Girls on the Run to close out season with beach-themed 5K community fun run on May 13

 
The Sitka Girls On The Run program will host celebrate the end of its ninth season with a beach/Hawaiian themed five-kilometer run from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 13, with the start-finish line at the Crescent Harbor covered shelter. The fun run and ceremony will honor the girls, who have been training all spring at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School.

This is a family friendly event, and tutus and bright colors are encouraged, but not required. Volunteers and cheerleaders also are needed so they can make the event extra special for our participants. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Volunteer — There are quite a few volunteer positions available, some of which also allow volunteers to run in the event (all allow volunteers to be cheerleaders). Volunteer time requirements vary by assignment. Please register at http://tinyurl.com/GOTR5K2017. Please contact Lauren Havens at lhavens@safv.org or 747-3489 with any questions.
  • Cheerleader — Position yourself along the course between 9:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. to cheer the girls on as they run. The run starts at the Crescent Harbor covered shelter, runs along the Sitka Sea Walk and through the Sitka National Historical Park’s Totem Trails and back, so there are plenty of places to cheer people on. Bring a sign and bright colors and a positive attitude.

Girls On The Run is a life-changing empowerment program for girls in third through fifth grade. We teach life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory five-kilometer (3.1-mile) running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.

The 12-week program is one of several in the region. GOTR of Greater Alaska operates Girls On The Run programs in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Yakutat, along with similar programs in other Alaska communities. Check out what the program is all about. Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV) hosts the GOTR program in Sitka.

Please help spread the word and encourage family members and friends to make the 2017 5K Community Fun Run a success.

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Sitka Community Hospital launches ‘Be Bright At Night 2.0’ walking and biking visibility campaign

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Sharon Bergman of the Rotary Club of Sitka presents a check to Sitka Community Hospital CEO Rob Allen to purchase high-visibility reflective jackets that will be raffled off at various locations around Sitka.

Be Bright Poster 2016 [logo at bottom lowres]Getting 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 (CDC), in the next 24 hours, on average, 445 people in the U.S. will be treated in an emergency department for traffic-related pedestrian injuries. In 2012 alone 76,000 people were injured.

That’s why the Sitka Community Hospital, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Sitka, is launching the “Be Bright At Night 2.0” walking and biking visibility 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 to funds from the Rotary Club of Sitka, the Sitka Community Hospital will be raffling off high visibility coats at various locations throughout Sitka:

  • The Sitka Public Health Center at 210 Moller Drive,
  • Tongass Threads,
  • The White Elephant thrift shop (White E),
  • The Sitka Public Library,
  • The Hames Athletic and Wellness Center,
  • Swan Lake Senior Center,
  • The Salvation Army Little Store,
  • Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School,
  • KIFW-AM radio,
  • Blatchley Middle School,
  • Sitka Community Hospital, and
  • On the Sitka Chatters group on Facebook.

Having a coat that covers your whole upper body and can be seen from all sides is one way to be visible and stay seen as you walk the family dog, bike home from work or go for a stroll anywhere near cars. The upgraded Gage high-visibility rain coats, which were purchased at a discounted price from Murray Pacific, have reflective strips built into the jackets.

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

Fundraiser on Saturday, June 18, will raise money for lighted crosswalk signs

HPR fundraiser flyer

There’s good news and bad news about the intersection of Halibut Point Road and Peterson Street. After hearing public comments about the dangers of the intersection, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has approved — but not funded — a plan for the City and Borough of Sitka to install lighted crosswalk lights at the intersection.

To raise funds for the new safety lights, there will be a car wash and hot dog fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at the Sitka Fire Hall (209 Lake Street).

Residents also can contribute to this special public safety fund by mailing or delivering  a check made out to the Sitka Volunteer Fire Department (in care of Dave Miller), 209 Lake Street, Sitka, Alaska 99835.

Project sponsors include, the Sitka Police Department, the Police & Fire commission, Sitka Volunteer Fire Department, Sitka Rotary Club, Girl Scout Troop 4140, the State of Alaska Department of Transportation, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, and Sitka Community Hospital.

For more information, contact Retha Winger at 738-2073.

Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140 launches safety survey over Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection

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HPRPetersonIntersectionLookingNorthThe Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140 recently launched an intersection safety survey for the Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection near McDonald’s.

This particular intersection is on one of Sitka’s busiest roads (Halibut Point Road, aka HPR), and Peterson Street is on a hill that leads to three different schools (Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Sitka High School, and The SEER School). In January 2015, it also was the site of a pickup truck-bicycle collision that resulted in then-15-year-old Cody Bergman being medevacked to Seattle with serious injuries.

In March 2015, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) posted safety flags for the intersection (and another intersection in front of Blatchley Middle School), but many residents in Sitka want to see more, such as a stop light, lower speed limits, or better pedestrian-crossing markers.

“We are hoping to get some feedback from Sitkans so we can give DOT a push to review the safety of that intersection,” the troop wrote in an email (which didn’t identify the writer). “Obviously budgets are tight, but safety should be a priority.”

The safety survey asks people if they have any stories or experiences they want to contribute. Comments can be left in boxes at the Highliner Coffee Shop or Backdoor Cafe, emailed to hpr.troop4140@gmail.com, or submitted on the troop’s website. The comments will be compiled and forwarded to the Alaska DOT for review.

 

 

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.

Girls On The Run closes out school year with One in a Million 5K run on May 2

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The Sitka Girls On The Run program will host celebrate the end of the season with the 2015 One in a Million five-kilometer run from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 2, with the start-finish line at the Sitka Sea Walk basketball courts. The fun run and ceremony will honor the program’s reaching one million participants.

Volunteer signThis is a family friendly event, and tutus and bright colors are encouraged, but not required. Volunteers and cheerleaders also are needed so they can make the event extra special for our participants. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Volunteer — there are quite a few volunteer positions available, some of which also allow volunteers to run in the event (all allow volunteers to be cheerleaders). Volunteer time requirements vary by assignment. Please register at http://tinyurl.com/Sitka5K2015. Please contact Elena Gustafson at egustafson@safv.org or 747-3370 with any questions.
  • Cheerleader — position yourself along the course between 3:30 and 4:30 to cheer the girls on as they run. The run starts at the Sitka Sea Walk basketball courts, runs along the Sitka Sea Walk and through the Sitka National Historical Park’s Totem Trails and back, so there are plenty of places to cheer people on. Bring a sign and bright colors and a positive attitude.

Girls On The Run is a life-changing empowerment program for girls in third through fifth grade. We teach life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory five-kilometer (3.1-mile) running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.

The 12-week program is one of several in the region. GOTR of Southeast Alaska operates Girls On The Run programs in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Yakutat. Check out what the program is all about. Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV) hosts the GOTR program in Sitka.

Please help spread the word and encourage family members and friends to make the 2015 One in a Million 5K Fun Run a success.

Alaska DOT puts pedestrian crossing flags at two Sitka intersections on Halibut Point Road

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Pedestrian crossing flags have been installed at the Halibut Point Road and North Lakeview Drive intersection, in front of Blatchley Middle School. But where’s the paint for the crosswalk or safety lights?

 

On March 20, the Sitka Police Department page on Facebook posted the following message and photo (below) after the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities installed pedestrian crossing flags at two intersections on heavily traveled Halibut Point Road in Sitka:

SitkaPedestrianCrossingFlagsSPD would like to say a big THANK YOU to Steve Bell, from DOT, for installing Pedestrian Crosswalk Flags at the Blatchley Middle School and McDonald’s crosswalks. In an effort to make pedestrians and the crosswalk more visible until the permanent paint can be applied to the roadway, Bell has installed holders on both sides of the roadway containing Pedestrian Crosswalk Flags. The idea is simple, when a person wishes to cross the road they grab a flag and wave it a bit to get the attention of motorists, and once traffic has stopped and it is safe to cross, do so and deposit the flag in the holder on the other side of the road. The brightly colored reflective flags benefit pedestrians by making them more visible to drivers and the simple act of holding one alerts drivers that the pedestrian has a desire and intent to cross the road. In addition, simply having the brightly colored flags at both ends of a crosswalk makes the crosswalk stand out more, making it easier to notice on the approach. Be advised that the flags are not formal traffic control devices but a way for pedestrians to make themselves more visible to approaching traffic.

 

One set of pedestrian crossing flags (also known as pedestrian crosswalk flags) was installed at the corner of North Lakeview Drive, just in front of Blatchley Middle School and the AC Lakeside grocery store next door. The other set of pedestrian crossing flags was installed at the corner of Peterson Street (in front of McDonald’s, which is just down the hill from three nearby schools — Sitka High School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, and the SEER School).

The basic premise of pedestrian crossing flags is simple. A set of about eight flags will be split into two holders on each side of a busy intersection. Whenever pedestrians need to cross the busy road, they grab one of the flags from its holder and wave it several times to let drivers know they plan to cross the road, and they continue to wave the flag as they cross. Once safely across the street, they replace the flag in the holder on the other side.

Even before a young cyclist was hit at the McDonald’s intersection in early February, Sitka residents had been complaining about the lack of pedestrian safety at these two intersections. After the vehicle-bicycle collision sent a high school freshman to two Seattle hospitals for a month, local DOT staff installed better signs and discussed other measures that could improve safety. That’s when the idea of pedestrian crossing flags came up. According to Alaska DOT traffic engineer David Epstein, “We have deployed them at several intersections in Juneau for that purpose, and they are performing well. We modified the flags with reflective yellow tape. It makes them much more noticeable at night.”

But do they really work? The jury is still out about the effectiveness of pedestrian crossing flags. Most of the data so far is anecdotal, and there haven’t been many formal studies.

Pedestrian crossing flags have been around for several years, and several U.S. cities have tried them, including Seattle and Kirkland, Wash.; Berkeley, Calif.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Sand Point, Idaho; and others. The pedestrian crossing flags also have been tried in Juneau, Alaska. Of course, 150 years ago, it was the cars that needed the safety flags, before they began to rule the roads.

Some communities, such as Seattle and Berkeley, have given up on the pedestrian crossing flags, for various reasons including ineffectiveness, theft of the flags, and more. “Berkeley analyzed its flag program and issued a data-driven report about a decade ago that for crossing a major arterial at an unsignalized marked crosswalk, flags did not improve driver behavior in yielding to pedestrians. For this reason, the program was abandoned,” wrote Wendy Alfsen, executive director for California Walks.

Some pedestrians don’t like them because they feel weird having to wave them (or they feel like they’re waving a white flag and surrendering). Other walking advocates don’t like them because they feel requiring flags and reflective clothing is blaming the victim instead of addressing the real problem, poorly designed roads built for cars with no accommodations for people who walk or bike.

One reason some traffic engineers like the pedestrian crossing flags is because it’s an inexpensive solution to an increasing problem, getting drivers to notice and stop for pedestrians. It’s usually seen as a supplement to other pedestrian safety features, such as freshly painted crosswalks, flashing lights above the intersection, push-button traffic lights, and other traffic calming measures such as lower speed limits. Pedestrian crossing flags also are viewed as a temporary and not a permanent solution in many cases.

“One can debate optimal solutions all day long, but the benefit of the crossing flags is that one may act without delay, and citizens can take leadership in making something happen,” wrote Mobility Education Foundation President David Levinger of Seattle, when responding a a question about the effectiveness of the flags on the America Walks Forum email listserv for walking advocates. “In Washington D.C., there was a location on Connecticut Avenue that was quite problematic. Ped flags at that location were installed, a bit to the dismay of engineers in DCDOT. After about five years, then finally installed rectangular rapid flashing beacons and removed the flags, but they were well appreciated in the interim. My true personal feeling is that we should train drivers to recognize a pedestrian’s intent to cross the street and train pedestrians to extend their hand outward from their body as an expression of intent to cross as is taught to children in other countries. Then, pedestrians would always have a ‘flag’ with them that would be an effective tool to achieve driver yielding.”

DSC_0141Most communities include signage and training when they install the pedestrian crossing flags. They put signs by the holders to let pedestrians know how to use them (see example), and they work with local media to get the word out to drivers and pedestrians about the new pedestrian crossing flags and how they work. So far, the only media in Sitka explaining the pedestrian crossing flags has been the Facebook post, which had limited reach. There have been no newspaper articles or radio PSAs about them.

Also, go back up to the top of this article and look at the photo of the intersection in front of Blatchley Middle School. Do you see any paint showing the crosswalk? What about flashing lights above the intersection? Halibut Point Road is one of Sitka’s two busiest roads and it has some of the highest speed limits, but there are no real traffic-calming measures in front of the school. When school starts and lets out, there usually is a staff member who puts on a safety vest and carries a STOP sign into the intersection to allow students to cross the street and to let school buses turn onto HPR. But the rest of the day this is an uncontrolled intersection. The McDonald’s intersection is uncontrolled all day.

Epstein said last year’s HPR construction project is one reason the Blatchley crosswalk is barely visible.

“With regard to the marginally-visible crosswalk by Blatchley Middle School: as you know, HPR was rehabilitated during the 2014 construction season. The project took much longer than anticipated. By the time the top lift of asphalt had been laid down and the obligatory two-week, pre-marking curing period had elapsed, it was too late to apply permanent pavement markings. We needed more favorable temperature and moisture conditions than were prevalent at the time. The only option left was to apply paint, which (obviously) doesn’t last long under traffic conditions. When weather permits this spring, the crosswalks will be permanently delineated with inlaid methyl methacrylate, the most durable marking material we have. It should retain its visibility for several years.”

Another issue with the pedestrian crossing flags is where do you carry them if you’re carrying a big load of groceries or pushing a stroller with kids or elder in a wheelchair? Bob Planthold, who is a board member with California Walks, noted other problems with the flags and accessibility.

“Accessibility is a major flaw in this program. How can someone who is blind know where to pick it up and deposit it? How can someone who has neuro-muscular spasticity use a flag? Are these flags so highly reflective that at night a car’s headlight would pick it up far enough away for a car to stop or slow so the pedestrian can cross?” Planthold wrote. “What about a 6-year old crossing? Even if using a flag, kids strides are shorter, making it possible a deliberate crossing could be slower than a car driver expects of an adult. What about when pushing a baby in a stroller and holding the hand of a toddler? Grow a third hand? Or hold flag in mouth?”

So if you’re driving down Halibut Point Road and see a pedestrian grab one of the pedestrian crossing flags from the holder. Slow down and stop to let the pedestrian cross. And hopefully the Alaska DOT will get better markings for the crosswalks at these two intersections to make things safer.