Greater Sitka Arts Council posts list of participants in Arti-Gras Gallery Walk set for Friday, March 13

Art Walk 2015 Flyer photo

The Greater Sitka Arts Council has announced the participating businesses and artists in its Arti-Gras Gallery Walk from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, March 13, in downtown Sitka.

The gallery walk is part of the eighth annual Arti-Gras Arts and Music Festival, which takes place every March. The gallery walk is an opportunity for Sitkans to view new work from local artists, both emerging and established.

The participating businesses/galleries are:

For more information, contact Sarah Lawrie of the Greater Sitka Arts Council at 747-2787 or 738-5234, or by email at justsosarah@gmail.com.

Sitka Community Hospital seeks walking, cycling ‘Be Safe, Be Seen’ ambassadors

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.

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the morning of Thursday, Feb. 26

 

Senior Hiking Feb 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, Feb. 26. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead. This month’s special guest will be Luke A’Bear of the Sitka Conservation Society.

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.

• February 2015 calendar of Sitka SAIL ORCA events

SEARHC Injury Prevention reminds parents that reflective tape saves children’s lives

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It’s the time of year when it is dark outside as students are waiting for the bus and walking or riding their bikes to and from school. While short days are something we’re all accustomed to in Alaska, evolution has not helped our ability to see any better in the dark.

Almost everyone of with a license to drive has probably driven by a child on a darkened street at some point, and said to themselves with a feeling of relief, “I almost didn’t see that kid!” In fact, most drivers need a minimum distance of 260 feet in order to stop in time to miss something on the road; more if the road is slick. If a child in the roadway is wearing dark clothing, a driver’s reaction time is greatly reduced – allowing just 55 feet to stop after seeing the child. Even wearing white clothing gives drivers a mere 180 feet of reaction time – not enough to avoid an accident or quite possibly a catastrophe.

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Injury Prevention Team wants to let everyone know that taking precautions does not mean avoiding the walk to school or the wait at the bus stop, but there are some simple ways to make children safer while doing both. It’s as easy as adding reflective tape or buying clothes with built-in reflectives to help children “Be Safe, Be Seen.” Wearing reflective gear allows children to be seen from 500 feet away.

Purchasing all new coats, jackets and backpacks with built-in reflective gear may not make financial sense, but reflective tape is very inexpensive and easy to apply and remove from clothing. Once you obtain the reflective tape, remember to place reflective tape on all sides of the child’s jacket — the front, back, both sides and along both arms. You should also apply reflective tape to backpacks, book bags and your child’s bike frame. As an added bonus when you’re finished, turn off the lights and shine a flashlight on the tape to show your kid how cool it looks.

For more information, please visit the Injury Prevention section of the SEARHC website, http://www.searhc.org/services/health-promotion/injury-prevention. Free reflective tape may be requested from the SEARHC Injury Prevention Team by contacting Lesa Way at 966-8804 or lesaw@searhc.org.

Never mind the weather, Winter Walk Day is Wednesday, Feb. 4

List of walking benefits from KidSport Alberta

List of walking benefits from KidSport Alberta

WinterWalkToSchoolDayLogoIn recent years many people have heard and/or participated in International Walk To School Day in early October. But did you know there’s a Winter Walk Day on Wednesday, Feb. 4?

Winter Walk Day was started in Canada, and is celebrated by school children, office-workers, families and community groups. In recent years events have spread to Vermont, Wisconsin, Minnesota and other cold-weather states. The main focus is to get people up and moving, preferably outdoors, so they stay healthier. The goal is to go for a walk lasting at least 15 minutes.

Living in Alaska, it’s easy to hibernate indoors when the weather turns cold. But staying inside and not exercising can hurt your health. That’s why many Alaskans say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.” If we let bad weather keep us from doing things we’d never get anything done.

So how can people in Sitka celebrate Winter Walk Day on Feb. 4? Parents can walk their kids to school (if you don’t live near your children’s school you can drive to about a mile away from the school and walk from there). Other options are to go for a family walk after dinner, go hike one of Sitka’s trails, or get out and take a lunchtime walk. Just put one foot in front of the other and repeat as necessary.

For those of you who worry about it might get cold, here are some tips for cold-weather walking:

  • Keep hands and head covered to prevent heat loss
  • On really cold days wear a scarf over your face and mouth
  • Wear warm, waterproof boots (in Sitka, you might need a pair of ice cleats on icy days)
  • Wear a warm coat that deflects the wind (in Sitka, make sure it’s waterproof due to our frequent rain)
  • Woolen clothing helps to retain the heat (avoid cotton)
  • Wear clothing or carry knapsacks with reflective material – it’s important to be seen (check with the SEARHC or Sitka Community Hospital injury prevention departments for info about free reflective tape)
  • If possible, change wet clothes at school – tuck an extra pair of socks and mitts into knapsacks
  • Below -25oC (-9ºF) is considered too cold for walking so move your walk indoors or select another day for outdoor activities or walking to school

 

Rep. Andy Josephson introduces bill to improve driver awareness of pedestrians and bikers

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.

Greater Sitka Arts Council seeks event info for upcoming Arti-Gras Art Walk on March 13

Art Walk 2015 Flyer photo

Sitka businesses, are you hosting an event for Art Walk 2015 on March 13 during the Arti-Gras celebration? The Greater Sitka Arts Council wants to hear from you so your event can be promoted with other Art Walk events.

The Art Walk takes place from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, March 13, at various businesses in downtown Sitka. For a $60 fee, the Greater Sitka Arts Council will provide promotional support with other Art Walk 2015 events. Your Art Walk event also will be featured in promotions for the eighth annual Arti-Gras Music and Arts Festival from March 2-14.

For more information, contact Sarah Lawrie by Sunday, Feb. 1, with the name of your business and featured artists. Sarah can be reached by phone at 738-5234 or by email at justsosarah@gmail.com.