PUBLISHED: 5:39 PM on Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sitka is Alaska's first Bicycle Friendly Community
SITKA - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) is pleased to have played a role in Sitka's becoming an official Bicycle Friendly Community. On May 1, the League of American Bicyclists honored Sitka as the first community from Alaska to earn its Bicycle Friendly Community designation.

Sitka received a Bronze award, which is the lowest of the four Bicycle Friendly Community designations - Bronze (57 communities), Silver (19), Gold (6) and Platinum (2). Sitka has the fourth smallest population of any community honored, and is at the same level as Denver, Louisville, Sacramento, Milwaukee, New York City and Washington, D.C. According to the League of American Bicyclists, a Bicycle Friendly Community designation is good for four years, but communities have to file annual updates.

photo courtesy of the Southeast Regional Health Consortium
  Father Dave Elsensohn of St. Peter's By The Sea Episcopal Church, center, and other Sitka clergy read a benediction during the Blessing of the Bikes on Sunday, May 11, 2008, in Sitka. The event also saw a ribbon-cutting for a new downtown covered bike rack.
According to the League of American Bicyclists' Web site, "Sitka joins the ranks of Bicycle Friendly Communities as the northernmost designated community and the only in Alaska. Nearly half of Sitka's roads provide accommodations for cyclists, such as bike lanes, and bicycle ridership is nine times the national average. At the 2007 Sitka Health Summit, participants (a large and diverse group of Sitkans) were asked to pick the top four areas to focus on that would make the greatest impact to the wellness of Sitkans. The top choice, to great applause, was to make Sitka a bicycle and pedestrian friendly community. The initiative was propelled from that moment and gained incredible momentum. The commitment has been clearly demonstrated in the recent proclamation signed in March of 2008 by Mayor Marko Dapcevich to work to become a Bicycle Friendly Community."

"Very cool, I think this is great news," Sitka Mayor Marko Dapcevich said when informed of Sitka's honor. "Kudos to all those who helped on this project. It's really exciting to see Sitka designated a Bicycle Friendly Community. This was a good project for health and awareness, and I was happy to get behind this one."

Sitka residents discussed applying for a Bicycle Friendly Community designation before the April 2007 Sitka Health Summit, and the idea gained momentum when it was chosen as a top health goal/priority for Sitka during the Sitka Health Summit's community planning meeting. The 2008 Sitka Health Summit takes place May 14-16 and is brought to you by SEARHC, Sitka Community Hospital and the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program.

"It's been wonderful to see how so many groups and individuals have come together to help our community reach this worthwhile goal," SEARHC Health Educator Doug Osborne said.

"Receiving the Bicycle Friendly Community award is what SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska is all about; institutionalizing physical activity," said Grace Brooks, Grant Manager for the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program. "Sitka has actively made biking safe and fun, making the healthy choice the easy choice."