Sitka Comprehensive Plan open house on June 6 includes training for upcoming bike/pedestrian count

There will be a “Planning Our Future Together” open house from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6, for the Sitka 2030 Comprehensive Plan project, and part of that open house includes training for a bicyclist and pedestrian count on Tuesday, June 13. The open house will be set up so you can stay for 15 minutes or the full three hours, depending upon your interest in the topics.

Over the past year or so, the Sitka Planning Commission, city planners and contractor Barbara Sheinberg have been working on an update of the Sitka Comprehensive Plan, which was last updated in 2007. They have been working on the plan by topics, with the first Planning Commission meeting each month usually devoted to one topic from the plan.

The open house will feature updates on three sections of the comprehensive plan — Transportation; History, Culture and Arts; and Parks, Trails and Recreation — and residents will be able to vote on the actions they favor. There also will be an introduction to the S-MAP, an idea wall where people can draw “Ideas For A Better Sitka,” and a haiku contest where you can win a $100 gift card. Oh, yeah, there also will be pizza.

In addition, there will be short 10-minute training sessions for the Sitka bicyclist and pedestrian count scheduled for Tuesday, June 13. This bike/ped count will give city planners information about how many people are biking or walking to get around downtown Sitka.

From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 13, Sitka residents will take one-hour shifts to count walkers and bikers at two major intersections in Sitka. This information will help Sitka obtain funding for safety improvements. It also will provide data so Sitka can track changes over time in the number of people who are biking and walking in Sitka. According to the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, Sitka has 5.2 percent of its residents who commute to work by bike and 15.1 percent who commute to work by walking. But Tuesday, June 13, is a cruise ship day, when there will be more bikers and walkers out than usual and this will help us be able to tell if our infrastructure can handle the extra people.

For more information, contact the Sitka Planning Department at 747-1814.

Julie Hughes Triathlon celebrates its 33rd year on Saturday, May 20

The 33rd running, biking and swimming of the Julie Hughes Triathlon starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, at Blatchley Middle School.

The event is a fundraiser for the Sitka Cancer Survivors Society and honors the memory of a young Sitka woman who passed away from leukemia at the age of 15. (Click here for an April 2013 Capital City Weekly article about Julie Hughes.) Day-of-race registration ends at 8 a.m., a pre-race briefing takes place at 8:45 a.m., and the race starts at 9 a.m. (NOTE, the website says the race starts at 9 a.m., but the flier says 8:30 a.m. for the race start, so be early.) The bike staging area opens at 7 a.m.

JulieHughesTriathlonFor the sixth straight year, the Baranof Barracudas Swim Club is organizing the race, having taken over event hosting duties from the Hughes family. Registration takes place online at http://juliehughestri.com/. The entry fee is $35 per person ($15 per child age 17 or younger), and people can enter as individuals or teams. Day-of-race registrations are $40 for adults and $20 for children. Participants are encouraged to have bike safety checks done at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop before the race.

The course is a five-mile run from Blatchley Middle School to the U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka gate and back, a 14-mile bike ride from Blatchley to the Starrigavan Recreation Area at the end of Halibut Point Road and back, and a 1,000-yard swim at the Blatchley Middle School swimming pool. There is a shorter course available for participants who are age 12 or younger (1.5-mile run, six-mile bike, 500-yard swim).

For more information, contact Kevin Knox at 738-4664, or send an e-mail to bbsc.sitka@gmail.com.

Sitka Community Hospital launches ‘Be Bright At Night’ biking and walking safety campaign

BeSeenBeSafeBrightPoster

NewSitkaCommunityHospitalLogoGetting around Sitka on foot or on bike is good for your health, and it’s good for the environment too. However it’s important that these activities be done safely.

Pedestrians — including people who travel by foot, wheelchair, stroller, or similar means — and cyclists are among the most vulnerable users of the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the next 24 hours, on average, 445 people in the United States will be treated in an emergency department for traffic-related pedestrian injuries. In 2012 alone, 76,000 walkers were injured in the United States.

Now that we’re into the darker season with more inclement weather, this is why the Sitka Community Hospital is launching its “Be Bright At Night” biking and walking safety campaign.

Sitka can be dark especially in winter and many of the bicycle and pedestrian fatalities happen in low visibility. Drivers can only stop or swerve for the people they see so having lights, reflectors and high visibility coats provides a great protective factor. Thanks for funds from Wells Fargo Bank and the State of Alaska Injury Prevention Program, the Sitka Community Hospital Health Promotion Program will be raffling off high visibility coats at various locations throughout Sitka.

People usually refer to injuries from collisions with cars as “accidents,” however they are preventable. The baseline data showed just 3 percent of walkers and bicyclists in Sitka were visible to motorists in dark conditions from about 150 feet. The hospital is committed to bringing that number up, especially in light of the fact that Sitka’s walk and bike commuting rates are significantly higher than the national average.

Having a coat that covers your whole upper body and can be seen from all sides is one way to be visible and safe as you walk the family dog, bike home from work or go for a walk anywhere near cars.

For more information the “Be Bright At Night” campaign, contact Sitka Community Hospital’s Director of Health Promotion Doug Osborne at 747-0373.

Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project nearing completion, with a safer biking and walking path

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10-24-13-Edgecumbe-Drive-sign-e1382728578427The Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project is nearly ready for paving and completion, according to a Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, cover story in the Daily Sitka Sentinel (note, password required to view story on website). The article also highlighted the safer biking and walking facilities on the mile-long stretch of road, which include safer crosswalks, a multi-use path, and Sitka’s second roundabout (or third, if you count the one around St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral).

The project includes a new 10-foot-wide multi-use path on one side of the street for pedestrians and cyclists. The path is intended to provide a safe route for slow-moving bikes and pedestrians to travel. Edgecumbe Drive’s proximity to Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School was a major driver in the decision to provide this pedestrian amenity.

The new separated multi-use path replaces a narrow bike path on the downhill side of the roadway. The now-10-foot-wide path, which uses space from the narrowed traffic lanes, will be shared by cyclists and walkers.

“We didn’t like it because it encouraged wrong-way bike travel,” David Longtin, senior engineer with the City and Borough of Sitka Public Works Department, told the Sentinel. “People wanted to use the bike path, but when they were heading north then they were on the wrong side of the road, and that’s something we wanted to eliminate.”

City and state law require bicyclists to ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, for safety reasons. Walkers are to walk on the left side of the road, opposing traffic, when there isn’t a sidewalk or multi-use path available. Cyclists traveling at traffic speed can use the road, but should ride on the right side.

Longtin said paving on the path may start as soon as Saturday, if weather cooperates. Paving the main road will follow after the path is completed. Longtin told the Daily Sitka Sentinel that the construction crews can pave about 150 linear feet per hour, so the whole street should be paved within a week, depending on the weather.

Another new feature is a roundabout near the top of Kimsham Street, near where Edgecumbe Drive, Washusetts, Kimsham, and private driveway meet. The roundabout was added to the plans about a month ago, and it replaces the five-way intersection originally in the plans. While there is some increased cost ($140,000 to the $4.6 million project), Longtin said the roundabout will be a safer alternative. Roundabouts reduce collisions by 37 percent and fatal wrecks by 90 percent compared to intersections controlled by stop signs, according to Federal Highway Administration studies.

“It’ll cost some, but we feel it’ll be a good safety improvement and it’ll keep traffic moving,” Longtin said. “There’s fewer collisions and when there is a collision it’s more of a glancing blow than a t-bone collision.”

Other safety improvements from the project include bulb-outs at the Edgecumbe Drive crosswalks near Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School (which narrow the traffic lanes near intersections to slow cars and make it a shorter distance for pedestrians to cross), and rectangular rapid-flash beacons to to warn drivers of the crosswalk. There also will be buttons on all four corners of the intersection that will light the beacons so drivers know somebody is about to use the crosswalk. These traffic lights are powered by solar panels designed for Sitka’s latitude and light conditions.

Sitka Community Hospital thanks those who helped with its recent ‘Be Safe, Be Seen’ promotion

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(Editor’s note: The following is a thank you note from Sitka Community Hospital for those who participated in its recent Be Safe, Be Seen promotion.)

Dear Editor,

Walking and bicycling are economical and environmentally responsible ways to simultaneously meet needs for transportation, physical activity, and fun — all in one. Sitka has been nationally recognized as both a walk and bike friendly town and our rates for both activities are higher than the national average.

Living in a rain forest in Alaska means we often have low visibility. It’s important for pedestrians and cyclist to be visible as a courtesy to drivers and more importantly as a way to prevent collisions and injuries.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is by wearing a high-visibility jacket that provides total upper body coverage so you can be seen from both a long distance and from all sides. As part of the State of Alaska’s Injury Prevention program, 25 high-visibility GAGE jackets were purchased and distributed through Sitka Community Hospital’s Health Promotion Department. Thank you to the State of Alaska for the funding and to Murray Pacific, who sold the stylish raincoats at a generous discount. Also, thanks to the library staff who supported and hosted our “be safe be seen” educational event and jacket give away on Feb. 25.

High-visibility clothing is one item on the safe habits list including: biking on the right side of the road, wearing a helmet, looking left, right and then left again before crossing a street. The goal of this pilot project is to work together to start a trend of wearing bright clothing when biking or walking. Please encourage your family and friends to dress according to the conditions.

If you are walking or biking near cars, in low light, please don’t do it in dark clothes. Please consider joining the “High Vis. Evolution” and help our town shine bright!

Sincerely,

Doug Osborne, Bill Giant, Patrick Williams

City ready to start Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project with new multi-use path for walkers and bikers

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10-24-13-Edgecumbe-Drive-sign-e1382728578427The City and Borough of Sitka Public Works Department and its design-build partners on the Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project have updated the construction drawings and are ready to begin work in the coming days. The project includes a new 10-foot-wide multi-use path on one side of the street for pedestrians and cyclists.

The path is intended to provide a safe route for slow-moving bikes and pedestrians to travel. Edgecumbe Drive’s proximity to Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School was a major driver in the decision to provide this pedestrian amenity.

Construction is slated to begin in March with the demolition of curb, gutter and sidewalks in “Phase I” of the project, defined as the stretch of Edgecumbe starting at Cascade Creek Road and ending just beyond Charteris. Phase II of construction extends from Charteris to Peterson, and will begin later in the summer so that it doesn’t interfere with school traffic. The road will be paved and ready for travel prior to school startup in the fall, and the entire project will be substantially complete by the end of September 2015.

S&S General Contractors will host meetings at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School (307 Kashevaroff Street) on or about the second Thursday of every month through the completion of the project to discuss the project schedule. The first such meeting is scheduled for at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 12.

Click the link below to review construction drawings showing the multi-use path, school zone bulb-outs, the four-way intersection at Kimsham, location of parking lanes and the approximate location of driveways.

Project contacts are Dave Longtin (747-1883, davidl@cityofsitka.com) for CBS and Camy Hyde (738-0618) for S&S.

• Updated drawings for Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project

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.