Friday, August 31, 2007

Leading the way

Sometimes, the little guys kick ass and leave the big dogs eating their dust. I know, because I’m a big guy in a small guy’s sport.
One of the coolest little towns in Alaska is ahead of all the big cities in working to earn a “Bicycle Friendly Community” designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Sitka is a beautiful community on Baranof Island, and even though its road and trail systems are very limited, it’s a wonderful place to get around on a bicycle: relatively flat, little traffic, mild climate, friendly people and some of the best scenery anywhere.

I was there for a few days in the spring last year when I shot these pictures, and rented a bike instead of a car. With a good pair of gloves and a warm hat, I had way more fun that if I’d been trapped behind a steering wheel. I’ll be there again in a few days, and wish I could take a bike with me.

This past spring, several local groups held a health summit and identified four major projects that would help make Sitka a healthier place to live. One recommendation was to pursue the bicycle-friendly designation, which would make Sitka the first community in Alaska to do so. They’re pulling the whole thing together with help from a grant of nearly $10,000 from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium's "Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska" program, and they plan to apply for the designation in March.

Our big population centers of Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks should be watching and learning. In a state full of big-ass, four-wheel-drive trucks, we need more towns with leaders thinking about healthier lifestyles and better communities. This little out-of-the-way place is leading the charge.

Raven Radio recently did a story on the project and posted streaming audio online, and there’s a website with a forum for suggestions on how to get things done.

Thanks to Charles Bingham at SEARHC for reading the ol' blog and letting me know about the project.

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