Attention walkers and bikers: LVPC drafting a Regional Active Transportation Plan (5)

(5th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

From the Gadfly’s clipping file from December–

Tom Shortell, “Road Warrior: Is biking or walking to work in the Lehigh Valley’s future?” Morning Call, December 7, 2018.

Work/Roll LV

Next meeting Wednesday, January 23, 3:00 – 4:30 PM, Northampton Community College/Fowler Family Southside Center, 511 E. 3rd Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015

LVPC: Walk/Bike Lehigh Valley wikimap

“If you hate your morning commute, would you consider a walk instead? Or a bike ride? I’m not suggesting you quit your job and enjoy a brisk morning stroll, as pleasant as that might sound. But instead of being secluded in steel box, hurtling down the street at high speeds next to stressed out people doing the exact same thing, would you jump on a bike and pedal?”

“For the first time, the Lehigh Valley is getting serious about promoting walking or biking as a way to get around the region. The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has created a special committee to draft a Regional Active Transportation Plan. A final report is due in May.”

“One interesting [idea] being pursued by LVPC, local government and some nonprofits is building a better trail and sidewalk system. It’s a radically different way of thinking about how we use the transportation grid.”

“Since World War II, the Lehigh Valley has been designed around cars. Trolley and railroad tracks were dug up to allow smoother car rides, and rural townships surrounding the cities transformed into suburbs where driving is the only reasonable way to get around. But promoting trails and sidewalks has a certain logic to it. The cheapest way to alleviate congestion isn’t to build more roads but to rely less on cars and more on our own feet.”

‘The culture will need to change, too, for this plan to succeed. If we expect people to bike to work, for example, they’ll need training on how to bike in traffic and how to change a flat tire. Motorists need reminders on how to share the road with bikers.’

“Personally, I don’t expect this to be a game-changing plan for most commuters. The 2010 Census found just 0.2 percent of Lehigh Valley workers biked to their jobs every day. People who walk tallied just 2 percent of the workforce. If this strategy doubles that combined total to 4 percent, we’re not exactly redefining transportation here.”

“But the project can still be worthwhile despite those limitations. Creating a more pedestrian friendly environment can have positive effects on our culture, health, quality of life and economy. And that’s worth exploring.”

 

How the Dutch do it! (4)

(4th in a series on Walkability and Bikeability)

Judy Adams-Volpe is a retired university library director who started her librarianship career in Linderman Library at Lehigh University.  Enjoying every day of retirement in Buffalo, NY, she is an avid sailor (sustainable power by wind) and indulges her adventurous spirit with travels far and wide.

Cheers to you, Gadfly

In Amsterdam there are about 750,000 inhabitants and about 2 million bicycles.  Bicycle parking garages are everywhere—saw some several stories high, bikes are parked everywhere, and it seemed for free.  While pedestrians are at risk of their lives all the time, bike riders pay no attention at all to any rules of the road.  Pedestrians better be sure to keep their butts off the bike paths which line all roads, walking areas, canals, etc.  So, cut dependence on oil, cut pollution, be a free spirit, get everywhere on your bike, smoke a joint while commuting (anything goes in Amsterdam), pick up the kids from school and just balance them on the bike with you, and forget about a car—didn’t see a single parking meter anywhere!!

Yup, that’s a bike parking lot near the central train station in Amsterdam.  The other photo is an old canal barge repurposed as a bike parking lot.  Gotta love it.

Judy

Car-free zones (3)

(3rd in a series on Walkability and Bikeability)

A tip o’ the hat and a wave of the wings to Gadfly follower Judy Adams-Volpe, former Bethlehem resident, for referring this article.

In his Saturday post, Bill Bettermann described his European experience. Here’s some additional info.

The analogy of car-free zones to smoke-free spaces is intriguing. Lehigh University has such a plan, I believe.

Gadfly has to believe that we have some traveler-followers who might share national or international experiences with innovations in walkability and bikeability.

Jonathan Wolfe, “Oslo Puts Up a Stop Sign.” New York Times, December 19, 2018.

Starting in 2019, the Norwegian capital will restrict the use of vehicles in its city center, following a global trend to make popular tourist destinations more pedestrian-friendly.

If you drive a car into the city center of Oslo next month, you shouldn’t plan on staying long: There won’t be any parking spots.

The Norwegian capital is in the process of eliminating the remaining 700 street parking spots in its city center by the end of 2018 as part of its plan to turn the area into a car-free zone.

“We’re doing this to give the streets back to the people,” Hanna Elise Marcussen, Oslo’s vice mayor for urban development, said during a recent phone interview. “And of course, it’s environmentally friendly.” (The Scandinavian country, recently recognized as one of the world’s most ecologically progressive nations, has plans to become carbon neutral by 2030 and halt the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2025.)

And it’s not just Oslo that is turning away drivers. Popular tourist destinations across the globe are removing cars from heavily trafficked areas to reduce congestion, cut down on pollution, and make streets more welcoming to bikers and pedestrians.

Last month, Madrid restricted private vehicle access for nonresidents in its city center. A few weeks earlier, London introduced a plan to bar cars from many of the roads in its financial center, continuing its years long plan to combat pollution. And Paris, Athens and Mexico City are attempting to ban diesel cars in their city centers by 2025. (In 2016, when Paris banned cars for the day, the city saw a 25 percent decrease in nitrogen dioxide and a 20 percent drop in noise.)

In Oslo, the plan to remove cars from the city began in 2015 when a coalition of progressive political parties called for a city center free from vehicles. Similar plans have been met with resistance in places like Dublin, where local officials have proposed expanding that city’s pedestrian zone, and Barcelona. Even in ecologically minded Oslo, it wasn’t easy.

“There’s been quite a bit of public debate, and there’s been quite a lot of controversy, and it’s been quite difficult to do this in a way that businesses and citizens can accept,” Ms. Marcussen said.

The strongest opposition came from local business owners who were worried that fewer cars would mean fewer customers. So the city came up with a compromise: Instead of an outright ban, they would enact regulations that would allow as few vehicles as possible in the city center. The city designated certain streets for pedestrians or public transit only, restricted the ability of nonresidents to drive through the center, and removed hundreds of parking spots from city streets while creating designated parking spots for disabled citizens and businesses that require a car.

Oslo hopes to be a model for other cities looking to restrict cars in densely populated areas, Ms. Marcussen said, adding that soon enough, the policy will seem obvious.

“A couple of decades ago, it was perfectly normal to smoke cigarettes inside,” Ms. Marcussen said. “Today, very few would do that. I think it’s the same with cars in the city center. One day we will look back and ask ourselves why we ever thought that was a good idea.”

Bethlehem is not a very walkable or bikeable city (2)

(2nd in a series on Walkability and Bikeability)

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Bill, best wishes for 100% recovery. I’ve only had 1 semi-serious car-bike accident, when I was sideswiped by a car on 7th Street in Allentown. The woman was talking on her mobile and/or just didn’t believe in sharing the road. I too had a [less-serious] rotator cuff injury that took about 6 months of PT.

Bethlehem likes to think it’s a very walkable & bikeable city. It is not.

Pedestrians have to contend with irregular sidewalks with height differences of 10–15 cm, some of which have persisted for a decade or more. Also with curb ramps constructed at a 45° angle and with frequent sidewalk closures. Rarely does the contractor limit the closing to the time it’s actually necessary—but a big thank you to Ondra-Huyett—they actually move the fence in to the building wall when they’re not actually working on that face of the building. [the former Lehigh services building on the SS]

Cyclists have to deal with clueless motorists: those too busy texting or talking on the phone, of course, but also with a city that doesn’t properly maintain the sharrow markings and sometimes placed them far too close to the parking lane, as in some blocks of 4th Street. And, of course, no bike lanes. In reality, it’s difficult to construct a good, safe system of bike lanes that don’t dump cyclists into an intersection that’s even more dangerous because motorists tend to be less aware of cyclists if they’re not in the roadway. I don’t think we want to turn this over to PennDot or the City planners! (Especially seeing how they handled the rooftop addition in the Benner monstrosity at 3rd & New.)

Peter

Why can’t we do as the Germans do? (1)

(1st in a series on Walkability and Bikeability)

Bill Bettermann, avid cyclist and outdoor enthusiast, is Manager & Senior Computing Consultant at Lehigh University. His rotator cuff was torn off the bone by this accident, and he undergoes surgery next week.

 Gadfly has been meaning to open a thread on walkability and bikeability, and this message from his friend and former colleague is a good opportunity. Gadfly has a few notes on this subject in his files that he will pass along in the next few days to prime discussion, but he invites responses on the general area of walkability and bikeability. That would include ideas about a pedestrian bridge, for which preliminary investigation dollars have recently been allocated.

Gadfly:

Accidents happen, anytime, anywhere.  Thankfully, many, if not most, accidents are nothing more than petty annoyances.  I worry, though, about accidents that rise above the petty annoyance threshold.  In almost any situation, I find myself wondering, “what if ‘this or that’ happens?”

Interestingly, I don’t think about the potential for accidents when I ride my bicycle.  That is not to say that I do not take every precaution before, during, and after a ride.  I check the tire pressure, charge my several lights (one facing forward, three facing back), and am on my way.  I ride often on the weekends, usually heading to Nazareth, Moore Township, and beyond, from Bethlehem Township.  On the weekends, most roads that I ride are infrequently traveled by car.  Yet, I know that I need to pay attention to every curve, hill, or turn, because I do not want to find myself straying too close to the middle of the road.  One never knows.

I also ride to work on Bethlehem’s south side two or three times a week when the weather cooperates.  That cooperation is defined by temperatures above freezing and no precipitation.  I have a route that takes me along Easton Avenue, then Butztown Road to Linden Street, and eventually across Fahy Bridge.  Most days it is a fun ride, with the glaring exception of Easton Avenue.  The return home is a bit different.  Fahy Bridge to Center Street, to Elizabeth Avenue / Easton Avenue.

What do those details have to do with accidents or my willing consideration for the ugly outcome of an encounter with an automobile?  Because I know that every parked car I pass on Center Street might have an occupant who will open his or her car door at the exact moment I am next to the car.  Or because a car might make a right turn without putting on the turn signal, giving me no warning of its intention.  Or because of the driver who figures he or she can make it through the red light opposite my direction without interruption.

If I thought about these and many other potential encounters, I would never ride again.

On June 20, I was riding to work and nearing the intersection of Easton Ave. and Santee Road.  As I was riding west, down the slight grade toward Santee, I did see the school bus waiting at the intersection.  However, I could not tell if there were any cars waiting to make the left onto Santee.  When I was within feet of Santee, I noted that there was a car waiting to make a left . . . and it did.  I had just enough time to apply my brakes but not enough time for it to make much of a difference.  I plowed into the side of the car.  I don’t know, or remember, the details of the accident.  I do know that I landed on my left side, my bike adding to the weight of the fall.  I do know that my right shoulder flew into the side-view mirror.  The mirror won.

I do know that a few angelic souls stopped, came to me, and asked if I was okay.  They called the police and EMS.  An extraordinarily wonderful lady sat next to me as I laid in the intersection.  I did not think I broke anything, but I could not be certain.  All I knew was that I did not black out and that the lady was as sweet and kind as anyone could be.  She stayed until the EMS arrived.  I asked for her name, but the events that came after —  the ride to the hospital, the stay in the emergency room, the many x-rays — resulted in her name flying out of my memory.  I do know, though, that I will always be grateful for her kindness.

Why did the accident occur?  It really was not anyone’s fault.  It was, however, an accident I never contemplated.  That accident contrasted dramatically to a trip I recently took to Germany.  In Germany, bike lanes exist in every town and city.  The lanes are exclusive for bicyclists.  Pedestrians cannot use them, nor can cars.  Many similar bike paths connect towns, resulting in easy commutes for those who do not want to drive.  In Bremen, I walked along a sidewalk and noticed a billboard that kept count each time a cyclist rode by.  By noon that day, the count exceeded 2,000.  Year to date, in October, the count was more than 2 million.

Why not here?  Why can’t the municipalities, counties, or states, in the U.S. give greater accommodation to alternative travel?  As gasoline prices rise and commutes grow longer (not in distance, but in volume), why can’t those who wish to ride do so without fear for one’s well-being?

A city that invested so much time, resources, and influence to renovate so much of the south side, all seemingly for the sake of a casino, should be able to give some consideration to those who do not want to be beholden to their cars.

Bill