September 15 2011The League of American Bicyclists on Thursday announced that the Sitka campus of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) has been awarded a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Business Award. SEARHC is the only Alaska organization among the 111 businesses nationwide to earn an award during the Fall 2011 cycle. SEARHC joins six other businesses from Anchorage that earned Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) awards over the past two years — the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (gold), Southcentral Foundation (silver), Providence Alaska Medical Center (bronze), Green Star Inc. (bronze), REI Anchorage (bronze) and Alaska Pacific University (honorable mention). Since the BFB program started two years ago, 344 organizations in 40 states have been honored for making their businesses more bike friendly for employees and customers. These organizations come from a wide range of industries, such as health care, manufacturing and government. “We are happy to recognize SEARHC’s Sitka campus for its investment in bicycling as a vehicle for improved employee health, social responsibility and economic growth,” League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke said. “Some of the most successful companies in the world are showing that investing in bicycling is not only good for health and sustainability but also for the bottom line.” The Bicycle Friendly Business program provides a free roadmap for businesses wanting to make their organizations more friendly to bikes. Businesses have to complete a lengthy application that includes information about the number of bike commuters, facilities available for them (such as racks, showers and lockers), education programs and ways the business connects with the local bicycle community. The SEARHC Sitka campus took an active role in Sitka’s 2008 application to become the first Bicycle Friendly Community in Alaska. SEARHC also promotes healthy and safe cycling to its employees and the community through its health promotion, injury prevention and employee wellness programs. The Bike Users Group (BUG) at SEARHC on Tuesday, Sept. 13, launched a new Bicycle Ambassadors program that will help mentor novice bike riders and provide role models for other cyclists. “As a health organization, it is important that we walk, or in this case bike, the talk,” SEARHC President/CEO Roald Helgesen said. “This award is a good way to demonstrate how small lifestyle changes can lead to better health, and it recognizes the work our employees who are role-modeling these healthy lifestyle changes.” “Bicycling to and from work is a great way to build some heart-healthy physical activity into the schedule,” said SEARHC Health Educator Doug Osborne, who serves as bike coordinator for the employee wellness team. “Many people like commuter cycling because it’s a knee-friendly/low-impact workout, plus it’s fun. In Sitka we are lucky because things are close together, the vast majority of our motorists are courteous to cyclists, and, with the right gear, it’s possible to safely ride year round.” Winners of the Bicycle Friendly Business award are allowed to use the designation for the next two years. To learn more about the BFB program, go to http://www.bikeleague.org/businesses/.