Gadfly “talks” bridges with Councilman Callahan

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

I have some video of the three bridges across the Lehigh, and there is walking
space and biking space on all three of those bridges that’s hardly ever used at all.
And I just think that spending $140,000$-$150,000 on a study . . . would be a total waste of money.

Councilman Callahan

Bicycles are supposed to ride in the roadway, not on the sidewalks.
Peter Crownfield

ref: Interviews with design firms yield new insights into the utility and value of a pedestrian/biking bridge across the Lehigh
ref: A better use for the pedestrian/bike bridge money?
ref: Add your name to the many organizations endorsing the pedestrian/biking bridge feasibility study
ref: A pedestrian/biking bridge: “The possible is a big deal”

Funding sources: DCNR grant $40,000; Northampton County grant $60,000; City funds $40,000 = $140,000

Gadfly encourages you to back the feasibility study for a pedestrian/biking bridge before Council tomorrow night by emailing Council members now (Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov) and/or by calling in to the meeting during public comment (instructions will be posted here this afternoon).

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Smart, progressive cities are walk and bike friendly these days. It’s the big thing. It’s the “in” thing.

Gadfly should know.

He spent the summer of 2019 reading walkability guru Jeff Speck (at Tony Hanna’s good urging, as he remembers it) and shared his reading with you (for instance, here).

(Speck did a report for Bethlehem in 2009, and his report can be found on this interesting page of City reports — a page where some reports go to die — especially noteworthy is the 2016 Trail study.)

Gadfly knows walking and busing in this town.

He walked and bused across town to work for almost 50 years.

Which enabled his family of six kids plus gainfully employed Mother Gadfly to exist on one car all those years — foiling the automobile, gas, and insurance industries all at once and leaving small carbon footprint.

We have never had two cars. How many families can say that?

People on New St. set their morning clocks by Gadfly.

When he retired, noting his absence, those people asked his son the neighborhood UPS driver if he died.

Gadfly knows the beauty of South Mountain in spring framed by the blossoming trees adjacent to God’s Acre, a view more valuable than any painting (and worthy of Dana’s sacred camera).

Gadfly knows that the simple act of getting on the Fahy bridge on both ends can be an adventure, an adventure that increases exponentially with age and the thinning of your hair.

Gadfly knows the roller-coaster-like thrill caused by going down the widely spaced steps on the east route around City Hall and sweeping helplessly (god forbid there was a car pulling in to the garage) through the portal at the bottom.

It’s a real wake-up call in the morning.

You roll to a stop just in time for the intersection.

Gadfly knows that the Fahy bridge is 635 of his strides long.

Gadfly knows that it is hard to meditate or plan your work day walking 8 inches from the north bound lane of Fahy bridge roaring at you with speeding cars and hulking fume-y buses.

Gadfly knows that the Fahy bridge walkway was not engineered for the co-existence of bikes and walkers, or the engineer had a dark sense of humor.

Gadfly knows you are wise to check your rear-view mirror for bikes passing you.

Gadfly knows you are wise to scrunch when you see a bike coming toward you.

Gadfly knows that in the winter there is a bitter wind channel blowing west to east 7/8s of the way across on the south side of the Fahy bridge that, if you are not careful, will render you deaf in the right ear for half a day.

Gadfly knows that it might be days before the Fahy bridge walkway was shoveled after a snow storm, and you’d best bone up on the Act of Contrition before walking in the roadway.

Gadfly knows that the south end of the Fahy bridge debouches (good SAT word) you into one of the worst intersections for pedestrians in town.

He thought often that it would be a shame to walk so far from home only to die at this intersection when he had almost made it to work.

Gadfly, like Walt Whitman, was a friend of bus drivers.

Gadfly remembers the smell of the bus station.

Gadfly called his bus route the United Nations Line.

Gadfly remembers the day when he was the only non-POC passenger, the only passenger whose first language was English.

You can learn a lot about Bethlehem riding a bus, or even waiting for a bus at a busy stop.

(Speck has such wonderfully simple suggestions of how to make people want to take the bus, how to make them enjoy it.)

Gadfly is not as intimate with the Minsi Trail and Hill to Hill bridges as he is with the Fahy.

But it’s obvious that those roadways are not safe for bikes and that the walkways were not designed for their co-existence with pedestrians.

You must have witnessed the adult game of “pedestrian scramble” played many times daily at the treacherous crossing at the south end of the Minsi.

Gadfly guesses he would say respectfully to Councilman Callahan that the reason the bridges have walking and biking space hardly used is that those spaces were not properly designed for them.

The roads/bridges were designed for cars.

Do you remember the south end of the Fahy in its penultimate existence, where the walkway was through a tunnel/landfill in which every so often you would meet rodents of the human and non-human kind?

What the hell, simply, what the hell.

The question for Councilman Callahan, sir, respectfully, is why walkers and bikers don’t use the bridges more for simply utilitarian purposes much less recreational?

———-

Gadfly encourages you to back the feasibility study for a pedestrian/biking bridge before Council tomorrow night by emailing Council members now (Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov) and/or by calling in to the meeting during public comment (instructions will be posted here this afternoon).

A pedestrian/biking bridge: “The possible is a big deal” (Reprinted from December 11, 2019)

logo Latest in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability logo

Doug Roysdon is a member of the Bethlehem Pedestrian-Biking Bridge Committee.

Reprinted from December 11, 2019.

Nice day yesterday, nice day today. As you are out exercising, think of the value of a pedestrian/bike bridge to our community.

A proposal to fund a feasibility study for just such a pedestrian/bridge will be voted on at City Council Tuesday night.

Gadfly encourages you to back the study by emailing Council now (Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov) and/or by calling in to the meeting during public comment (instructions will be posted here Monday afternoon).

———–

A Note on the Pedestrian/Biking Bridge

Like Festival Unbound, the pedestrian/biking bridge project is focused on a unified vision of the future city. At its core is the concept of a wholly contemporary “walking city” serving the needs of a pedestrian and biking population. In a series of public meetings on the bridge, a seemingly unending flow of connections associated with the bridge were advanced by Bethlehem citizens.  Among them are:

Reconnection of the city to its river for environmental and recreational purposes

The creation of a pedestrian cultural hub between Sand Island and the Banana Factory

Joining Historic Bethlehem and the Industrial History Museum — an advanced walking tour of Bethlehem History

Expansion of running and walking marathons, charitable events and city promotions

Social and communal links between Lehigh University and Moravian College

Connecting downtown businesses to South Side attractions

Creating a new, more physical  dimension to Bethlehem tourism

Opening new real estate markets for people dedicated to inner city life

Creating a safe,  environmental corridor from Illick’s Mill to the Greenway for walkers and bikers

Providing a superior walking experience in support of senior living in Bethlehem

Linking downtown festivals to both sides of the river

Creating an exciting new platform for night life in Bethlehem

Promoting the integration of Bethlehem’s diverse cultures

Producing a vital link in the rail trail network of Eastern Pennsylvania

Opening of the river banks to cultural and commercial activity

And more…….

Would a pedestrian/biking bridge make all these good things magically happen? No…..

A pedestrian/biking bridge would  make them possible.  The possible is a big deal.

Doug

Add your name to the many organizations endorsing the pedestrian/biking bridge feasibility study!

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

Doug Roysdon is a member of the Bethlehem Pedestrian-Biking Bridge Committee.

ref: Interviews with design firms yield new insights into the utility and value of a pedestrian/biking bridge across the Lehigh

Hi Gadfly:

As a part of our update on the current development of the pedestrian/biking bridge project, we would like to note that an important budgetary vote reconsidering the funding of the feasibility study will be coming at the City Council meeting next Tuesday, November 17.

With this in mind, I am offering here the current list of the many Bethlehem organizations and institutions who have already endorsed the feasibility study in the hopes that your readers will do the same.

You may offer your support of the Bethlehem pedestrian/biking bridge feasibility study to the city council by sending an email to  Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov as soon as possible but before noon Tuesday November 17th. We need to have endorsements in the hands of the Council members well before the meeting/vote that night.

Thanks for your participation in this very important issue!

Doug Roysdon Sierra Club

———–

City of Bethlehem Health Department

CACLV

Outdoors and Wellness Committee South Side Vision

CAT (Coalition for Appropriate Transportation)

Moravian College

Northampton Community College

Backyards for Wildlife

MANA (Mount Airy Neighborhood Association)

Sierra Club

Lehigh U. South Side Initiative

Arts Quest

New Bethany Ministries

Community Bike Works

Touchstone Theatre

Arts Quest

Alliance for Sustainable Communities

Bethlehem Partnership for a Healthy Community

Delaware Valley Green Building Council – Lehigh Valley

Pennsylvania Pedalcycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee

RENEW Lehigh Valley

Delaware & Lehigh Canal Heritage Corridor

Discover Lehigh Valley

Appalachian Mountain Club

Social Impact Center

Godfrey Daniels.

Get Your Tail on the Trail

Citizens of Bethlehem Climate Lobby

City of Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council

IceHouse Tonight

A better use for the pedestrian/bike bridge money?

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

At City Council November 3, Councilman Callahan, catching wind that the Mayor would be proposing the loss of 4 firefighters in next year’s budget stressed by the pandemic, sought to find out if money committed last year on the pedestrian bridge was spent and, if not, whether it could be reallocated, making the case that public safety is a higher priority.

Councilman Callahan also suggested that the money might be allocated to wi-fi for students, a need made evident in the pandemic and to which Councilwoman Van Wirt called attention.

The Councilman further argued that he had video of our three bridges showing considerable already available and hardly used walking/riding space.

He suggested that we need to “put our priorities in order” in this pandemic time and that funds for the bridge would be a “total waste of money.”

Interviews with design firms yield new insights into the utility and value of a pedestrian/biking bridge across the Lehigh

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

Doug Roysdon is a member of the Bethlehem Pedestrian-Biking Bridge Committee.

Dear Gadfly:

A recent series of interviews between the City and four nationally prominent bridge design firms has yielded significant new insights into the potential economic and social impact of the pedestrian/biking bridge across the Lehigh River. New faces and new ideas have greatly boosted our understanding of the bridge as a community asset.

The interviews with their accompanying commentaries have brought wonderful new perspectives into the potential economic and cultural uses of the bridge. First and foremost on the engineering side, it is notable that not one of the design firms found traversing the railroad tracks an overwhelming issue. In fact, throughout the interviews, the idea of a technical or political impossibility of building the bridge was never a concern.

On economic issues the design firms were equally positive. New input brought fresh insights. By connecting Historic Bethlehem with the Greenway, for example, the bridge opens a physically active dimension to tourism in Bethlehem — a reason for longer visits to the city!  A richly lit “night bridge” along the Lehigh River promises a gorgeous fifteen minute evening walk between the downtown and the South Side Arts district and a major new addition to the city’s night life. As a daytime attraction, the bridge has the prospect of creating a vehicle-free pedestrian hub in the exact center of the city: a contemporary locus for commercial and cultural engagement.

Meanwhile, in a second revealing enterprise, our work with the Climate Action Plan proved an equally insightful opportunity for understanding the social and economic benefits of the bridge. As a link between the north and south corridors of the city, the bridge suddenly took on a greater utilitarian scope. That north-south connection immediately makes commuting to work by bike a reasonable alternative for hundreds of Bethlemites. Most importantly, it makes the creation of an intercity biking infrastructure a practical concept. In short, the pedestrian bridge, as it supports the Climate Action Plan by taking vehicles off the roads, would give rise to a committed biking population in Bethlehem and provide the catalyst for what we might call a “biking city.”

And so, with the input of a full cadre of urban planners, the potential benefits of the pedestrian/biking bridge have become ever more profound. Embraced by the city’s Climate Action Plan and recognized by a series of national consulting firms as a potentially powerful means for advancing the city as a tourist destination, a pedestrian/biking bridge across the Lehigh River could not be a finer symbol of the city’s progressive future.

Doug

The potential for a new relationship with our river

logo Latest in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability logo

“I think of no natural feature which is a greater ornament and treasure to this town than the river. . . . yet the town, as a corporation, has never turned any but the most purely utilitarian eyes upon it — and has done nothing to preserve its natural beauty.”
Henry David Thoreau, “Huckleberries” (c. 1861)

Pedestrian bridge

x-posted from Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt’s Facebook page:
Thanks to County Executive Lamont McClure who presented the city with $60,000 for the Bethlehem Pedestrian Bridge Feasibility Study. Thanks to Mayor Bob Donchez for his support. For over a century, Bethlehem’s relationship to the river has been dominated by industry. Just as Bethlehem is reinventing itself, a potential pedestrian bridge could create a new relationship with our river. Pedestrian bridges drive development and can create a vigorous link between North and South Bethlehem. Many citizens of Bethlehem, including Breena Holland and Mary Foltz with the Southside Initiative, Doug Roysdon and Don Miles with the Sierra Club, and Tony Viscardi with Lehigh University’s Department of Art, Architecture and Design, have done much work toward the idea of the bridge, and this is a strong step towards exploring that vision. Thank you- and let’s go get some data! — with Lamont McClure Jr.
———-
That said, not everybody is cozy with the bridge idea. These comments on the City Facebook page have been heard around the Gadfly water-cooler.
  • If the quality of ice removal/prevention on the sidewalks of the current bridges is any indication of how a new pedestrian bridge will be maintained, save the money.
  • We have three bridges in town that you can walk across. Why we need to flush money down the toilet when we need so many other things is beyond me.

Gadfly invites you to browse back through the Walkability and Bikeability thread for past discussion on the matter of the bridge.

A pedestrian/biking bridge: “The possible is a big deal”

logo Latest in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability logo

Doug Roysdon is a member of the Bethlehem Pedestrian-Biking Bridge Committee.

A Note on the Pedestrian/Biking Bridge

Like Festival Unbound, the pedestrian/biking bridge project is focused on a unified vision of the future city. At its core is the concept of a wholly contemporary “walking city” serving the needs of a pedestrian and biking population. In a series of public meetings on the bridge, a seemingly unending flow of connections associated with the bridge were advanced by Bethlehem citizens.  Among them are:

Reconnection of the city to its river for environmental and recreational purposes

The creation of a pedestrian cultural hub between Sand Island and the Banana Factory

Joining Historic Bethlehem and the Industrial History Museum — an advanced walking tour of Bethlehem History

Expansion of running and walking marathons, charitable events and city promotions

Social and communal links between Lehigh University and Moravian College

Connecting downtown businesses to South Side attractions

Creating a new, more physical  dimension to Bethlehem tourism

Opening new real estate markets for people dedicated to inner city life

Creating a safe,  environmental corridor from Illick’s Mill to the Greenway for walkers and bikers

Providing a superior walking experience in support of senior living in Bethlehem

Linking downtown festivals to both sides of the river

Creating an exciting new platform for night life in Bethlehem

Promoting the integration of Bethlehem’s diverse cultures

Producing a vital link in the rail trail network of Eastern Pennsylvania

Opening of the river banks to cultural and commercial activity

And more…….

Would a pedestrian/biking bridge make all these good things magically happen? No…..

A pedestrian/biking bridge would  make them possible.  The possible is a big deal.

Doug

Bethlehem, a destination city — but not in the Wind Creek sense

https://www.peacewalk.org/

Lepoco 3

This is how we should think of Bethlehem as a destination city.

Not in a Wind Creek sense.

Time for the annual peace walk.

It’s a busy time of year, you say.

Join or leave the walk at three spots along the way.

You don’t have to be “religious.”

Would you join Gadfly again?

Peace matters.

Next Saturday

This is a good time of year to think of donating to LEPOCO, an unsung Bethlehem treasure.

Chatter around Gadfly’s water-cooler about: a pedestrian bridge

logo 10th in a series of posts on the 2020 Budget logo

Makes you think about priorities here in the budget season!

So $100,000 for a bridge that is not needed and connects nothing to nothing?

  • Drugs – not enough police

 

  • Sidewalks – residential problem

 

  • Walkability –  you have to drive to the bridge because you cannot walk there

 

  • No money for home improvements

 

  • No money for trees

But we might have a bridge!

Gadfly thought you ethicists might need a change of pace!

Good news on the progress of a pedestrian bridge study

logo Latest in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability logo

Gadfly reported a few days ago that the Rose Garden was awarded a $210,000 grant.

But was not aware that in the same grant bundle the City was awarded $40,000 for the study of a pedestrian bridge.

See Senator Boscola’s bulletin: http://www.senatorboscola.com/enews/2019_11_19_BB.htm

And, in addition, the Mayor announced at Council Tuesday night that the County has approved a $60,000 grant application for the bridge as well.

Sometimes Gadfly wishes he could really fly

logo Latest in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability logo

Gadfly is posting this (and some others) Saturday to go “live” on Monday morning.

You may not hear from him Monday.

At least, he may sleep late.

He will walk in the Delaware & Lehigh half-marathon Sunday.

And will likely need some repair.

marathon.jpg

Vote!
Election Day
Tuesday November 5

Gadfly’s tail crosses the Trail’s finish line

logo Latest in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability logo

Gadfly finished the 5-month Tail on the Trail challenge yesterday.

His goal was to double the 165-mile basic challenge.

Done.

He did most of his short-spurt walking on the D&L Trail between Freemansburg on the east and Kimmett’s Lock on the west.

He looks forward to a pedestrian bridge into the Southside — with a pit stop.

In the Capital Plan we saw in the last post, there is thought to expanding the Greenway a bit farther south.

Gadfly does his longer walking in “training” for the 1/2 Marathon mostly on the Saucon Trail. Last Sunday he walked on it as far toward Bethlehem as he could.

And said a prayer.

Please let him live to see the connection from Burnside close to Gadville, down to Sand Island, across the pedestrian bridge, onto the Greenway, and all the way to Coopersburg.

Bucket list #4.

What a recreational resource we have.

Tail 1

Tail 7

“We have to have public transportation available”

logo58th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

When was the last time you took a bus?

Maybe the better question is, have you ever taken a bus?

Not only are we not quite a walking community, but we are not a viable public transportation community either as well.

Silagh White laments.

  • “How many people drove their car here tonight?”
  • “One of the things that is part of the divide is accessible public transportation.”
  • “I would love to take public transportation; it does not work for my life.”
  • ‘If you have not been listening to what the kids are saying about our future, and we don’t start changing our own personal behaviors, we are just as much a part of the problem.”
  • “But it’s impossible to change our behaviors if we don’t have the opportunity to do that as a society .”
  • “We have to do more; we have to have public transportation available, so that the food deserts don’t mean as much any more — people can actually get to places.”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“What I see happening isn’t really promoting a walkable community”

logo57th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

He confessed it. Total admission. Put it right out there. No hiding.

“I love to walk.”

That was Wally Trimble at the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event.

“Hear, Hear,” a flock of Gadfly followers assented, “We’ll drink to that!”

Much on our minds on this blog.

But a ways to go, says Wally.

  • “I love to walk.”
  • “I wish it were a more walkable community.”
  • “We have a great trail system . . .”
  • “Our crosswalks seem designed as kill zones.”
  • “There are a lot of really dangerous places . . . “
  • “The best way to see [our] neighborhoods is to walk.”
  • “It makes us feel better just to talk with a stranger.”
  • “If everybody was out walking around and talking with each other . . .”
  • “What I see happening isn’t really promoting a walkable community.”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Gadfly’s last lap Tail on the Trail report

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

Gadfly has been using you followers for accountability.

Reporting again on his progress in the Tail on the Trail Challenge.

His goal is to double the basic challenge of 165 miles (the length of the Delaware and Lehigh canal) in the 6 months between May 1 and November 1 = 330 miles.

5 months now gone.

Gadfly has done 313 miles with almost a month to go.

Gonna make the goal with plenty to spare.

Tail 6

Now Gadfly also plans the Delaware & Lehigh Half Marathon November 3.

Training-wise, he’s up to 9 miles.

And an inch shorter.

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

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.”

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/planning-pizza-walkworks-tickets-56120296317

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.

$16.8m.

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.

Thought-provoking.

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.

Bus:

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

Airport:

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.

Coffee:

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.

Library:

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

Movies/music:

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.

Worship:

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

Hospital:

St. Luke’s, 801 Ostrum, 2.1, 45 mins.

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

Doctor:

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

Speeches and — Yes! — dancing at the Walk/Roll block party at Broad and New (27)

(27th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

(As you listen to the speeches, you can’t help but note the angry growls of car and truck traffic surrounding and menacing the enclave of walkers and bikers!)

“For many, many years after the car was invented, we have built communities
for the car and not for people.”
Becky Bradley

“If you build more roads, you’ll get more cars. You’re not really solving the problem.”
Phillips Armstrong

“We’re trying to create a movement here.”
Steve Repasch

“A successful city is one in which people choose to walk.”
Bob Donchez

“We look forward to helping all of you get to where you need to go.”
Owen O’Neil

“We have work to do . . . to bring humanity back to transportation.”
Scott Slingerland

“If you make it accessible, everybody will come.”
Greg Bott

“To me, my bike is freedom.”
Eric, Community Bike Works intern

“We get to dance in the streets today.”
Becky Bradley

walkroll

Morning Call photo

Some people “we” know were among the dancers!

Tom Shortell, “Bethlehem hosts dance party in traffic to promote pedestrian awareness.” June 12, 2019.

  • Normally, partying in open traffic is the type of behavior municipal planners, safety officials and transportation advocates frown upon. But a host of local government and nonprofit entities threw the dance party at New and Broad streets to promote Walk/Roll LV, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s soon-to-be released study on alternative transportation in the Lehigh Valley.
  • As the Lehigh Valley grows and develops, its aging infrastructure has struggled to keep up with the growing number and sizes of vehicles. The region’s transportation funding from state and federal governments is only enough to address about half of the needs across the region’s highways and bridges as it is, and that figure will likely get worse as more people and warehouses come into the region.
  • In an effort to alleviate that strain, the Planning Commission is advocating for more investment in bike trails, sidewalks, nature trails and public transportation. The goal is to ease congestion by making it easier for residents to bike or walk to work or go shopping.
  • While the study is nearing completion, there is still time to provide comments on the Lehigh Valley’s sidewalk and trail connections. Interested participants can go online to lvpc.org/walkrolllv.html or attend the next Walk/Roll LV working group meeting at 3 p.m. June 26 at the America On Wheels Museum at 5 N. Front St., Allentown.

Gadfly walked the 1.1 miles to the party. Wouldn’t dare drive to an event like this!

Walking the Talk! (26)

(26th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Such a beautiful day! Did you do some exercise? Were you walkers and bikers taking advantage?

The goal for lots of Gadfly followers is a Bethlehem walker- and biker-friendly.

We can’t just talk the talk. That goal can’t just be political gabble.

So take a look at this — June 12, 3:30 PM, Broad and New. Party time!

Donchez walk

And how many of you are Tail on the Trailers? 165 miles in 6 months. May 1 – Oct 31. About a mile a day. About 30 miles/month. Can be done anywhere.

Gadfly plans to double the challenge — 330 miles. But he lost two weeks in May because of a couple family obligations. So he’s behind now. Only 42 miles instead of about 60 in May.

Tail 2

“Who goes with me?” as the great Walt Whitman ended one of his most powerful poems.