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.
“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.