Be Safe, Be Seen as you ride your bike or walk during the dark hours of winter

Sitka is lucky because our mild climate allows most of us to bike and walk throughout the winter. But cyclists and walkers also need to take care to make sure they can be seen by drivers, especially since there is so little daylight this time of year. In recent weeks the Sitka Police have recorded several car-walker, car-cyclist, and cyclist-walker collisions, and said visibility was an issue in most of them.

Take a look at the photo above. Can you see the cyclist? This cyclist just rode through one of Sitka’s best-lighted intersections (Lincoln Street and Lake Street), but he’s wearing dark clothes and you can’t see him even though he does have a working taillight. By the way, the cyclist is in the right center of the photo, between the car’s taillights and the fire hydrant, near the Moose Lodge parking lot. There also is a walker ready to cross the street in front of Stereo North, who has some reflective bands on his sleeves but could use a bright jacket.

This time of the year provides special problems when it comes to visibility. In addition to fewer daylight hours, there also are problems with window condensation in cars and the lower sun angles sometimes can be in the eyes of drivers.  When it rains or snows, that also can obscure visibility. Even though pedestrians aren’t in the roads as much as cyclists, they still need to be visible to traffic especially at driveways and other crosswalks.

So how do you make yourself more visible, like the cyclist in the second photo (in the orange jacket with reflective tape)?

First, Alaska state laws require cyclists riding outside the daylight hours to have at least one working headlight that can emit a beam of light for at least 500 feet, a working taillight that can be seen from at least 500 feet, and reflectors (see Page 2). To make themselves more visible and to help light their way, many Sitka cyclists will have more than one headlight, taillight and reflector on their bike.

Next, wear white or bright clothes that can be seen at night. Many Sitka cyclists and walkers have started wearing traffic yellow or traffic orange rain jackets, which are designed to be visible at great distances. Some of these jackets have built-in reflective tape. Other people wear reflective vests, similar to what construction workers wear.

Finally, get some reflective tape and wrap it around your bike frame. You can purchase your own reflective items at most outdoors gear stores in Sitka. The Alaska Injury Prevention Center in Anchorage used to provide free reflective tape by clicking this link (they may not have it available now), but the AIPC website has tips about how to Walk Safe and Bike Safe. The link has a chart showing how reflective tape can increase a person’s visibility, even more so than wearing lighter clothes. If you have kids who walk or bike a lot, put the reflective tape all over their clothes, backpacks and lunch pails. You also can find elastic bands with reflective tape, or reflective tape built into jackets, hats and even shoes.

Remember, we are sharing the roads and so we should do what we can to make it easier for drivers to see us. Not only should we Be Safe, Be Seen, but we also need to follow the rules of the road by riding our bikes on the right side of traffic (ride with traffic, and walk on the left facing traffic) and in a predictable manner.

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SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 4

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike will be from 1-3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the Indian River Trail.

Normally, the group 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 Clare Kelly at 747-6859 or email her at ckelly@sailinc.org. The calendar includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• SAIL events calendar for January 2018

Join Walk Sitka’s team in the APHA’s 1 Billion Steps Challenge

Are you a regular walker, one who uses a pedometer or fitness app to track your daily step count? Then join the Walk Sitka team in the American Public Health Association‘s 1 Billion Steps Challenge, a national event that runs from Jan. 1 through April 8, 2018. The contest ends after National Public Health Week (April 2-8).

This event is free, and the competition helps motivate people to get out and do more walking. Many people set a goal to walk 10,000 steps a day, and that adds up over the contest that lasts 98 days. Last year, Walk Sitka only had one person walking (Charles Bingham), but he recorded more than half-a-million steps while averaging about 8,500 a day (finishing in the top 60 teams).

To sign up, click this link and scroll toward the bottom to find the Walk Sitka logo. Then click the Join Team button and you’re in. The challenge uses a website called StrideKick that links to a variety of fitness apps for automatic registration of steps. But if you’re old school and use a pedometer clipped to your belt, there is a link so you can manually enter your steps.

Also, keep an eye out for a month-long walking and biking challenge in February co-hosted by Sitka Community Hospital and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Details will be posted soon, and you can record your steps for both events.

Sitka Trail Works completes repairs to Mosquito Cove Trail after October rain event

A deep sink hole developed along the Mosquito Cove Trail during a three-inch rainfall event in October. As you may know, Sitka Trail Works has been completing maintenance projects on the popular Mosquito Cove Trail since Alaska State Parks cut funding for a local position and office. The repair projects help keep the trails safe and in shape so they can be used for many years.

Phase II trail upgrades had just been completed by U.S. Forest Service Trail Crew in September, before the storm. The Phase II repairs were made with a $51,369 grant from the Alaska Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which allowed work to be done on the back side of the trail. The Phase II repairs featured 45 helicopter bags of rock and six loads of lumber being lifted to improve drainage and prevent washouts.

In the more recent project, Sitka Trail Works employees Jerad and Trent Bayne recently made repairs to the sink hole and also removed a fallen tree.

SEARHC, #RunSitka host Stride 365 event for Salvation Army Giving Tree on Saturday, Dec. 16

Please join SEARHC-Mount Edgecumbe Hospital and Run Sitka (#runsitka) at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16, for a Stride 365 event — a five-kilometer run or a two-mile walk — to support the Salvation Army Giving Tree.

Each month SEARHC and Run Sitka host a Stride 365 event, with proceeds going to a different charity in Sitka. There is a $10 suggested donation for registration. All donations this month will go to the Salvation Army Giving Tree.

Registration is at 9 a.m. at the O’Connell Bridge Lightering Facility, and the run race starts at 9:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 9:45 a.m.

Please contact Lesa Way at lesaw@searhc.org or 907-738-3924 for more information.

Sitka to host First Day Hike on Monday, Jan. 1, at the Mosquito Cove Trail trailhead parking lot

Sitka will have a First Day Hike, meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 1, at the Mosquito Cove Trail trailhead parking lot.

First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks, in partnership with Alaska State Parks, to encourage people to get outdoors. Kids and adults all across America will be participating in First Day Hikes, getting their hearts pumping and enjoying the beauty of a state park.

Last year nearly 28,000 people rang in the New Year, collectively hiking more than 66,000 miles throughout the country. First Day Hikes are led by knowledgeable volunteers.

“What a great way to start the year,” event organizer Jeff Budd said.

We will hike the 1 1/2-mile Mosquito Cove loop, and if hikers are interested, hike the 1 1/2-mile Muskeg loop as well. If it is very windy or very, very rainy the hike will be canceled. Walking/hiking poles and YakTrax or similar ice cleats are recommended if the trails are icy.

For more information, call Jeff Budd at 747-4821.

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 7

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike will be from 1-3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the Cross Trail.

Normally, the group 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 Clare Kelly at 747-6859 or email her at ckelly@sailinc.org. The calendar includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• SAIL events calendar for December 2017