Alaska Airlines employees host “Sitka Sue Walk” on April 25 to help fight cancer

Participants line up for the 2011 Sitka Sue Walk. (Photo courtesy of Sheri Buggins)

Participants line up for the 2011 Sitka Sue Walk. (Photo courtesy of Sheri Buggins)

The Alaska Airlines station in Sitka has been hit hard by cancer in recent years, which is why the local airline employees will host the Eighth Annual Sitka Sue Walk at 8:30 a.m. (meet at 8:15 a.m.) on Saturday, April 25, at the Rocky Gutierrez Airport.

This annual walk honors the memory of long-time Alaska Airlines employee Sue “Sitka Sue” Frank, who passed away in 2007 from lung cancer. In 2012, the airline lost another Sitka employee, John Gassman, to cancer. Saturday’s five-kilometer walk from the airport to the Sitka Fire Hall and back will honor both and others in a “Flight to Fight” cancer. Participants can walk or run one way or round trip, and this is a dog-friendly event.

“We’ll be remembering those lost, supporting those in the battle and celebrating with those who have beat cancer,” event organizer Sheri Buggins said.

Rosie the Relayer Sitka PosterSitka Sue was known for her walks around Sitka, and her goal was to walk at least seven miles a day. After her death, a park bench was placed in her honor in front of the Sitka Fire Hall, where firefighters fondly remember the many meals she cooked for for them over the years. After her death, the local Alaska Airlines employees dedicated their new employee wellness walking program to her.

Donations of $10 are suggested, with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society‘s Relay For Life of Sitka, which will be held June 19-20 at Sitka’s Moller Park track/football field. This is one of several ACS Relay For Life events around the country (here’s more info about the Sitka event from this KCAW-Raven Radio interview in February 2013).

Alaska Airlines will have a team at the Sitka Sue Walk, and there will be luminarias to honor Sue and John. Healthy snacks will be served. For more information, contact Sheri Buggins at 738-0254.

• Relay For Life Of Sitka 2015 Brochure

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the morning of Thursday, April 23

Senior Hiking April 2015

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike will be from 9:15-11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 23. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead.

Normally, the group usually picks the trail on the day of the hike, but occasionally a trail is picked before the event. SAIL makes trekking poles available for hikers to use (trekking poles are great on ice or uneven terrain, and they help seniors keep their balance), and hikers are encouraged to bring ice cleats such as YakTrax during the icy months of winter.

SAIL offers Senior Hiking Club events for those age 60 or older once a month, usually on the second or third Thursday. There is a $5 fee, but nobody will be turned away because of finances. The hikes are open to people of all abilities and fitness levels. To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, check out our January 2013 post introducing the club.

To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, senior and adaptive kayaking trips, senior cycling events, and and a variety of other outdoors skills and survival classes, contact SAIL ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program coordinator Bridget Kratz at 747-6859 or email her at bkratz@sailinc.org. The calendar below includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• April 2015 calendar of Sitka SAIL ORCA events

City and Borough of Sitka and Sitka Trail Works upgrade section of Cross Trail, start on a new section

Cross Phases 4&5 4-15

trail complete4-15The City and Borough of Sitka, in cooperation with Sitka Trail Works, has been working on improvements to and reconstruction of the Sitka Cross Trail since last spring.

Using grants the city received from the Alaska Department of Transportation and the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP), a Rasmuson Foundation grant and Sitka Trail Works donations, 1.25 miles of new trail is now complete. The old Cross Trail has been upgraded to an eight-foot-wide multimodal pathway standard, from Sitka High School to Yaw Drive and a separated path was constructed along Yaw Drive to the Indian River Trailhead parking lot. If walkers park in the Indian River/Cross Trail Trailhead parking lot off Indian River Road, the separated path now starts across the road at Peter Simpson Drive and runs along Yaw Drive to the main Cross Trail.

Sitka Trail Works has begun construction of Phase 5 of the Cross Trail Multimodal Pathway. Approximately one mile of multimodal trail will be constructed to replace the lower portion of Gavan Hill Trail. The new section of the Cross Trail will share a trailhead with the Gavan Hill Trail at the end of Baranof Street. The Phase 5 pathway will provide access to the Cross Trail and Gavan Hill Trail from downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. The lower part of Gavan Hill Trail will be abandoned.

During construction heavy equipment will be using neighborhood streets. Trail construction materials will be staged at the end of Pherson Street and adjacent to the city cemetery. Residents are asked to “excuse our mess,” truck traffic and noise during construction, and avoid the staging areas. Construction will be complete in the fall.

For further information, please contact Lynne Brandon of the Sitka Department of Parks and Recreation at 747-1852, or Deborah Lyons of Sitka Trail Works at 747-7244.

Federal Highway Administration to host two walking/biking safety assessment tours May 7 in Sitka

Pedestrian Bicycle Assessment Invitation for State and Local Partners

Paul Wistrand of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will lead two tours, one walking and one biking, to assess the safety of roads/pathways on Thursday, May 7, in Sitka.

“I’m looking forward to the bike/pedestrian safety assessment,” Wistrand wrote in an email. “It would be great to get a couple of bicyclists and/or walkers to join us in the assessment, and get their feedback and input into what bicycle and pedestrian features have had the greatest impact in the community.”

Walkers check out the Sitka Sea Walk during its October 2013 grand opening

Walkers check out the Sitka Sea Walk during its October 2013 grand opening

The walking safety assessment meets at Sitka National Historical Park at 9 a.m., and after some introductory comments will include a hike along the Sitka Sea Walk to Harrigan Centennial Hall. Participants then will mount bicycles for a bike tour along Halibut Point Road to Sea Mart and back. After each tour segment, participants will complete a short evaluation form. Maps are part of the first attachment linked below.

“The assessment will be a great way to get end users and officials from local, state and federal levels who are involved with bicycle and pedestrian facilities together,” Wistrand wrote. “It’s also a chance to highlight the many improvements to these facilities in Sitka that have contributed to Sitka’s twice being recognized as a bronze-level bike/walk friendly community.”

 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announces the Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative during the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place convention in September 2014.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announces the Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative during the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place convention in September 2014.

These safety assessments are part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Safer People, Safer Streets” initiative, where Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx mandated USDOT field offices to partner with state and local communities to do corridor-level safety assessments. One of the reasons for these tours is to help transportation planners, state and local officials, and others learn more about some of the challenges faced by non-motorized transportation users. The safety assessment tours are free and open to the public.

For more information and to RSVP for the free tours, contact Paul Wistrand at 1-907-586-7148 or paul.wistrand@dot.gov.

• Sitka Bike and Pedestrian Assessment Invitation

• Safer People, Safer Streets Iniatiative

SAIL to host workshop on how to pack for a day hike during the summer

day hiking

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) will host a free workshop on how to pack for a summer day hike from 1-2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, at the SAIL office, 514 Lake Street, Suite C. The class will be taught by Dave Nuetzel.

Hiking in Southeast Alaska’s wet climate can be tough on planning. Do you really need to carry a jacket, even if it’s warm right now? How much water should I bring? What else do I need, and what should I leave at home?

If you don’t plan right, you could face troubles later. Each year hikers have to be helped from the mountains around Sitka because they left a jacket home and then it started raining. Other times, people take too much gear and having to carry extra weight isn’t very fun. This workshop will give you the basics, so you have a safe and fun hike.

For more information, contact SAIL ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program coordinator Bridget Kratz at 747-6859 or email her at bkratz@sailinc.org. The calendar below includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other SAIL events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• April 2015 calendar of Sitka SAIL ORCA events

Alaska DOT puts pedestrian crossing flags at two Sitka intersections on Halibut Point Road

photo 2 (3)

Pedestrian crossing flags have been installed at the Halibut Point Road and North Lakeview Drive intersection, in front of Blatchley Middle School. But where’s the paint for the crosswalk or safety lights?

 

On March 20, the Sitka Police Department page on Facebook posted the following message and photo (below) after the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities installed pedestrian crossing flags at two intersections on heavily traveled Halibut Point Road in Sitka:

SitkaPedestrianCrossingFlagsSPD would like to say a big THANK YOU to Steve Bell, from DOT, for installing Pedestrian Crosswalk Flags at the Blatchley Middle School and McDonald’s crosswalks. In an effort to make pedestrians and the crosswalk more visible until the permanent paint can be applied to the roadway, Bell has installed holders on both sides of the roadway containing Pedestrian Crosswalk Flags. The idea is simple, when a person wishes to cross the road they grab a flag and wave it a bit to get the attention of motorists, and once traffic has stopped and it is safe to cross, do so and deposit the flag in the holder on the other side of the road. The brightly colored reflective flags benefit pedestrians by making them more visible to drivers and the simple act of holding one alerts drivers that the pedestrian has a desire and intent to cross the road. In addition, simply having the brightly colored flags at both ends of a crosswalk makes the crosswalk stand out more, making it easier to notice on the approach. Be advised that the flags are not formal traffic control devices but a way for pedestrians to make themselves more visible to approaching traffic.

 

One set of pedestrian crossing flags (also known as pedestrian crosswalk flags) was installed at the corner of North Lakeview Drive, just in front of Blatchley Middle School and the AC Lakeside grocery store next door. The other set of pedestrian crossing flags was installed at the corner of Peterson Street (in front of McDonald’s, which is just down the hill from three nearby schools — Sitka High School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, and the SEER School).

The basic premise of pedestrian crossing flags is simple. A set of about eight flags will be split into two holders on each side of a busy intersection. Whenever pedestrians need to cross the busy road, they grab one of the flags from its holder and wave it several times to let drivers know they plan to cross the road, and they continue to wave the flag as they cross. Once safely across the street, they replace the flag in the holder on the other side.

Even before a young cyclist was hit at the McDonald’s intersection in early February, Sitka residents had been complaining about the lack of pedestrian safety at these two intersections. After the vehicle-bicycle collision sent a high school freshman to two Seattle hospitals for a month, local DOT staff installed better signs and discussed other measures that could improve safety. That’s when the idea of pedestrian crossing flags came up. According to Alaska DOT traffic engineer David Epstein, “We have deployed them at several intersections in Juneau for that purpose, and they are performing well. We modified the flags with reflective yellow tape. It makes them much more noticeable at night.”

But do they really work? The jury is still out about the effectiveness of pedestrian crossing flags. Most of the data so far is anecdotal, and there haven’t been many formal studies.

Pedestrian crossing flags have been around for several years, and several U.S. cities have tried them, including Seattle and Kirkland, Wash.; Berkeley, Calif.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Sand Point, Idaho; and others. The pedestrian crossing flags also have been tried in Juneau, Alaska. Of course, 150 years ago, it was the cars that needed the safety flags, before they began to rule the roads.

Some communities, such as Seattle and Berkeley, have given up on the pedestrian crossing flags, for various reasons including ineffectiveness, theft of the flags, and more. “Berkeley analyzed its flag program and issued a data-driven report about a decade ago that for crossing a major arterial at an unsignalized marked crosswalk, flags did not improve driver behavior in yielding to pedestrians. For this reason, the program was abandoned,” wrote Wendy Alfsen, executive director for California Walks.

Some pedestrians don’t like them because they feel weird having to wave them (or they feel like they’re waving a white flag and surrendering). Other walking advocates don’t like them because they feel requiring flags and reflective clothing is blaming the victim instead of addressing the real problem, poorly designed roads built for cars with no accommodations for people who walk or bike.

One reason some traffic engineers like the pedestrian crossing flags is because it’s an inexpensive solution to an increasing problem, getting drivers to notice and stop for pedestrians. It’s usually seen as a supplement to other pedestrian safety features, such as freshly painted crosswalks, flashing lights above the intersection, push-button traffic lights, and other traffic calming measures such as lower speed limits. Pedestrian crossing flags also are viewed as a temporary and not a permanent solution in many cases.

“One can debate optimal solutions all day long, but the benefit of the crossing flags is that one may act without delay, and citizens can take leadership in making something happen,” wrote Mobility Education Foundation President David Levinger of Seattle, when responding a a question about the effectiveness of the flags on the America Walks Forum email listserv for walking advocates. “In Washington D.C., there was a location on Connecticut Avenue that was quite problematic. Ped flags at that location were installed, a bit to the dismay of engineers in DCDOT. After about five years, then finally installed rectangular rapid flashing beacons and removed the flags, but they were well appreciated in the interim. My true personal feeling is that we should train drivers to recognize a pedestrian’s intent to cross the street and train pedestrians to extend their hand outward from their body as an expression of intent to cross as is taught to children in other countries. Then, pedestrians would always have a ‘flag’ with them that would be an effective tool to achieve driver yielding.”

DSC_0141Most communities include signage and training when they install the pedestrian crossing flags. They put signs by the holders to let pedestrians know how to use them (see example), and they work with local media to get the word out to drivers and pedestrians about the new pedestrian crossing flags and how they work. So far, the only media in Sitka explaining the pedestrian crossing flags has been the Facebook post, which had limited reach. There have been no newspaper articles or radio PSAs about them.

Also, go back up to the top of this article and look at the photo of the intersection in front of Blatchley Middle School. Do you see any paint showing the crosswalk? What about flashing lights above the intersection? Halibut Point Road is one of Sitka’s two busiest roads and it has some of the highest speed limits, but there are no real traffic-calming measures in front of the school. When school starts and lets out, there usually is a staff member who puts on a safety vest and carries a STOP sign into the intersection to allow students to cross the street and to let school buses turn onto HPR. But the rest of the day this is an uncontrolled intersection. The McDonald’s intersection is uncontrolled all day.

Epstein said last year’s HPR construction project is one reason the Blatchley crosswalk is barely visible.

“With regard to the marginally-visible crosswalk by Blatchley Middle School: as you know, HPR was rehabilitated during the 2014 construction season. The project took much longer than anticipated. By the time the top lift of asphalt had been laid down and the obligatory two-week, pre-marking curing period had elapsed, it was too late to apply permanent pavement markings. We needed more favorable temperature and moisture conditions than were prevalent at the time. The only option left was to apply paint, which (obviously) doesn’t last long under traffic conditions. When weather permits this spring, the crosswalks will be permanently delineated with inlaid methyl methacrylate, the most durable marking material we have. It should retain its visibility for several years.”

Another issue with the pedestrian crossing flags is where do you carry them if you’re carrying a big load of groceries or pushing a stroller with kids or elder in a wheelchair? Bob Planthold, who is a board member with California Walks, noted other problems with the flags and accessibility.

“Accessibility is a major flaw in this program. How can someone who is blind know where to pick it up and deposit it? How can someone who has neuro-muscular spasticity use a flag? Are these flags so highly reflective that at night a car’s headlight would pick it up far enough away for a car to stop or slow so the pedestrian can cross?” Planthold wrote. “What about a 6-year old crossing? Even if using a flag, kids strides are shorter, making it possible a deliberate crossing could be slower than a car driver expects of an adult. What about when pushing a baby in a stroller and holding the hand of a toddler? Grow a third hand? Or hold flag in mouth?”

So if you’re driving down Halibut Point Road and see a pedestrian grab one of the pedestrian crossing flags from the holder. Slow down and stop to let the pedestrian cross. And hopefully the Alaska DOT will get better markings for the crosswalks at these two intersections to make things safer.

Get up and move on Wednesday, April 1, for National Walking Day

natl-walking-day-2015

Wednesday, April 1, is the American Heart Association‘s National Walking Day, and on this day companies, organizations and individuals across America are going to wear sneakers to work, take 30 minutes to walk and pledge to live heart-healthy lives.

These days, adults like spend more time at work than ever before, much of it chained to a desk. An unfortunate side effect is that, as a nation, we’re becoming more inactive. This is a problem when you consider the fact that physical inactivity doubles the risk of heart disease.

nwd_2015_icon_smOn National Walking Day, employees are encouraged to wear sneakers to work and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk. It’s a great way to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity and to give your co-workers a friendly push toward a healthier life.

By downloading the National Walking Day toolkit, worksite employee wellness teams can design one-day walking events or six-week walking programs to help get employees and bosses more active. Some tips include holding walking meetings, setting up printers so you have to walk down the hall to get your printouts, standing up every time you talk on the phone, and holding lunchtime walks. Getting out and walking helps reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer and other medical conditions, and walking also helps relieve work stress and gives employees a chance to recharge for the rest of the work day.

In Sitka, people can participate in a variety of walking/hiking programs, such as Park Prescriptions, the Wednesday Walk In The Parks, the Senior Hiking Club, Sitka Trail Works, and more. Or they can walk on their own, with family or their dogs. Just get out and enjoy Sitka’s natural beauty by hiking one of Sitka’s numerous trails, the Sitka Sea Walk, or through the totem trails at Sitka National Historical Park.