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

 

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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.

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the morning of Thursday, Jan. 22

SHC Jan 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, Jan. 22. 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.

• January 2015 calendar of Sitka SAIL ORCA events

Get outdoors and celebrate Winter Trails Day on Saturday, Jan. 10

2015_Winter Trails_FLYER_New

Winter Trails Logo 2015Saturday, Jan. 10, is Winter Trails Day, when several locations around the country will host special events designed to get people outdoors during the winter.

Winter Trails Day is geared toward snowsports, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, but don’t let Sitka’s lack of snow this winter keep you from getting out on our trail system for a run or hike, or a mountain bike ride on certain designated trails.

Even though no special Winter Trails Day events are scheduled for Jan. 10 in Sitka, it’s still a good opportunity to get outdoors for some recreation. You can go hiking at Sitka National Historical Park‘s totem trails (don’t forget to stop in and get your Park Prescriptions card punched) or visit any of the trails maintained by Sitka Trail Works.