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)

Sitka to host inaugural Alaska Walk and Bike Conference on June 4-8

Are you looking for ways to make Alaska more walking and bicycling friendly? Sitka will host the inaugural Alaska Walk and Bike Conference on June 4-8.

While the agenda is still being finalized (a tentative agenda is posted below), there will be a two-day Smart Cycling class (from the League of American Bicyclists training program), and two days of work sessions about how to be a better bicycling and walking advocate. The last day includes a Saturday hike and bike ride, and maybe a harbor cruise.

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, and some of the challenges it still faces in its efforts to become more walkable and bikeable.

Prices are low for this event — $25 for the Smart Cycling training on June 4-5, $25 for the Walk/Bike work sessions on June 6-7, or $40 for the whole conference. If we are able to secure the harbor cruise, there probably will be an extra fee for it. There also are special conference rates at the Aspen Hotel, which is downtown and within easy walking distance of most community facilities.

For more details, contact Doug Osborne at (907) 747-0373 or akwalkbikeconference@gmail.com.

• Tentative agenda for 2019 Alaska Walk and Bike Conference in Sitka (last updated March 29, 2019)

Alaska makes small gains in 2018 Bicycle Friendly States progress report

How does Alaska rank when it comes to cycling compared to the rest of the United States? According to the 2018 state progress reports released last week by the League of American Bicyclists for its Bicycle Friendly States program, Alaska ranks 35th, which is an improvement of one spot since the last official ranking in 2017 when Alaska was 36th.

While each of the 50 state progress reports shows a ranking in the upper right corner, the League of American Bicyclists did not make an official ranking in 2018.

“We did not update the ranking this year,” League of American Bicyclists policy director Ken McLeod said. “This year we only did an analysis of federal data and outreach to state advocates and agencies for comments. The ranking is based on a more comprehensive survey process, which we intend to do in 2019.”

Over the years, Alaska typically ranks in the mid-30s with a high of 29th in 2011 and a low of 47th in 2009. There were major changes to the ranking system criteria in 2012 and 2017, McLeod said. Washington has been ranked No. 1 every year since the rankings began in 2008.

“Since creating the Bicycle Friendly State Program in 2008, the League of American Bicyclists has ranked each state based on the actions taken to make bicycling better. Of special focus has been outcomes and activities by state legislatures and their departments of transportation,” the League’s website said. “For 2018, the League used federal data on bicycling to highlight the evolution of biking-related inputs and outcomes in every state during the last decade. The Progress Reports provide graphs of state ridership, safety and spending, including comparisons to regional and national averages for each indicator.”

The progress reports provide additional information based on federal, state, and local reports for each state’s ridership, safety, and spending on bicycle infrastructure. It also looks at whether or not a state has made policy changes in five areas — adopting a Complete Streets policy, adopting a safe passing law (at least three feet), updating the statewide bicycle plan within the last 10 years, creating a bicycle safety emphasis area, and using 2 percent or more of federal funds for bike/pedestrian projects in the past five years. Of the five policy areas, Alaska only answered yes to the statewide bike plan (the Alaska Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan is being updated this year for the first time since 1994 and is in final draft status, so this is a gain from 2017) and having a bicycle safety emphasis area (our only yes in 2017).

“The Bicycle Friendly State℠ program was launched in 2008 in order to better understand state efforts related to bicycling and provide a comparative framework that allows states to easily identify areas of improvement,” the League’s website said. “Through our ranking, we hope that states and the public can easily understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of each state’s efforts related to bicycling.”

Alaska’s progress report noted we rank seventh overall in bike commuting at 1.0 percent (a slight decrease since the rankings started in 2008), We also rank over the past 10 years as one of the most safe (top 10) for bike commuters as far as fatalities, and we also showed one of the largest decreases in the amount of Federal Highway Authority funding being used for bike/pedestrian projects (although that total did go up in recent years). In addition, the progress report noted the update of the Alaska Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan and an effort by biking and walking advocates to create a statewide advocacy group called Bike/Walk Alaska.

While the 2018 progress reports don’t constitute an official ranking, here is how the states rank based on the numbers in the upper right corners of every progress report:

  1. Washington
  2. Minnesota
  3. California
  4. Oregon
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Colorado
  7. Delaware
  8. Utah
  9. New Jersey
  10. Virginia
  11. Maryland
  12. Pennsylvania
  13. Michigan
  14. Vermont
  15. Florida
  16. Illinois
  17. Maine
  18. Georgia
  19. Ohio
  20. Rhode Island
  21. North Carolina
  22. Arizona
  23. New York
  24. Connecticut
  25. Wisconsin
  26. Tennessee
  27. Louisiana
  28. Idaho
  29. Texas
  30. Iowa
  31. Nevada
  32. Missouri
  33. South Dakota
  34. New Hampshire
  35. Alaska
  36. Arkansas
  37. West Virginia
  38. Indiana
  39. Alabama
  40. Mississippi
  41. South Carolina
  42. Wyoming
  43. Kentucky
  44. New Mexico
  45. Oklahoma
  46. Montana
  47. Kansas
  48. North Dakota
  49. Hawai’i
  50. Nebraska

Kenai and Soldotna earn Bronze designations in Bicycle Friendly Community program; Haines picks up Honorable Mention

Alaska has two new Bicycle Friendly Communities in Kenai and Soldotna (both at the Bronze level) after the League of American Bicyclists announced its Fall 2018 award-winners on Dec. 6. In addition, Haines received an honorable mention.

Sitka was Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Community, earning Bronze in 2008, repeating as Bronze in 2012, and upgrading to Silver in 2016. In addition, Anchorage (Silver) and Juneau (Bronze) are Bicycle Friendly Communities, and Fairbanks has an honorable mention. There are five official levels in the BFC program (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond), and Honorable Mention is a step below BFC.

The Bicycle Friendly Community program requires communities to answer more than 100 questions about bicycling in their area in five main categories, called the Five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation). The BFC program is part of the League of American Bicyclists’ larger Bicycle Friendly America program, which also includes Bicycle Friendly State rankings and the Bicycle Friendly Business and Bicycle Friendly University programs.

Since Kenai and Soldotna are so close to each other, they worked on their BFC applications together. Matt Pyhala, a volunteer with the Biking In Kenai & Soldotna (BIK&S) program, told radio station KDLL they were looking for a progress report when they applied and didn’t expect to win the Bronze designations.

“We were applying and hoping they could give us some good feedback and we could start working on that low-hanging fruit to get up to a level where we had a designation. So the fact that we got the Bronze level, we were ecstatic,” Pyhala told KDLL (click this link for full story).

According to the League of American Bicyclists, there now are 464 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with Bronze level or higher designations in the Bicycle Friendly Community program.