Alaska Walk and Bike Conference to highlight ways to make Alaska more walk and bike friendly

The inaugural Alaska Walk and Bike Conference takes place June 4-8 in Sitka — Alaska’s only community to hold national Walk Friendly Communities and Bicycle Friendly Community designations.

The conference opens with two days of Smart Cycling training from the League of American Bicyclists, followed by two days of walking and biking presentations. The fifth day includes an optional bike ride, an optional hike with harbor cruise, and a Walk/Bike Alaska organizational meeting. The conference costs $40 for the full conference, or $25 for each two-day segment. People can register at http://akwalkbikeconference.eventsmart.com. The Aspen Suites Hotel, where much of the conference will take place, has a block of rooms reserved for the conference, but will release them to the general public on May 3, so book now.

“Having this conference in Sitka is a great opportunity and I’m particularly excited about the team of speakers we have lined up,” said Doug Osborne, Sitka Community Hospital director of health promotion and one of the conference organizers. “The conference is designed so that people can participate ways that fit their interests and schedule. Some will want to complete the Smart Cycling course on Tuesday and Wednesday, others will enjoy doing the whole four-day conference while many will go for an individual session, a lunch and learn, a late afternoon group ride/walk or one of the evening special events. It’s going to be a fun week with a lot of learning, good discussion, and physical activity along the way.”

“The State of Alaska Physical Activity and Nutrition Program is excited to support the 2019 Walk Bike Conference in Sitka occurring at the same time as the Sitka Summer Music Festival,” said Dawn Groth, who works for the Alaska Division of Public Health’s Chronic Disease and Health Promotion program and is another conference organizer. “Sitka’s recognition as both a walk and bicycle friendly city make Sitka the perfect community to host a walk-bike conference. Building active and walkable communities can help support local economies, reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, and encourage safe walking and biking for all ages. Sitka is an example of a community Sitka is an example of a community working to create activity friendly routes to everyday destinations to encourage active people and a healthy nation.”

Elle Steele of Sacramento, Calif., shown here with her two sons (now ages 8 and 10), will lead the Smart Cycling training.

Sitka was honored with a Bronze level Walk Friendly Community designation in 2013 and 2017, and earned a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2016 (with Bronze level designations in 2008 and 2012). Both designations came out of Sitka Health Summit projects, which also led to the creation of Walk Sitka and the Sitka Cycling Club groups to promote walking and biking in Sitka.

The Smart Cycling training part of the Alaska Walk and Bike Conference is designed to help cyclists feel more comfortable and safer riding in traffic. It also is good for educators (especially physical education teachers), youth leaders, and others who might be leading group bike rides with younger students.

The second two-day segment focuses on the Five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation) that are the main components in the Walk Friendly Communities and Bicycle Friendly Community applications. In addition, there will be presentations on the health benefits of active transportation, accommodations needed for the elderly and disabled, how to start a bike school, and how to conduct a walk audit.

Elle Steele of Sacramento, Calif., who is a League Certified Instructor from the League of American Bicyclists and will lead the Smart Cycling training, will be one of the keynote speakers. She is board president of Trips For Kids Sacramento, a nonprofit that provides bike adventures for underserved youth, and also owns Whimsical Cycle, which promotes riding bikes for everyday transportation.

Lee Hart of Valdez and the Anchorage-based Confluence coalition promoting the outdoor recreation economic sector in Alaska will be a keynote speaker.

Another keynote speaker is Lee Hart of Valdez, who founded an Anchorage-based coalition called Confluence to promote the outdoor recreation economic sector in Alaska. She also founded the Valdez Adventure Alliance which introduced fat-biking and big mountain downhill fat-biking to new riders. Hart spoke about the benefits of outdoor recreation in Sitka in February 2019.

Other speakers include Doug Osborne, Charles Bingham, Holly Marban, Lynne Brandon and Rick Petersen of Sitka; Dawn Groth, Pierce Schwalb, Charlie Lowell and Sarana Schell of Anchorage; and others.

A tentative agenda is posted below. For more information, contact Doug Osborne at (907) 747-0373 or akwalkbikeconference@gmail.com.

• Tentative agenda for 2019 Alaska Walk and Bike Conference in Sitka (last updated May 30, 2019)

Register now for the Alaska Walk and Bike Conference taking place June 4-8 in Sitka

The inaugural Alaska Walk and Bike Conference will take place June 4-8 in Sitka, and online registration has opened.

You can go to this link, https://akwalkbikeconference.eventsmart.com/, to register. You can pay online using PayPal or credit/debit cards, or you can be invoiced with information about where to send a check.

Remember the conference only costs $40 for the whole conference, or $25 for the first two days (the Smart Cycling training) or $25 for the second two days (the Walk/Bike sessions).

In addition, we do have a limited number of travel scholarships to the conference. You can learn more by clicking the form link below. The scholarship deadline is April 15.

Please note that our tentative agenda is evolving, so watch this website for updates.

• 2019 Alaska Walk and Bike Conference Scholarship Form (opens as Word Doc)

Welcome to Walk/Bike Alaska

Walk/Bike Alaska is a new group designed to help promote biking and walking in Alaska. We have several small community biking and walking groups, but nothing organized as a statewide advocacy program. It’s hoped this group will help foster some statewide bike and walk advocacy programs.

Why should we promote bicycling and walking? Obviously, any kind of physical activity is good for you and the health benefits are many. But this is about more than just exercise. For many Alaskans, bicycling or walking is their only form of transportation, especially for our children and our elders. If we don’t provide safe places to walk or bike, then these people can’t get around without feeling like their lives are in peril. Many of our roads are not designed with adequate bike lanes or sidewalks, and so we advocate for Complete Streets policies, http://www.completestreets.org. Another good site is the National Center for Bicycling and Walking, http://www.bikewalk.org/.

Here are a couple of other national sites to check out:

Alliance for Biking and Walking (formerly Thunderhead Alliance), http://www.peoplepoweredmovement.org/

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/

League of American Bicyclists, http://www.bikeleague.org/

Please keep an eye on this site, because we will be adding lots of content and there will be links to dozens of local bicycle, pedestrian and trail organizations from around the state. We also will link to national and international groups that promote bicycling and walking as modes of transportation.

For more information about this new group and to volunteer, please contact Charles Bingham in Sitka at 907-623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com