Second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference postponed until June 2021

The second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference, originally scheduled for June 9-13 in Sitka, is being postponed a year until June 2021.

The postponement is due to the COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on travel and hospitality services, and for our desire to prevent the spread of the disease. The conference organizers want everybody to be safe and to prevent the spread of a potentially lethal disease.

A rescheduled date will be announced as details are confirmed. Anybody who has pre-registered for the conference will be contacted about refunds.

Sitka to host second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference on June 9-13

Are you looking for ways to make Alaska more walking and bicycling friendly? Sitka will host the second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference on June 9-13, with the theme of Walk.Bike.Roll. Creating an Equitable Transportation System For All.

While the agenda is still being finalized, but the plan is to bring in a couple of national speakers talk about walking and biking policy, as well as some Alaska and local presenters to round out the event. Our tentative national speakers are Ken McLeod, policy director of the League of American Bicyclists, and Ana Lucaci and Nicole Huguenin of Walk2Connect, a Denver-based nonprofit that has recently worked with Kodiak Walks.

The first two days will mostly be geared toward walking and the second two days will be geared toward biking. To get you out of the conference room, we hope to include group hikes, bike rides, a walk audit, a bike maintenance workshop, and other events throughout the week. Saturday features some free community events — a guided hike, a Sitka Cycling Club group bike ride, and an open house at the Salty Spoke Bike Collective. We will post a tentative agenda when it is ready.

Why is this conference in Sitka? Sitka is the only community in Alaska with both a Bicycle Friendly Community designation (Silver) and a Walk Friendly Communities designation (Bronze). This is a chance to see what works in Sitka, learn more about Walk Sitka and the Sitka Cycling Club and how they deal with some of the challenges they still face in their efforts to become more walkable and bikeable.

Prices for the Alaska Walk and Bike Conference are low — $50 for the full conference, or $30 for the two days of June 9-10 or June 11-12. This year we also will have a special half-day price for either a morning or afternoon session. There will be a couple of lunchtime events, such as lunch-and-learns, that will be open to the public.

Please use this website to register online. We accept online payments by PayPal or credit/debit cards, and if you select the invoice option there is info about where to mail your check. You can find more details about the event at https://walkbikealaska.wordpress.com. You can register at http://akwalkbikeconference.eventsmart.com (click on the event name and follow the instructions).

For more details, contact Doug Osborne at (907) 966-8674 or douglaso@searhc.org, or email akwalkbikeconference@gmail.com. We will have a limited number of travel scholarships available. To learn more and to get an application, contact Dawn Groth at dawn.groth@alaska.gov.

Join Walk/Bike Alaska’s 2020 team in the APHA’s 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 Billion Steps Challenge, a national event that runs from Jan. 1 through April 12, 2020. The contest ends after National Public Health Week (April 6-12).

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.

Most of the final stats from the 2019 challenge aren’t available, but Walk Sitka’s Jim Rogers did finish in the top five individually with about 2.2 million steps. Another Sitka resident, Karen Hegyi, who was competing for a family team called AKtoAZ, ranked among the top 10 for the first several weeks of the challenge, but faded out of the top 10 after a back injury. There were a couple of other teams from Alaska, including Walk/Bike Alaska. In 2019, there were more than 5,000 walkers on more than 400 teams in the challenge, and together they walked 1.56 billion steps. The top three teams were CrisfieldWalks, Falisha Got This 2019 and Wonderful Walkers.

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). In 2018, Walk Sitka 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 the 2018 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. Once you’re registered, you should be directed to this link. Click on the Teams link, then scroll through the team names to find the Walk/Bike Alaska logo. or type our name in the search bar Click the Join Team button and you’re in. The Walk/Bike Alaska team is open to walkers from Alaska.

The challenge uses a website called WalkerTracker, 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.

Save the dates of June 9-13 for the second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference in Sitka

Did you miss the inaugural Alaska Walk and Bike Conference in June 2019 in Sitka? Well, now is the time to save the dates for the second annual Alaska Walk and Bike Conference: Walk, Bike and Roll, Equity For All. The dates for 2020 are June 9-13 with events happening at various locations around Sitka, with presentations at the Aspen Suites Hotel.

Details are still in the planning stages for the conference, and we are consulting with a couple of national and statewide speakers who can give presentations on various topics related to active transportation and equity. The timing is set so participants also can attend Sitka Summer Music Festival events.

The inaugural conference, held June 4-8 in Sitka, featured a two-day Smart Biking training certification, a series of walk audits, an after-hours discussion of outdoor recreation, community bike rides and hikes, bike maintenance workshops, and more. In addition, there were  speakers on a variety of topics such as how outdoor recreation (including hiking and mountain biking) is an economic driver in Alaska, what makes a walkable community, how active transportation makes us healthier, and what we need to do to make sure our seniors and kids can safely walk and bike in their communities.

Please mark your calendars now if you hope to attend the conference. We will announce conference rates and possible travel scholarships as we get closer to the dates. If you are interested in presenting, please contact us at akwalkbikeconference@gmail.com, or email Doug Osborne at douglaso@searhc.org or Dawn Groth at dawn.groth@alaska.gov

 

Be Safe, Be Seen during Alaska’s dark winter months

When you walk or bike through Alaska during winter’s dark months, are you making sure to “Be Safe, Be Seen?”

Even though a pedestrian may be on sidewalks separated from cars, you still need to make sure your clothes are bright and reflective. That way drivers can see you when they leave their home and business driveways and enter traffic.

Why wearing white is not enough.

Too many people in Alaska wear black clothes during the winter, including when they are walking or biking. This doesn’t give the drivers a fighting chance to see you before it’s too late. Not only is it dark during the winter, but in heavy snow years there are berms that can make it difficult to see walkers and bikers. Also, some drivers don’t wait for their windshields to fully defrost, so their vision is obstructed.

The typical driver needs 260 feet to stop at 60 mph, but dark blue or black clothes only give them about 55 feet. Red clothes are a little bit better, giving drivers 80 feet, while yellow clothes give 120 feet and white clothes give 180 feet (if you can pick the person out from the snow background). People wearing reflectors can be seen as far away as 500 feet.

This is why many Alaska walkers and bikers wear reflective tape on their clothes or reflective vests, even on short trips such as checking the mail or walking the dog. Click here to learn more about the state’s Alaska Reflector Program. The Center for Safe Alaskans’ Bike and Walk Safe Program will mail free reflective tape to people who call (907) 929-3939, or click this link. The Center for Safe Alaskans (when it was known as the Alaska Injury Prevention Center) also produced a YouTube video that shows how reflective tape makes you easier to see.

Don’t forget to put reflective tape on your sleeves, backpack, rain pants, bike helmet and bike frame, not just on the trunk of your jacket. And if you’re biking, don’t forget you are required by state law to have a solid white light on front and red reflector on bike when you are on the road after dark.

“I have found that cutting the (reflective) tape length-wise and placing it on the jacket exterior on a moving part of the body (such as around the wrist area), in addition to placement on the torso, yields high visibility,” said Lulu Jensen, Center for Safe Alaskans project director.

Help your kids celebrate International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day on Wednesday, Oct. 2

walk-to-school-1

WalkToSchoolDay_HomepageMapNot too long ago, most of us walked or biked to school. But now, most kids arrive at school via their parents’ cars or school buses. Wednesday, Oct. 2, is International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, and Sitka parents and teachers are encouraged to help their schoolchildren safely walk or bike to school on this day.

In 1970, more than half of all elementary school students ages 6-11 walked to school. By 2006, only 15 percent were walking to school. Alarmed by this trend, a group called the Partnership for a Walkable America started National Walk To School Day in 1997 as a one-day event aimed at building awareness for the need for walkable communities. In 2000, the event became international when the UK and Canada (both of which had already been promoting walking to school) and the USA joined together for the first International Walk to School Day. In addition to expanding into several other countries, the dates also have expanded and October is International Walk To School Month.

“Walking or biking to school is an excellent way to add some physical activity into your day,” said Doug Osborne, a health educator with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). “It can be a great way to start the day. Walking or biking can be a lot of fun. It’s also important to remember to be safe.”

WBTSD_12inch_ColorWalking or biking to school with their children is a good way for parents to catch up on what’s happening in their children’s lives. Other benefits to walking or biking to school include less traffic, cleaner air, and friendlier communities. Walking with their children is a good way for parents see if there are things along the route that can be done to improve safety, such as improving lighting, checking crosswalks and watching for aggressive pets along the route.

International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day is a great teaching tool for safety. Parents and teachers can teach the kids about road safety rules and the importance of being visible when they walk or bike alongside the roads. They also can check their kids’ clothes and backpacks to make sure they have reflective tape on them.

Why wearing white is not enough.

Reflective tape is particularly important as we enter the dark months of the winter. Students need to Be Safe, Be Seen, and reflective tape can make a big difference in their visibility. Not only are kids sometimes hard to be seen because they’re blocked by cars, but many cars in Southeast Alaska experience condensation problems during the fall and winter that make it hard to see through windshields. Reflective tape and blinking lights can make it so kids are seen hundreds of feet before they would be if they wore plain dark clothes. Parents can buy reflective tape from local sporting goods, fabric, and similar stores. Sometimes it’s available from local health organizations. The Center for Safe Alaskans (formerly known as the Alaska Injury Prevention Center) produced a YouTube video (also embedded below) that shows how reflective tape makes you easier to see, and will have some free reflective tape available starting in October 2019.

To learn more about International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, contact your local school to see if any events are scheduled, or check with the Alaska Safe Routes To School program. The official International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day website also has a lot of information about how to set up an event for your school, including tool kits to help you arrange an event. Even if your kids don’t walk the entire way to school, you can drop them off a mile or so away and walk in with them. Many parents create walking school buses to bring several students who live in the same area to school together in one group.

Alaska ranked 25th most dangerous state for fatalities of older pedestrians; Anchorage the most dangerous area 

(The following is a press release from the Alaska office of the AARP)

ANCHORAGE, AK— The rate of pedestrian deaths in Alaska has quadrupled in the last decade, according to Dangerous by Design 2019. The new report from Smart Growth America highlights the risk of being struck by a car and killed while walking in Alaska. The report ranks Alaska 50th in the nation in terms of the number of pedestrian fatalities overall, but the 25th most dangerous state for older adults.

Between 2008 and 2017, adults age 50-older were 45 percent more likely to be struck and killed while walking compared to people younger than 50.

From 2017 to 2035 the state’s 65-older population will grow 68 percent, Alaska’s state demographer projects in the August 2018 Alaska Economic Trends.

“Alaska has traditionally had one of the youngest populations in the nation, but we’ve been the fastest aging state for years, too. Our community design needs to shift to reflect this, with short- and long-term fixes to increase safety for all ages,” said Terry Snyder, AARP Alaska volunteer state president. “Changes like longer crossing times help everyone who moves a little slower, like young children, frail elders, or fit young adults who on crutches.”

Nationwide, the number of people struck and killed while walking increased 35 percent in the past decade, according to the Dangerous by Design report released in February 2019. The last two years tracked, 2016 and 2017, had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1990. Older adults, people of color and people walking in low-income areas are disproportionately likely to be struck and killed while walking.

Anchorage’s pedestrian death rate is the highest in the state, and matches the national average.

“The good news is that Anchorage’s and Fairbanks’ Metropolitan Planning Organizations have adopted Complete Streets policies, which look at the needs of all street users, including walkers and bicyclists as well as drivers,” said Snyder. “This is an important first step towards improving pedestrian safety.”

The Alaska state report is linked below, as is the full Dangerous By Design 2019 report. Learn more about AARP’s work to promote complete streets and livable communities at www.aarp.org/livable-communities/getting-around/.

• Dangerous By Design 2019 full report

• Dangerous By Design Alaska Report 2019

• Anchorage Vision Zero Report Executive Summary

• Anchorage Vision Zero Final Report

• Anchorage Complete Streets Policy