Join Walk Sitka’s 2019 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 7, 2019. The contest ends after National Public Health Week (April 1-7).

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 just a bit longer than three months.

In 2017, 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). Last year, we had two people walking (Karen Hegyi and Charles Bingham), and Walk Sitka recorded more than 2.8 million steps (an average of 14,655 steps a day) to finish fourth overall. There was one other identifiable Alaska team in last year’s Billion Steps Challenge — Anchorage Public Health DHHS — which recorded more than 14.5 million steps but only had an average of 3,529 steps per day to finish 176th overall. There were 400 teams in the 2018 event, who totaled more than 2.2 billion steps.

To sign up, click this link and register using the code APHA2019. Once you’re registered, you should be directed to this link. Click on the View All Teams link, then 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 MoveSpring, which 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.

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Help us do walking/biking traffic counts and walk audits around Sitka

Hello, my name is Charles Bingham and I run the Walk Sitka website. In April, I was named to the Walking College Fellowship program coordinated by the national walking advocacy nonprofit America Walks. As part of the Walking College program, I have to work on a walking action plan for the community, and I need your help.

Over the last few years, I’ve written Sitka’s two Walk Friendly Communities program applications, and we earned a Bronze designation in 2013 and repeated at the Bronze level in 2017. In the report card we were given after the application process, one of our weaknesses was in the Evaluation part of the Five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement and Evaluation), the main five question categories in the application. To improve our score in the Evaluation part of the application, we need to gather more data. If we don’t have good data to know how walking and biking traffic moves through Sitka, then we can’t make sure we have adequate infrastructure to handle the needs.

Part of my walking action plan will be focused on gathering this data by conducting walking/biking traffic counts at different intersections at various times of the day, and doing some walk audits/walk assessments where people walk some of our streets and note problems such as broken sidewalks, power poles blocking sidewalks, poor lighting, accessibility issues for someone in a wheelchair, etc. This is where I need your help.

As I mentioned in my Morning Interview on Tuesday, May 29, on KCAW-Raven Radio, I need volunteers to help me do walking/biking traffic counts at various intersections and to do walk audits along some of our streets. These will only take an hour or two of your time, and you can pick the time, day, and intersection to count or street to audit. We need a good mix of times and conditions for the traffic counts (mornings, nights, cruise ship days, non-cruise ship days, etc.), and it’s good to get a variety of streets audited.

If you want to help, you can print out the forms posted below and go out and record your findings. Or you can give me a call at 907-623-7660 or email me at charleswbingham3@gmail.com. Your help is greatly appreciated. All data collected will be shared with the Sitka Planning Department to help plan future walking and biking upgrades in Sitka.

• Three-Page Walking/Biking Traffic Count Form

• Walkability and Walking Tour Assessment of Land Use (City of Sitka document for Katlian Street, but can be modified for other streets)

• AARP Walk Audit Tool Kit

• AARP Walk Audit Leader Guide

Sitka’s Charles Bingham selected to participate in Walking College Fellowship program

America Walks, a national advocacy organization working to empower communities to create safe, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk, announced today that Charles Bingham of Walk Sitka has been awarded a Walking College Fellowship as part of the 2018 program.

The Fellowship will enable Bingham and other advocates from around the country to participate in a five-month training program designed to strengthen local efforts to make communities more walkable and livable.

“We are delighted to welcome Charles Bingham as a member of the Walking College,” said Emilie Bahr, Walking College Manager with America Walks, “It was a very competitive application process and he will be a great addition to the 2018 class. We look forward to developing his skills and are excited to see his work grow.”

Bingham will complete a six-module distance-education training program this summer, followed by an independent study project in Sitka, and then attend Walk/Bike/Places in New Orleans in the fall. He is the first Alaskan selected to the Walking College Fellowship.

“One of the goals of the first Sitka Health Summit (2007) was to become a walk and bicycle friendly community,” said Bingham, a former newspaper journalist who now works as a freelance media/public relations and grant-writing specialist. “In 2008, Sitka became Alaska’s first official Bicycle Friendly Community (Bronze level), but at the time there wasn’t a similar national program for walking. We repeated our Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2012, and moved up to the Silver level in 2016. In 2013, we became Alaska’s first official Walk Friendly Community with a Bronze level designation, and we renewed our Bronze level designation in 2017. Hopefully the knowledge I gain from being a Walking College Fellow will help Sitka upgrade to the Silver or Gold level in the Walk Friendly Community program. I also think I’ll be able to apply the knowledge to my cycling advocacy work.”

Bingham wrote Sitka’s two renewal Bicycle Friendly Community applications (he helped on the first) and also wrote Sitka’s two Walk Friendly Communities applications. In addition to coordinating the Walk Sitka program that came out of the Sitka Health Summit, he also is part of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition.  He builds the Walk Sitka and Sitka Cycling websites (https://walksitka.wordpress.com and http://sitkacycling.wordpress.com) and administrates the corresponding Facebook pages for each (https://www.facebook.com/WalkSitka/ and https://www.facebook.com/SitkaCycling/). Bingham moderates the Alaska Bicycling and Walking Advocacy Group on Facebook, too.

The Walking College curriculum has been designed to expand the capacity of local advocates to be effective community change agents. Topics include the science behind the benefits of walking, evaluation of built environments, as well as communication skills and building relationships with stakeholders and decision makers. Fellows work with other members of their class and a set of experienced mentors to develop the knowledge and skills needed to create community change. At the conclusion of the Walking College, Fellows will develop a Walking Action Plan for implementation using their new skills.

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About America Walks: America Walks, a nonprofit national organization, is leading the way in empowering communities to create safe, accessible, and enjoyable walking conditions for all. We provide a voice for walking and walkable communities with federal agencies, provide strategy support, training and technical assistance to statewide, regional, and local organizations, and serve as the convener of the national Every Body Walk! Collaborative. Together, America Walks and the Every Body Walk! Collaborative boast 700 allied organizations who across the nation are working to increase walking and support walkable communities for all members. More at http://www.americawalks.org.

About Walk Sitka: Walk Sitka originated from the Sitka Health Summit, when Sitka residents chose making Sitka a more walkable community as one of its first community wellness projects. In 2013, Sitka became the first Alaska city to earn a Bronze level or higher designation from the Walkable Friendly Communities program. In 2017, Sitka renewed its Bronze level designation. Walk Sitka works with a variety of community partners to promote walking events, education, safety upgrades, and more. More at https://walksitka.wordpress.com.

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.

KCAW-Raven Radio highlights Sitka’s renewal as a Bronze-level Walk Friendly Community

Click this link to hear an Oct. 31 story from KCAW-Raven Radio about how Sitka became a two-time Bronze-level Walk Friendly Community.

The story includes part of an interview KCAW news director Robert Woolsey did with Charles Bingham, who wrote the original Walk Friendly Community application in 2013 and the renewal application in 2017. In the interview, they discuss the 40-page application and what goes into a walkable community.

Sitka renews bronze-level designation in Walk Friendly Communities program

The City and Borough of Sitka earned a renewal of its bronze-level Walk Friendly Communities designation, joining seven other communities announced on Oct. 18 (Alaska Day) that they earned their first or renewed their previous designations. In 2013, Sitka became the first and so far only town in Alaska to earn a bronze-level or higher designation from the Walk Friendly Communities program, coordinated by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) in Chapel Hill, N.C. (Juneau has honorable mention status).

“I am proud of the hard work city staff has done to improve the lives of Sitkans with the limited funding we have available,” Sitka Mayor Matt Hunter said. “Thank you to the dedicated group of citizens who spend their time advocating for safer streets and who seek to recognize the city’s efforts.”

Becoming a Walk Friendly Community was a community wellness project of the 2008 and 2012 Sitka Health Summits (the 2008 project was before there was a national Walk Friendly Communities program). In 2008, Sitka residents wanted the community to be friendlier to people walking or riding bikes (Sitka earned its first Bicycle Friendly Community designation that year), and in 2012 they wanted to add the WFC designation to the BFC award. Sitka is the only community in Alaska with both Walk Friendly Communities (bronze in 2013 and 2017) and Bicycle Friendly Community  (bronze in 2008 and 2012, silver in 2016) designations.

The WFC award came about when community members decided they wanted to improve and recognize Sitka as a walkable community. The Walk Sitka work group followed a national template developed by the Walk Friendly Communities program designed to help cities and towns become more walkable. The community assessment tool/application (click here for Sitka’s 2017 renewal application) helps communities identify their walking strengths and weaknesses by asking dozens of questions in the following categories — community profile, current status of walking, planning, education and encouragement, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation.

“We hoped we might upgrade to the silver level this time, but we’re still the only official Walk Friendly Communities award-winner in Alaska,” said Charles Bingham, who helped coordinate the Walk Sitka group and wrote the WFC applications in 2013 and 2017. “We’re happy to win the award, but we’re also happy for the feedback we received to help make Sitka a more walkable community.”

Walk Friendly Communities is a national recognition program developed to encourage towns and cities across the U.S. to establish or recommit to a high priority for supporting safer walking environments, according to the program’s website. The WFC program recognizes communities that are working to improve a wide range of conditions related to walking, including safety, mobility, access, and comfort.

“The majority of trips in the car are for less than three miles, and if we can encourage people to walk or bike instead we promote a culture of wellness,” Bingham said. “Not only are people getting heart-healthy physical health benefits from walking, there are benefits for mental and emotional health when you take a walk in the woods. In addition, by walking and biking we reduce the amount of car exhaust we have to breathe, and there are economic benefits when we have walkable communities. There also are increased social connections when people, because neighbors can chat with each other instead of being barricaded in a steel box on wheels.”

The eight new or renewing Walk Friendly Communities for Fall 2017 were Washington, D.C., at the gold level; Columbus, Ohio; Long Beach, Calif.; and Redwood City, Calif.; at the silver level; and Essex Junction, Vt.; Gainesville, Fla.; Northampton, Mass.; and Sitka; at the bronze level. They bring the nation’s total to 67 awardees in the program at four levels — bronze, silver, gold, and platinum (Seattle and New York City are the lone platinum WFCs). In 2011, Juneau received an honorable mention in the program but has not earned a full WFC designation. The Walk Friendly Communities designation is good for five years, and Sitka doesn’t have to renew its award until the spring of 2022, although it can apply earlier if it thinks it’s ready to upgrade a level.

“Communities nationwide are implementing some very impressive plans and projects to create welcoming pedestrian environments,” said Dan Gelinne, WFC program manager. “All cities and towns face challenges related to pedestrian safety and walkability, but these Walk Friendly Communities are well-positioned to address these concerns and proactively improve their streets. We hope their innovative projects and programs can serve as models to other communities.”

The Walk Friendly Communities program has two application periods each year. Each application is reviewed by at least three reviewers to provide a fair assessment of the community and technical feedback on how to improve the community’s walkability.

Some of the major changes since Sitka’s 2013 application included the replacement of the Indian River Pedestrian Bridge in Sitka National Historical Park, the multi-purpose path from Whale Park to the end of Sawmill Creek Road, funding commitments for two extensions to the Sitka Sea Walk and to finish the Cross Trail, a new multi-purpose path on Edgecumbe Drive, proposed bike-walk improvements to Sawmill Creek Road from the roundabout to Jeff Davis Street, new walking encouragement programs, and more.

According to Sitka’s community report card and feedback (posted at the bottom of this article):

“Based on our review, we are re-designating Sitka as a Bronze-level Walk Friendly Community. Among the many programs and initiatives you shared with us, we were particularly impressed with:

  • The consistently high walking mode share and (low) pedestrian crash rate.
  • The level of planning effort and community support for Sitka’s trail system.
  • Slow speed limits through downtown and in school zones, paired with pedestrian countdown signals at Sitka’s two main intersections.
  • The variety and frequency of walking programs.”

The Walk Friendly Communities program was launched in October 2010. It is coordinated by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), which is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It is funded by FedEx Corp.

The next WFC application deadline is Dec. 15, with the results announced in April 2018. Interested communities can go to http://www.walkfriendly.org/, where they can learn more about the program and review the community assessment tool.

• Sitka, Alaska, 2017 Walk Friendly Communities Report Card and Feedback

• National press release for October 2017 Walk Friendly Communities

• 2017 Walk Friendly Communities renewal application for Sitka, Alaska

• 2013 Walk Friendly Communities application for Sitka, Alaska

• Sitka, Alaska, 2013 Walk Friendly Communities Report Card and Feedback

Walk Sitka to meet on Jan. 17 to begin work on Walk Friendly Communities renewal application

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WFC_LogoWant to help make Sitka a better place for walkers? Walk Sitka will meet from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Sitka Public Library (Gus Adams meeting room) to begin work on our Walk Friendly Communities program renewal application.

In October 2013, Sitka became the first (and currently only) city in Alaska to earn a Bronze level or higher Walk Friendly Communities designation. We earned a Bronze level in 2013, so let’s see if we can improve to the Silver or Gold level in 2017.

Over the past few years, Sitka has seen the completion of the Sitka Sea Walk, an expansion to the Cross Trail, a new multi-use pathway at the end of Sawmill Creek Road, and several other infrastructure improvements. Over the last few months, Sitka has received funding awards to build the second phase of the Sitka Sea Walk and the sixth phase of the Cross Trail, and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is getting ready to redo a section of Sawmill Creek Road from the roundabout to Jeff Davis Street to make it friendlier for walkers and bikers (good bye power poles in the middle of the sidewalk). We also have had more education about being visible while walking and a cellphone ban while driving to promote safety, and launched the Park Prescriptions program at Sitka National Historical Park and other hiking/walking clubs to encourage people to walk.

During this meeting, we will start to list our improvements since our last application, and we will look for areas where we can improve our community to make it easier for people to walk.

To learn more about the application process, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com.