Sitka renews its Silver Bicycle Friendly Community designation

Sitka Cycling Club President Doug Osborne, left, and Sitka Cycling Club Treasurer Charles Bingham show off their Bicycle Friendly Community Silver Level designation swag in 2016. Sitka just renewed its Bicycle Friendly Community designation at the Silver Level for 2020-24.

The League of American Bicyclists announced on Wednesday (Dec. 16) that it has renewed the Silver Level designation for Sitka, Alaska, in the Bicycle Friendly Community program.

The Bicycle Friendly Community program promotes safer streets and better bicycling by awarding various levels to communities based on how their city or town meets standards in the Five E’s — Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation/Planning. A new E, Equity, is being introduced to the judging process and will replace Enforcement in future applications. Communities are required to resubmit applications at least once every four years.

This is the fourth time Sitka has been honored with a Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) award. Sitka became Alaska’s first BFC in 2008, after community members chose becoming a more bike- and walk-friendly community as one of the community wellness projects from the first Sitka Health Summit in 2007. Sitka renewed at the Bronze Level in 2012, and upgraded to the Silver Level in 2016. In addition, Sitka also earned the state’s first Walk Friendly Communities designations with Bronze Level awards in 2013 and 2017 (WFC is a newer program coordinated by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center and supported by the Pedestrian and Bicycling Information Center).

“This is great news,” Sitka Cycling Club President Doug Osborne said. “Thanks to the League (of American Bicyclists) and everyone in town who’s helping us to be a Bicycle Friendly Community. Being a bike friendly community was identified as a top goal at the first Sitka Health Summit planning day in 2007. Since then, we have made steady progress and now we have more places to ride.”

Wednesday’s announcement honored 51 communities as renewing or new Bicycle Friendly Communities at the Platinum (1), Gold (3), Silver (11) or Bronze (38) levels (there also is a Diamond Level that wasn’t awarded this time). In addition, there were 16 communities that earned Honorable Mention status, just below the full BFC designation. Since 2002, the League of American Bicyclists has awarded 485 BFC designations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and has received applications from more than 850 communities. There now are five BFCs in Alaska — Sitka (Silver), Anchorage (Silver), Juneau (Bronze), Kenai (Bronze) and Soldotna (Bronze) — and two Honorable Mentions (Fairbanks and Haines).

“During one of the toughest years in recent memory, we have seen so many Americans turn to biking during the pandemic for fun and for necessary transportation options. It’s so important that communities like Sitka have laid the groundwork over several years to make biking a safe, accessible option for people when we all need as much health and happiness as possible,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “This Bicycle Friendly Community award is the culmination of years of work put in by Sitka and its citizen advocates for better biking. This award round, Sitka joins 51 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Communities in the movement toward healthier, more sustainable and connected places. As we turn the page on 2020 and look ahead to 2021, we’re proud that Sitka and communities like it are embracing bicycling as a solution to our collective recovery.”

The Bicycle Friendly Community program is part of the League of American Bicyclist’s larger Bicycle Friendly America program, which also includes Bicycle Friendly State, Bicycle Friendly Business, and Bicycle Friendly University designations. Sitka’s largest employer, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Sitka Campus, holds a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Business designation.

During normal years, Sitka is known for hosting a variety of community bike rides and education events, such as National Bike Month events in May and a Kidical Mass family friendly bike ride in September, and having one of the state’s highest rates of people who commute to work by bike. But the COVID-19 pandemic limited those activities this spring and summer.

Sitka still accomplished several cycling-positive projects over the past couple of years, such as building four single-track mountain bike trail loops off the Sitka Cross Trail this summer, opening the Salty Spoke bike cooperative at Hames Wellness Center, rebranding the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition as the Sitka Cycling Club and getting nearly 250 club members to register, starting a citywide bicycle parking plan, starting a Sitka mountain bike trails plan, launching a Bicycle Benefits program where cyclists can show participating merchants a sticker on their helmets to receive a discount at local businesses, and hosting the 2019 Alaska Walk and Bike Conference that included a two-day Smart Cycling training (Sitka also was scheduled to host the 2020 conference before it went virtual due to the pandemic).

To learn more about the Sitka Cycling Club, go to http://sitkacycling.wordpress.com or like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaCycling. Links to Sitka’s Bicycle Friendly Community application and report card can be found under the Documents tab on the Sitka Cycling Club website (previous year applications can be found by scrolling down the page). To learn more about the League of American Bicyclists and its Bicycle Friendly Community program, go to http://www.bikeleague.org/community.

Registration open as the 2020 Alaska Walk and Bike Conference goes virtual and free

(Thank you to everybody who participated in this year’s virtual conference. If you missed any of the presentations, their slides are posted on our Agenda link.)

The 2020 Alaska Walk and Bike Conference is going virtual, and now it’s free. It will take place from 9:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday, June 9-12. Click this link to register for the conference.

Each day’s agenda will open with a specialist discussing the science and evidence of that day’s theme, followed by another speaker who will feature an Alaska example. There will be an opportunity for attendees to ‘chat’ and share information after each day’s events. (NOTE: Presentation slides are posted on the Agenda link.)

The themes and speakers for each day are:

Some of our speakers include Ana Lucaci and Nicole Huegenin of Denver-based Walk2Connect, Dr. Elliot Bruhl of SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC, Chief Medical Officer based in Sitka), Bonita Banks BSN RN of South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alfgeir Kristjannson PhD from the University of West Virginia and Reykjavik University (Iceland), Maeve Nevins-Lavtar from the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Parks and Recreation, Dr Frederick Foote MD, Sarana Schell of AARP Alaska, Ken McLeod JD policy director of the League of American Bicyclists, Lee Hart of the Alaska Outdoor Alliance, and Scott Menzies and Charlie Lowell of the Sustina Bicycle Institute.

Click this link, https://www.kcaw.org/2020/05/18/alaska-walk-and-bike-conference-goes-virtual-this-june/, to hear Sitka’s Doug Osborne of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Anchorage’s Dawn Groth RN BSN of the Alaska Division of Public Health discuss the conference during a May 18 morning interview on Sitka’s KCAW-Raven Radio.

A tentative agenda is posted below. To register for this free, virtual conference, click this link, https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_u_Hpx4yzQtK4khFeIX5BMg. For more information, contact Dawn Groth at dawn.groth@alaska.gov.

• Alaska Walk and Bike Conference flier (PDF for printing)

• Tentative Agenda for the Alaska Walk and Bike Conference (updated June 4))

Second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference postponed until June 2021

The second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference, originally scheduled for June 9-13 in Sitka, is being postponed a year until June 2021.

The postponement is due to the COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on travel and hospitality services, and for our desire to prevent the spread of the disease. The conference organizers want everybody to be safe and to prevent the spread of a potentially lethal disease.

A rescheduled date will be announced as details are confirmed. Anybody who has pre-registered for the conference will be contacted about refunds.

Sitka to host second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference on June 9-13

Are you looking for ways to make Alaska more walking and bicycling friendly? Sitka will host the second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference on June 9-13, with the theme of Walk.Bike.Roll. Creating an Equitable Transportation System For All.

While the agenda is still being finalized, but the plan is to bring in a couple of national speakers talk about walking and biking policy, as well as some Alaska and local presenters to round out the event. Our tentative national speakers are Ken McLeod, policy director of the League of American Bicyclists, and Ana Lucaci and Nicole Huguenin of Walk2Connect, a Denver-based nonprofit that has recently worked with Kodiak Walks.

The first two days will mostly be geared toward walking and the second two days will be geared toward biking. To get you out of the conference room, we hope to include group hikes, bike rides, a walk audit, a bike maintenance workshop, and other events throughout the week. Saturday features some free community events — a guided hike, a Sitka Cycling Club group bike ride, and an open house at the Salty Spoke Bike Collective. We will post a tentative agenda when it is ready.

Why is this conference in Sitka? Sitka is the only community in Alaska with both a Bicycle Friendly Community designation (Silver) and a Walk Friendly Communities designation (Bronze). This is a chance to see what works in Sitka, learn more about Walk Sitka and the Sitka Cycling Club and how they deal with some of the challenges they still face in their efforts to become more walkable and bikeable.

Prices for the Alaska Walk and Bike Conference are low — $50 for the full conference, or $30 for the two days of June 9-10 or June 11-12. This year we also will have a special half-day price for either a morning or afternoon session. There will be a couple of lunchtime events, such as lunch-and-learns, that will be open to the public.

Please use this website to register online. We accept online payments by PayPal or credit/debit cards, and if you select the invoice option there is info about where to mail your check. You can find more details about the event at https://walkbikealaska.wordpress.com. You can register at http://akwalkbikeconference.eventsmart.com (click on the event name and follow the instructions).

For more details, contact Doug Osborne at (907) 966-8674 or douglaso@searhc.org, or email akwalkbikeconference@gmail.com. We will have a limited number of travel scholarships available. To learn more and to get an application, contact Dawn Groth at dawn.groth@alaska.gov.

Join Walk/Bike Alaska’s 2020 team in the APHA’s Billion Steps Challenge

Are you a regular walker, one who uses a pedometer or fitness app to track your daily step count? Then join the Walk Sitka team in the American Public Health Association‘s Billion Steps Challenge, a national event that runs from Jan. 1 through April 12, 2020. The contest ends after National Public Health Week (April 6-12).

This event is free, and the competition helps motivate people to get out and do more walking. Many people set a goal to walk 10,000 steps a day, and that adds up over the contest that lasts just a bit longer than three months.

Most of the final stats from the 2019 challenge aren’t available, but Walk Sitka’s Jim Rogers did finish in the top five individually with about 2.2 million steps. Another Sitka resident, Karen Hegyi, who was competing for a family team called AKtoAZ, ranked among the top 10 for the first several weeks of the challenge, but faded out of the top 10 after a back injury. There were a couple of other teams from Alaska, including Walk/Bike Alaska. In 2019, there were more than 5,000 walkers on more than 400 teams in the challenge, and together they walked 1.56 billion steps. The top three teams were CrisfieldWalks, Falisha Got This 2019 and Wonderful Walkers.

In 2017, Walk Sitka only had one person walking (Charles Bingham), but he recorded more than half-a-million steps while averaging about 8,500 a day (finishing in the top 60 teams). In 2018, Walk Sitka had two people walking (Karen Hegyi and Charles Bingham), and Walk Sitka recorded more than 2.8 million steps (an average of 14,655 steps a day) to finish fourth overall. There was one other identifiable Alaska team in the 2018 Billion Steps Challenge — Anchorage Public Health DHHS — which recorded more than 14.5 million steps but only had an average of 3,529 steps per day to finish 176th overall. There were 400 teams in the 2018 event, who totaled more than 2.2 billion steps.

To sign up, click this link. Once you’re registered, you should be directed to this link. Click on the Teams link, then scroll through the team names to find the Walk/Bike Alaska logo. or type our name in the search bar Click the Join Team button and you’re in. The Walk/Bike Alaska team is open to walkers from Alaska.

The challenge uses a website called WalkerTracker, which links to a variety of fitness apps for automatic registration of steps. But if you’re old school and use a pedometer clipped to your belt, there is a link so you can manually enter your steps.