Sharing your reading: finishing off Speck

(7th in a series about sharing your reading)
(and also relates to walkability)

If you aren’t reading, you may not be thinking. If you aren’t reading, you may not be growing. What are you reading these days? How about sharing with us? Gadfly invites you to share a few clips of your reading  — with or without comment — or a few thoughts from your reading pertinent to the Gadfly project of the good conversation about Bethlehem that builds community.

Notes from the back of the RCN bill envelope Gadfly used as a page marker for Jeff Speck’s, Walkability Rules (2018):

— “Where nobody walks, nobody supervises the public realm, and nobody gets to know their neighbors.”

— “It is only when we are outside of vehicles, and relatively safe from them, that the bonds of community can form.”

— “In well designed neighborhoods, the most convenient playground is no more than a five-minute walk away.”

— “City leaders . . . ask the wrong question about parking, which is, ‘how can we have enough of it?’ Nobody seemed to be asking the proper question: ‘how can parking be planned, provided, and managed to help cities thrive?'”

— Think about bus routes. Are there places the buses can’t take us but should? Gadfly thought about recreation areas. Should we have a bus that goes to Sand Island, for instance?

— “Bus frequency is key to ridership.” Every 10 minutes is comfort zone. Gadfly’s bus to work was every half-hour. It did feel a strain. “Removal of uncertainty [by more frequency] makes the wait more bearable.”

— Gadfly thought the bus rides themselves uncomfortable. Buses should be “more focused on hospitality than efficiency.” Wow!

— “Two-way [street] reversions are sweeping the nation.” Center? Linden? Always talk, no action.

— More timely bus service to New York? Phila? — how’s regional bus service from North St garage working out?

— “The more lanes a street has [or the wider it is], the more it feels like a highway.” Why is West Broad Street so broad? It’s a mini-MacArthur road situation. Could anything interesting be done there for beauty, for walkability? Something in the center?

— Speck cites Wyandotte St — the way the traffic pattern there killed the shops along the east side. Sad. Anything to be done?

— “Biking popularity is primarily a function of biking investment.” Gadfly knows the City has tried things over the years. Not much success?

— Gadfly idea: if we wanted to nudge a resurgence in biking, how about a program starting with kids biking to school where possible. Would mean protected lanes etc from neighborhoods to the schools. Let’s say a mile radius from William Penn.

— “Creating car-free streets and zones in our towns and cities must be a goal and even a priority if we truly value walkability.”

— “A great pedestrian mall lets you sit down for a drink while the children roam.”

— the “pedestrian scramble” intersection — Wheee!

— “Put street trees almost everywhere.”

— street trees: “almost always central  to making sidewalks safe, healthy, comfortable, and sustainable.”

— Thinking about trees/sidewalks made Gadfly think about streets in his childhood neighborhoods that were interesting to walk because of outside displays of wares. Pedestrians would stroll and linger. Has that kind of thing disappeared?

— “Park Day” — 3rd Friday in September — that would be September 20 — “people around the world reclaim parking spaces for humans, transforming what would normally be automobile storage places into places for hanging out.”

— What the word bankrupt means to developers: “I’ll make less money than I promised my investors.”

— “Pedestrians demand to be entertained.”

— “Exposed parking structures and blank walls must be kept away from would-be walkable areas.”

— ” public artwork can be a great remedial tool for salvaging problem areas from . . . ‘the great blight of dullness’.”

— “Active facades provide the street with interest and energy.”

— “Most retail facades should have some sort of awning. The goal is to blur the distinction between the shop and the sidewalk.”

— Got Gadfly thinking of unused or underutilized public spaces — and Payrow Plaza came to mind. Cf. what the Health  Dept Kristen Weinrich just did with that as recently reported here. Any other spaces come to mind that could be enlivened?

Wow! Gadfly thought a lot, grew a lot from reading Speck. Tip o’ the hat to Tony Hanna again for the recommendation.

What’s in your wallet, er, home library or on your bed-stand?

Walking works. Except on MacArthur Road. Maybe.

(29th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

“Right now, we can’t get people across MacArthur Road. I don’t know how to do it.”

The headline in the print edition was “Whitehall envisions dramatic changes for MacArthur Road.”

What changes, you ask?

Making it more pedestrian friendly.

You gotta be kidding!

But even thinking about it tells you where the world is heading.

“Can we improve public health through innovative transportation design?  We know we can, and you can help,” says the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. “Come talk about it at our next Planning + Pizza session at 12 pm Sept. 11. We’ll be discussing our WalkWorks project, done being through the University of Pittsburgh and PA Department of Health and how we can work together to improve public health through design.”

MacArthur Road

Tom Shortell, “Dramatic changes in mind for MacArthur Road that could change how Lehigh Valley lives, works and shops.” Morning Call, September 8, 2019.

Side by side, two women stroll through a crosswalk in a bustling shopping district. Behind them, a LANTA bus picks up passengers from a covered shelter. Trees shade two cyclists as they ride in a bike lane separated from four car lanes and two bus lanes. Pedestrians outnumber motor vehicles. Few Lehigh Valley readers would identify this scene included in a new regional report if not for the title at the top of the image — MacArthur Road.

Officials with Whitehall Township and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission acknowledged the image may not ever be a realistic vision of the region’s commercial heart and one of its most unwelcoming roads to pedestrians.

“The world is changing, and we are going to have to evolve or we’re goIng to die,” Whitehall Township Mayor Michael Harakal said in a recent interview. “We are working to try and re-envision the future.”

The FutureLV report by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission is encouraging municipalities to rethink their commercial corridors and how they develop their communities. Key among those steps is making areas more pedestrian friendly, which could reduce congestion and promote healthier lifestyles.

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and PennDOT have placed a greater emphasis on making communities more accessible in recent years, with the planning commission taking stock of bike paths, walking trails and sidewalks for an ongoing pedestrian and cycling trail study.

“Right now, we can’t get people across MacArthur Road. I don’t know how to do it,” Harakal said.

Making community centers accessible without the use of cars is a strategy proposed as part of the FutureLV report.

This ‘n that from the Gadfly clipping file

From the clipping file:

This article caught Gadfly’s eye. We are studying the feasibility of a pedestrian bridge to connect the Greenway, Saucon Trail, D&L Trails. Such things often need to be justified  through economic benefit. Here is some evidence.

Anthony Salamone, “Saucon Rail Trail helped Lehigh Valley businesses; they want to return the favor, give people more walking trails, green spaces.” Morning Call, September 3, 2019.

After officials opened portions of the Saucon Rail Trail along Water Street Park in 2011, Hellertown business owner Steve LaBrake noticed changes. Some were expected: His Saucon Valley Bikes store on Main Street saw a 30% increase in sales during the year after the trail opened, and business has remained healthy since, he said.

He also began noticing people were buying baskets for his bikes so they could patronize the borough farmers market, and that restaurants and other local retail merchants were also reaping benefits.

“It’s cool to see what the rail trail has done for the community,” LaBrake said.


Payrow Plaza

WLVT photo

Are you getting tired of hearing Gadfly talking about his reading the Jeff Speck books on walkability. Forsooth, they were a source of many ideas. He was using an old RCN bill envelope as a page marker, jotting down ideas. Speck at one point asked about unused or little used pedestrian spaces that could enhance walkability and street “life.” Gadfly jotted Payrow Plaza. And here we have wonderful use of what Kristen Weinrich saw as “underutilized” space.

Now “Playrow” Plaza.

Can you think of other areas?

Stephen Jiwanmall, “Playrow Plaza: A New Space for Bethlehem Kids.” WLVT, August 27, 2019.

(our follower) Dana Grubb, “Payrow Plaza plots place to play.” Bethlehem Press, September 4, 2019.

The city of Bethlehem has introduced a new play area for children at the city center. It is located on Payrow Plaza between the stairs and south wall and was installed Aug. 27. Health director Kristen Wenrich said the location was underutilized and that the play area, which is stenciled onto the existing paver surface, will provide an activity and learning circuit. Wenrich and chronic disease director Sherri Penchishen led a team of city employees in first laying out the design and then painting the stencil- based activity stations. According to Penchishen, the $6,000 project, which is funded using chronic disease grant, has been in the works for several years.

Sharing your reading: “hiding” the Polk Street Garage

(109th in a series of posts on parking)
(also 6th in a series about sharing your reading)
(and also relating to walkability too)

Jeff Speck: “Hide the parking structures. Exposed parking structures
do not belong next to sidewalks.”

(Walkable City Rules, 2018)

Jeff Speck: “Design parking structures for eventual conversion to human use.”
(Walkable City Rules, 2018)

You have seen Gadfly gradually resigning himself to the fact of a $16.8m Polk Street Garage though there seem to be significant unanswered questions.


And turning his attention to its design.

And whining, If we are to have new parking garages, deargod, let them be built with the most modern ideas.”

And wondering if the PSG is being designed in accord with goals other than simply warehousing cars, goals like walkability and Climate Action.

On the latter point, remember the recent letter of the Environmental Advisory Council to the Bethlehem Parking Authority.

Which brings him to Speck again.

Speck speaks of the now common practice of addressing walkability (street life) through  a parking structure with a ground floor of retail.

Note, for instance, that the new New Street Garage has a Police substation and a Southside Arts District office on ground level. Steps in the direction of providing a bit of street life there.

Note, too, widespread talk of the need to liven up in some similar fashion the long stretch of Walnut St. along the Walnut Street Garage when it is repaired or rebuilt.

This is all good, and Gadfly believes the BPA is planning for ground-floor retail with the PSG and is already soliciting tenants.

But Speck suggests that “many cities and developers have moved on to a better solution, which is to set the parking lot back slightly and hide it from view.” In Dallas, for instance, “a ring of apartments hides a large parking lot.”  It is “fully reasonable for cities to require hidden parking, and to stop allowing buildings to place parking up against would-be walkable streets.”

Interesting. Intriguing.

And let’s remember Councilman Reynolds’ good question discussed in the previous post on parking about the impact of ride-sharing and autonomous cars on the need for parking garages in the future. Reynolds — a young man — is kind of wondering if 20-30-40 years from now he and others will be wondering what to do with this damn underused building and why we built it in the first place!

Speck is on the same page with the Councilman:

The other mandate for the twenty-first century is to make parking lots convertible. If ride-hailing services — and eventually AVs — end up drastically reducing the need for parking, as predicted, we will wish that we had built all those parking structures with flat floors, removable ramps, and frames that can support human uses. Smart developers are doing it now.

As usual, all this is above Gadfly’s pay grade. He’s just trying to stir the pot. He’s concerned the PSG will be designed without sufficient public conversation and in isolation from wider community goals relating to the quality of life and long-term issues.

The follower Gadfly mentioned in the previous post has him thinking about bargaining chips. Perhaps a chip toward approval of the fine increase proposal might be assurance that the BPA will provide extensive public conversation over the PSG design and satisfaction that the design meets even non-technical city goals.

If you aren’t reading, you may not be growing. What are you reading these days? How about sharing with us? Gadfly invites you to share a few clips of your reading  — with or without comment — or a few thoughts from your reading pertinent to the Gadfly project of the good conversation about Bethlehem that builds community.

Gadfly’s walkability study (28)

(28th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)
(also 2nd in a series about sharing your reading)

Followers might have picked up from a reference here and there recently that Gadfly is reading — slowly — Jeff Speck’s Walkable City (2012). Speck did a study in Bethlehem previous to the book, and our city and Mayor Callahan are mentioned several times in it.

Gadfly was intrigued by Speck’s reference to the website — Walk Score — that calculates neighborhood walkability.

Bethlehem has a walk score now of 55/100, not all that great, putting us in the “somewhat walkable” category.

Gadfly is not sure that we should put any stock in that score/label. Mr. Wu, who led the Northside 2027 project consultants, told him the site is not much regarded any more.

But it was the idea of credibly rating/grading a town’s walkability that Gadfly found quite provocative. Really? How would one do that? So inventive. And so useful, if only in a very general way.

The following caught his attention too.

Speck calls the automobile the single greatest contributor to our total carbon footprint and talks about a national movement back from suburban sprawl into cities. He almost goes as far as saying “location, location” is as important in the carbon emissions battle as it is in real estate sales.

“Location trumps building design.”

“The most green home (with Prius) in sprawl still loses out to the least green home in a walkable neighborhood.”

Speck’s idea is that if you have to drive into the sprawling suburbs to a sophisticatedly designed energy-efficient house, you are still losing the battle, not helping the cause.


Well, anyway, somewhere in thinking about these two Speck matters, Gadfly got the idea of trying to get the measure of the walkability of his neighborhood and his own carbon footprint in this respect.

For convenience sake, imagine the Gadflys living at the Moravian Zinzendorf statue at Main and Elizabeth.

Now here — using Google map numbers for mileage and walking time — is an inventory of Gadfly walkability.

Work (before retirement):

Lehigh University, 2.1 mi., 44 mins.


LANTA stop, New and Elizabeth, .2 mi., 4 mins.


LVIA,  3311 Airport Rd., 3.7 mi, 47 mins.

Heavy-duty shopping (though PeaPod delivery is now our choice):

Weiss Market Westgate Mall, 1.5 mi., 32 mins.

Light shopping:

Wawa, 1584 8th Ave., 1 mi., 21 mins.

Eat out/dinner/fancy:

Downtown Northside, 1 mi., 20 mins.

Eat out/dinner-breakfast/diner-style:

Rudy’s, 1406 Center, .3 mi., 6 mins.

Eat out/lunch:

Carl’s or Fratelli’s, New and Elizabeth, .2 mi., 4 mins.


Dunkin’ Doughnuts, Elizabeth and Linden, 1301 Linden, .6 mi., 12 mins.

Neighborhood bar:

Roosevelt’s, 21 E. Elizabeth, .2 mi., 4 mins.

Car service:

Ike’s Shell, 1310 Center St, .3 mi., 6 mins.

Dry Cleaners:

Bethlehem Star Cleaners, 1364 Linden St., .6 mi., 12 mins.

City Hall:

10 E. Church St., 1 mi., 22 mins.


Bethlehem Area Public Library, 11 W. Church St., 1 mi., 22 mins.


ArtsQuest, 101 Founders Way, 2.2 mi, 45 mins.

Physical exercise/recreation/biking:

Monocacy Way, Illick’s Mill, 1.2 mi., 26 mins.

Sand Island/D&L Trail, 1.4 mi., 28 mins.

Park (kid’s/grandkids):

Heimple Park, Atwood and Memorial, .7 mi., 14 mins.

Elementary school:

William Penn, 1002 Main St., .4 mi., 7 mins.

Middle School:

Northeast, 1170 Fernwood St., 1.2 mi., 24 mins.

High School:

Liberty, 1115 Linden St., .9 mi., 19 mins.


Lehigh Valley Friends, 4116 Bath Pike, 3 mi., 1 hr.


St. Luke’s, 801 Ostrum, 2.1, 45 mins.

Muhlenberg, 2545 Schoenersville Rd., 2.3 mi., 47 mins.


Family, 3445 High Point Blvd, 3.1 mi., 1 hr-5 mins.

Specialist, 1469 8th Ave., 1.1 mi, 23 mins.

Dentist, 4887 Hanoverville Rd., 4.7 mi., 1hr-36 mins.

Eye, 800 Eaton Ave., .8 mi., 18 mins.

Gadfly would rate his walkability pretty good. A good many of his contact points are walkable. And he is 4 mins. from a bus stop that will get him to important farther flung locations.

The keystone to his walkability was being able to walk to work, which he did (and bus), for almost 50 years. That enabled him to be a one-car family all those years. He has never owned two cars. He joked about being the last one-car family in North America.

Unfortunately, close walkable destinations west — like to Wawa and the eye and heart doctors — are hampered by lack of sidewalks on Elizabeth Ave. down the Paint Mill hill and up Schoenersville. Boo!

Unfortunately, his family doctor and dentist  — who were just .2 mi away — heard the siren call of Sprawl and are not even reachable now by bus. He should fix their wagons by changing practices.

This is an interesting exercise. Gadfly recommends trying it.

But the personal insight is that though he is positioned pretty well for walkability, Gadfly doesn’t always take advantage (and it is an advantage: health, money, climate action benefit, etc.).

Gadfly is going to try to put even more walking in his life.

Gadfly invites you to share a few clips of your reading  — with or without comment — or a few thoughts from your reading pertinent to the Gadfly project of the good conversation about Bethlehem that builds community.

Sharing your reading: the walkable city (1)

(1st in a series of posts on sharing your reading)

from Jeff Speck, Walkable City (courtesy of Tony Hanna)

“Walkability is both an end and a means, as well as a measure. While the physical and social rewards of walking are many, walkability is perhaps most useful as it contributes to urban vitality and most meaningful as an indicator of that vitality. . . . Get walkability right and so much of the rest will follow.”

‘The pedestrian is an extremely fragile species, the canary in the coal mine of urban livability.”

“If they are to function properly, cities need to be planned by generalists.”

“What used to be white flight to the suburbs is turning into ‘bright flight’ to the cities.”

“The automobile is not only the single greatest contributor to our total carbon footprint but also a reliable predictor of that total.”

“We are a destructive species, and if you love nature, stay away from it. The best means of protecting the environment is to live in the heart of the city.”

“In most of our nation, the car is no longer an instrument of freedom, but rather a bulky, expensive, and dangerous prosthetic device, a prerequisite to viable citizenship.”

Gadfly invites you to share a few clips of your reading  — with or without comment — pertinent to the Gadfly project of conversation about Bethlehem.

Gadfly’s tail on the trail report

(Latest in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Are you keeping fit?

After a poor start in May, Gadfly stepped it up in June, and is now on pace to double the Tail on the Trail 165-mile challenge. Just as he planned.

Been taking advantage of some beautiful weather. Mainly on the Delaware & Lehigh Trail. And mainly heading Allentown-way.

Hoping to live to see a junction bridge where he can cross the river.

Not too late to start if you aren’t in.

Tail on the Trail

Tail 1


Tail 3