Story last updated at 12/16/2009 - 11:51 am
In 2008, the bicycling practices of 100 Sitkans were observed and recorded by nine volunteers working with the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition. In October and November of 2009, another 100 surveys were completed, which gave us a good year-to-year comparison. The surveys were conducted at various locations and in times of low visibility so we could check on the visibility of the cyclists.
A year ago just 32 percent of bicyclist rode in dark conditions with a visible front light. That number has jumped significantly to 60 percent this year. The number of cyclists who had a red light in back increased 21 points from 36 percent to 57 percent. We appreciate everyone on the road who is being safe and being seen. In addition to checking on lights, we recorded which direction they rode. Bicyclist fare best with they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles and that means riding on the right side of the road, in the same direction as traffic. The dangerous and unlawful practice of wrong way riding dropped 6 percent points to just 11 percent this fall.
The positive numbers we have seen is a result of using the recommended public health strategy that includes education, encouragement and enforcement. We are very grateful to all the groups and individuals who have helped with one of these three elements. The Rotary Club of Sitka, the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program and the Sitka White Elephant Shop spent more than $2,000 dollars for lights and reflective tape for local youth who ride at night.
Thanks also to our school partners at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, and Sitka, Pacific and Mount Edgecumbe high schools for distributing the safety equipment to those most in need. The Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop also deserves a pat on the back for giving discounts and deals so that as many kids as possible could be protected.
We appreciate targeted enforcement and Be Safe, Be Seen advocacy for the most unsafe and unlawful bicyclists (the ones at night who wear all black, go the wrong way, zoom down downtown sidewalks etc.) that came from concerned citizens and then from The City and Borough of Sitka Assembly (particularly Jack Ozment, Cheryl Westover and Nancy Cavanaugh).
The Sitka Police Department deserves a hand for making our town better for bicyclists and motorists by giving warnings and then citations to unlawful riders who put themselves and others in danger. Please remember that Sitka general code requires cyclists to have a working white headlight on the front of their bike and red taillight or reflector on the back of their bike, plus multiple reflectors when riding during times of low visibility. Alaska Public Statutes prohibit bicycling on sidewalks in a downtown business district and require cyclists to ride with traffic (on the right of the road, not against traffic on the left). These laws are designed to promote safe riding and reduce the injury risk for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
On the education front, KCAW-Raven Radio, KIFW-AM, Northstar TV, the Daily Sitka Sentinel, SEARHC's injury Prevention team, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Emergency Medical Services, State of Alaska Public Health Sitka office and countless others have helped to plan and promote our Be Safe, Be Seen campaign, and for that we are grateful.
Last, but certainly not least, we thank the bicyclists who are doing things better and safer. Your role-modeling is vital and very much appreciated. Please keep bicycling safely.
Doug Osborne, Gregory Wong, Grace Brooks, Jeff Budd, Penny Lehmann, Sitka