health Summit projects — create a local market for local fish and produce, build a Sitka community greenhouse, become a Bicycle Friendly Community, become a Walk Friendly Community, encourage more kids and families to get outdoors for recreation, support a community health and wellness center (Hames), plant fruit trees around town, get more local fish into school lunches, build a Choose Respect mural, Revitalize Sitka, the Sick-a-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food AssessmentPark PrescriptionsTogether for a Meth-Free Sitka, the Sitka Kitch (a project to create a community rental kitchen and improve Sitka’s emergency food storage capacity), Celebrate Katlian Street: A Vibrant Community, and the Southeast Youth Resource Guide.

The 2015 Sitka Health Summit projects were to develop an American Disabilities Act-compliant Sitka Community Playground near Crescent Harbor, build a community garden plot behind the Island Institute (this started off as a project to build a community greenhouse on top of the Sitka cold storage plant, but it morphed into a different project), and to create a way to honor and support the well-being of elders in Sitka.

This year, Sitka residents are invited to submit community wellness project ideas before the Sitka Health Summit. They can do this by going to the Sitka Health Summit website, http://www.sitkahealthsummit.org/, and clicking on the Submit Ideas link at the top of the gateway page (link opens a short SurveyMonkey survey). You also can submit ideas to Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or dosborne@sitkahospital.org. The top two projects this year will receive $2,000 in seed money to get the projects started.

To register for the Sitka Heath Summit planning day, call Zachary Desmond at 747-4600 or email him at zachary@braveheartvolunteers.org. In your email, please include your name, email address, phone number, organization (you can list self if you’re not representing an organization), and any food restrictions. A free lunch with locally sourced seafood (in honor of the Fish To Schools project from 2010) will be provided.

Read Full Post »

BeSeenBeSafeBrightPoster

NewSitkaCommunityHospitalLogoGetting around Sitka on foot or on bike is good for your health, and it’s good for the environment too. However it’s important that these activities be done safely.

Pedestrians — including people who travel by foot, wheelchair, stroller, or similar means — and cyclists are among the most vulnerable users of the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the next 24 hours, on average, 445 people in the United States will be treated in an emergency department for traffic-related pedestrian injuries. In 2012 alone, 76,000 walkers were injured in the United States.

Now that we’re into the darker season with more inclement weather, this is why the Sitka Community Hospital is launching its “Be Bright At Night” biking and walking safety campaign.

Sitka can be dark especially in winter and many of the bicycle and pedestrian fatalities happen in low visibility. Drivers can only stop or swerve for the people they see so having lights, reflectors and high visibility coats provides a great protective factor. Thanks for funds from Wells Fargo Bank and the State of Alaska Injury Prevention Program, the Sitka Community Hospital Health Promotion Program will be raffling off high visibility coats at various locations throughout Sitka.

People usually refer to injuries from collisions with cars as “accidents,” however they are preventable. The baseline data showed just 3 percent of walkers and bicyclists in Sitka were visible to motorists in dark conditions from about 150 feet. The hospital is committed to bringing that number up, especially in light of the fact that Sitka’s walk and bike commuting rates are significantly higher than the national average.

Having a coat that covers your whole upper body and can be seen from all sides is one way to be visible and safe as you walk the family dog, bike home from work or go for a walk anywhere near cars.

For more information the “Be Bright At Night” campaign, contact Sitka Community Hospital’s Director of Health Promotion Doug Osborne at 747-0373.

Read Full Post »

HighVisibilityPosse

(Editor’s note: The following is a thank you note from Sitka Community Hospital for those who participated in its recent Be Safe, Be Seen promotion.)

Dear Editor,

Walking and bicycling are economical and environmentally responsible ways to simultaneously meet needs for transportation, physical activity, and fun — all in one. Sitka has been nationally recognized as both a walk and bike friendly town and our rates for both activities are higher than the national average.

Living in a rain forest in Alaska means we often have low visibility. It’s important for pedestrians and cyclist to be visible as a courtesy to drivers and more importantly as a way to prevent collisions and injuries.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is by wearing a high-visibility jacket that provides total upper body coverage so you can be seen from both a long distance and from all sides. As part of the State of Alaska’s Injury Prevention program, 25 high-visibility GAGE jackets were purchased and distributed through Sitka Community Hospital’s Health Promotion Department. Thank you to the State of Alaska for the funding and to Murray Pacific, who sold the stylish raincoats at a generous discount. Also, thanks to the library staff who supported and hosted our “be safe be seen” educational event and jacket give away on Feb. 25.

High-visibility clothing is one item on the safe habits list including: biking on the right side of the road, wearing a helmet, looking left, right and then left again before crossing a street. The goal of this pilot project is to work together to start a trend of wearing bright clothing when biking or walking. Please encourage your family and friends to dress according to the conditions.

If you are walking or biking near cars, in low light, please don’t do it in dark clothes. Please consider joining the “High Vis. Evolution” and help our town shine bright!

Sincerely,

Doug Osborne, Bill Giant, Patrick Williams

Read Full Post »

Doug Osborne, front, wears one of the GAGE high-visibility jackets during the Sitka Winter Cycling Celebration in January 2012. Sitka Community Hospital will distribute 18 of the high-visibility jackets to walkers and cyclists during an event Wednesday night at the Stratton Library.

Doug Osborne, front, wears one of the GAGE high-visibility jackets during the Sitka Winter Cycling Celebration in January 2012. Sitka Community Hospital will distribute 18 of the high-visibility jackets to walkers and cyclists during an event Wednesday night at the Stratton Library.

Cyclists and pedestrians who commute in low visibility are invited to a special “Be Safe, Be Seen” gathering from 6-6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at the Stratton Library (the temporary Kettleson Memorial Library) located on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Complimentary high-visibility jackets will be given to the first 18 ambassadors who attend the meeting and join the new club. The popular GAGE jackets, by Grunden’s USA, were purchased, at a generous discount from Murray Pacific, with grant money the Sitka Community Hospital received from the State of Alaska Injury Prevention section.

dougosbornediscussesbikeprojects“These jackets are the best and brightest, they cover your whole upper body, provide 360-degree visibility and they don’t require batteries,” Sitka Community Hospital Director of Health Promotion Doug Osborne said.

In addition to receiving new first-come, first-served jackets, participants will get a fact sheet, hear two important stories, see a short video, and brainstorm ideas for the official and unofficial greeting, handshake and slogan for the new club, also known as the high-visibility posse (HVP). After the short presentation, participants will take a group photo on the Sheldon Jackson Campus lawn spelling out the words, “when you’re out at night, be extra bright” or if fewer people show up, “WE’RE SAFE.”

“Every evening we have people walking and cycling in low visibility and in dark clothes,” Osborne said. “It’s risky, it’s contributed to injuries and we need to start a new trend now. We are gaining daylight, but visibility is still an issue, especially when it’s overcast and rainy.”

Osborne said one reason Sitka Community Hospital is sponsoring the promotion is the recent bike-vehicle crash that sent a 15-year-old cyclist to Seattle for a month of hospitalization (the cyclist was not wearing a high-visibility jacket). He said the hospital also plans another, larger Be Safe, Be Seen promotion in October, when it starts to get darker again.

In addition to wearing high-visibility jackets, such as the 18 that will be given away on Wednesday, cyclists are reminded that state law requires them to have a solid white light capable of reaching 500 feet on the front of their bike, and a red tail light (blinking or solid) or red reflector on the back that is visible from 100-600 feet away by a car with headlights set at low beam. People who walk and bicycle also are encouraged to put reflective tape on their jackets, backpacks, the sides of their bikes, rain pants, etc., to help increase their visibility when it’s dark.

For more information, call Doug Osborne at the Sitka Community Hospital, 747-3752 or 2011 National Bike to Work Spokesperson Bill Giant, 752-7049.

Read Full Post »

RepAndyJosephson

Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage)

As the new state legislative session opens, there is a bill Alaska’s bikers and walkers should follow. Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, has introduced a bill that enhances penalties for reckless driving as a way to increase driver awareness of pedestrians and bicyclists. The bill, HB7, establishes a new charge of reckless driving in the first degree and provides punishment as a class C felony.

While not named as such, this is one of Alaska’s first attempts to pass what’s known as a vulnerable roadway user law, which offers protection through increased driver penalties to pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users, construction workers, and others who may be in a roadway for legitimate reasons. In recent years Oregon, Delaware, New York and Washington have passed vulnerable user laws, which are common throughout northern Europe.

“Reckless driving is commonly a fairly insignificant misdemeanor,” Rep. Josephson said in a press release. “Once this legislation is approved and implemented, there would be a more aggravated reckless driving penalty that would give prosecutors options when charging someone who has injured or killed a biker or walker.”

Last year was a tough year to be a pedestrian in Alaska, as there were 13 deaths statewide due to vehicle-pedestrian collisions — 14 if you count a man in Kake who was involved in a hit-and-run incident in November but didn’t die until Christmas Eve (this incident wasn’t in the statewide stats because it’s still under investigation). There also were three deaths in vehicle-bicycle collisions in 2014. Alaska has the highest percentage of people who walk to work in the nation (8.0 percent compared to 2.8 percent), but we also rank third in pedestrian fatalities, according to this report.

Rep. Josephson noted the recent deaths in the sponsor statement for HB7:

House Bill 7: Pedestrian Safety Bill

House Bill 7 aims to increase driver awareness of pedestrians and bicyclists through enhanced penalties for reckless driving. HB7 would establish a new reckless driving in the first degree and provide for punishment as a class C felony. While vehicle-on-person offenses can presently be charged as felony assaults, this new crime would allow for alternative elements reflecting the criminal act. This would give discretion to prosecutors as to how and what to charge for the offense at issue.

There were 65 fatal traffic crashes in Alaska in 2014 that resulted in 70 fatalities (some crashes resulted in multiple deaths). There were 13 pedestrian fatalities and three bicyclist fatalities, which makes up 22.9% of all traffic fatalities last year. Since 2010, there have been 50 pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities making up 16.2% of all fatal traffic crashes.

Current statutes on reckless driving will serve as the foundation for reckless driving in the second degree, while reckless driving in the first degree will be a new crime. A person will commit the crime of reckless driving in the first degree if they are guilty of reckless driving and, as a result, a pedestrian or bicyclist suffers physical injuries.

As the state continues to grow, pedestrian and bicyclist presence will only increase, which could lead to an increase in fatalities amongst these groups. Added to this is an increase in walkability and bikeability, spawned by both a desire for physical fitness and a reduction of our carbon footprint. By increasing the penalties for dangerous practices behind the wheel, drivers will have to become more aware of their surroundings, leading to an overall increase in safe driving.

I invite you to discuss this issue with me further and urge you to support this legislation.

A recent story from Anchorage shows why HB7 is needed. Even though a driver tested positive for marijuana, cocaine and heroin, prosecutors chose not to charge her with vehicular homicide because the man she killed had a blood-alcohol level more than five times the legal limit. Instead, she is only being charged with operating under the influence, having a suspended license, and no insurance.

In another case in 2014, a driver who hit and killed a bicyclist wasn’t charged at all, even though his blood test showed he’d smoked pot that day and he was speeding. Walking and biking in Alaska can be dangerous, and, as one columnist writing about this incident wrote, “You need to treat motor vehicles like they’re trying to kill you, because if you don’t, they just might.”

In this age of distracted driving (put away your cellphones) HB7 might be what it takes to make drivers slow down and pay attention to the road.

Read Full Post »

Sec-Foxx-at-Walk-Bike-announcement-FL

After seeing recent increases in the numbers of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced a national pedestrian and bicycle safety initiative during the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place Conference held Sept. 8-11 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“The data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration make it clear: even as automobile travel has never been safer, pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths are on the rise,” Foxx said. “I went to Pittsburgh this week to let folks know that I think this is a problem, and that this Department is putting together the most innovative, forward-leaning, biking-walking safety initiative ever.”

Protected-bike-laneThe Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative will try to improve biking and walking safety by providing better infrastructure. It also will provide research and tools for local governments, transportation planners, and active living advocates, so they can make their communities safer.

The plan includes assessments in every state to determine what needs to be done to make conditions safer for walkers and bicyclists. Once the assessments are done, the next step includes projects such as building protected bike lanes, building better trail networks, and even building basic sidewalks and pedestrian traffic crossings in areas where they aren’t available.

“Americans are walking and biking more and more, not just for kicks, but for sensible transportation,” Foxx said.When President Lyndon Johnson established DOT, he said ‘keeping the traveling public safe from harm’ should be our top priority. So when we talk about ‘the traveling public,’ we must include pedestrians and bicyclists.

If you are walking or bicycling, you should know that your safety is every bit as important —and just as much of a concern to the U.S. Department of Transportation — as the safety of an airplane passenger, a transit rider, or someone in a motor vehicle.

For years, the message pedestrians and bicyclists have been given is, ‘You walk or bike at your own risk; be responsible for your own safety.’

But that’s not good enough. We can’t just tell pedestrians and bicyclists, ‘Be safe,’ without recognizing that in many places there is no safe space for them to be.

After all, we don’t only tell drivers, ‘Just drive under the speed limit.’ We don’t just tell ship captains, ‘Don’t run aground.’ We make sure our highways are well-paved and well-marked, and that our sea lanes are navigable.

We have long recognized that government has a role to play by creating safe infrastructure for travel; it’s time to make sure that includes everyone.”

For the most part, walking and biking advocates welcomed the initiative. But they also feel it needs a solid financial commitment from Congress to work. The following quote is from a press release from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC).

“Secretary Foxx’s announcement and the U.S. DOT’s new commitment to safety are important first steps, but without a financial commitment from Congress, state and local governments will not have the resources necessary to provide safe facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists. RTC will continue to work with members of Congress to see that state and local governments receive the funding they need to connect networks, provide specific solutions to improve safety and monitor safety performance. The U.S. DOT’s initiative provides us with a newly engaged federal partner. Working together with our local advocates and the U.S. DOT, we can work toward a world where pedestrian and bicyclist injuries are a thing of the past.”

“The 12-page document is short on details but long on potential, with the bonus of a hand outstretched to partners to help flesh it out and implement it,” Martha Roskowski, Vice President for Local Innovation for PeopleForBikes.org, wrote in an analysis of the initiative. “The breadth and scope of new efforts to increase walking and biking and reduce walking and biking fatalities is encouraging.”

Smart Growth America praised the new plan. “This approach is right in line with the work of Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition, which helps communities create streets that are safe, comfortable, and convenient for everyone. In May, the Coalition highlighted America’s need for safer streets with the release of Dangerous by Design 2014, a report that spotlights the issue of pedestrian safety as well as the factors that make walking dangerous. The report also identifies tools, policies and practices that can help put an end to the decades-long neglect of pedestrian safety. USDOT’s new campaign builds on a Complete Streets approach and will hopefully make streets safer for everyone who uses them. We applaud Secretary Foxx for making this crucial issue a national priority.”

• Safer People, Safer Streets Iniatiative

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »