The potential for a new relationship with our river

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“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”

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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

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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.

Biking in Bethlehem: be safe, have fun (24)

(24th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Anne Felker lives in Bethlehem, works with the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) as a board member and cycling instructor, and has been active for many years on the City of Bethlehem’s Citizens’ Traffic Advisory Committee.  She encourages anyone interested in joining her weekly women’s ride on the towpath to check out the ride schedule at LVCAT.ORG for more details.

You can always find the link to the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) on the Gadfly sidebar.

Gadfly:

I’m one of those people you see riding a bicycle on the streets of Bethlehem.  I’ve been doing it for years, and in addition to walking, my bike is my primary form of getting around town.  I’m interested to read the thoughts of Kate McVey on the mysteries of sharrows in Bethlehem.  Those shared lane markings, or sharrows, show where cyclists should safely ride and have the side benefit of letting the car drivers know that bikes belong on the streets.

I must admit, though, I get nervous when I hear people talking about installing bike lanes in Bethlehem. Bike lanes are not a magic bullet; unless we are willing to give up lots of on-street parking to install protected bike lanes — steps which I do not see us having the political will to do now, though I’m willing to continue working in that direction —  cyclists have to be comfortable sharing the roads with cars.  Slapping down some paint on a road side and calling it a bike lane gives the least experienced cyclists a dangerously false sense of security, increases the likelihood of car/bike conflicts, and encourages vehicle drivers to shout at cyclists all the more to get off “their” roads.

With a view to encouraging cycling in Bethlehem as conditions exist currently, I offer the following observations:

  1. CYCLING LOOKS SCARIER THAN IT IS

Our roads are plenty wide enough for both bicyclists and drivers.  For example, our main east-west thoroughfare, Broad Street, used to have a trolley line running down the middle and now, even with on street parking on both sides, there’s plenty of room for a bicyclist riding visibly and faster moving traffic passing.  If you don’t like the bigger streets, take the less traveled — Market Street does have more stop signs and signals, but as a result the car traffic moves much more slowly.

Often, when I get to where I’m going, and someone sees me locking my bike or carrying my bike helmet, I will get exclaimed at as if I just walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  “I could never ride with all those cars and trucks on the road!”  I could point out that a cyclist travels through town an average of 8-12 MPH, so if I had a conflict with another vehicle, I am safer than if I was tripping through the streets in a vehicle at 30-40 MPH, even with all that metal and glass surrounding me.

I’ve come to understand such exclamations are much more about that person’s anxiety than about cycling being in any way significant or special.  Not to be macabre, but I suspect we might have a more realistic perception of the relative dangers of any kind of travel If we marked every spot where a motorist died or was severely injured in an accident, as we mark where an unfortunate cyclist meets his or her end.

To me, at the end of the day, traveling by bike is mostly mundane. Enjoyably so, but cycling a mile or so to the library or the coffee shop is just not that big a deal.

  1. SAFE RIDING IS VISIBLE RIDING

It may seem counter-intuitive, but as a cyclist you are far safer riding out in the lane of traffic than you are hugging the shoulder or riding next to the parked cars.

There are several reasons for this.  Primarily, if drivers don’t HAVE to see you, they won’t.  They won’t slow down, and that’s unsafe for you.  They won’t notice that you are going straight while they are turning right, and they will cut you off, and that’s unsafe for you.  Riding next to parked cars puts you at great risk of riding smack into opening car doors, because parked  drivers don’t look for cyclists before they swing open their doors.  Also, riding on the side of the road puts you in loose gravel, potholes, broken glass, and other car detritus.

Look at where those sharrows are, on the roads that have them.  Our Bethlehem Streets Dept installed them properly; the sharrows show where you as a cyclist should position yourself.  Try it.  Take that near middle-of-the-lane spot, ride in a straight line and you will find you are out of the road debris, out of the door zone and clearly visible to all drivers.   On roads without sharrows, the principle you need to follow is this:  Ride as far to the right as you can safely travel in the lane going in your direction.  This means, you stay out of the door zone and visible to other drivers, and usually will put you in the middle of your travel lane.

The basic rules of riding a bike are to act like a vehicle — ride with the flow traffic, stop at all stop signs and lights, signal your turns, etc.. So, for example, where there’s a right turn only lane and you are going straight, look behind you, signal your move and get into the lane of traffic that’s going straight.

  1. THE MORE OF US WHO RIDE, THE SAFER WE ALL ARE

There’s some intriguing research, cited by Peter Walker in his 2017 book How Cycling Can Save the World, that shows that the cyclist mode share outweighs even helmet use as a safety factor for cyclists.  Translation from transportation-nerd jargon:  The more of us who ride our bikes, the safer we all are.

I don’t know all the reasons for this, but I’ve noticed over the years that my experience as a cyclist has made me act differently when I get behind the wheel of my car —  I drive slower as well as more cautiously, than I did when I was only a car driver.

  1. HELP IS AVAILABLE

When I first took to my bike I was baffled at how to go about it, but in that pre-internet time there weren’t a lot of resources for someone who wanted to learn to travel by bike. Now, though, we have plenty of resources, both online and in person.

An array of on-line resources includes: cyclingsavvy.org; bicyclecoalition.org (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia); transalt.org (NYC’s advocacy group Transportation Alternatives); adventurecycling.org (resources for long-distance bike travel) and our very own lvcat.org, the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation.

For those in Bethlehem, consider a visit to CAT, if only to check out the many resources available there. (FULL DISCLOSURE:  I’ve been involved with CAT since its inception over 25 years ago, for many years as its attorney and in more recent years as a board member.)

For about the price of a tank or two of gas, you can become a CAT member.  Located at  1935 W. Broad Street, CAT has a fully-equipped bike repair/maintenance shop, open to you and staffed by volunteers who can walk you through most any bike problem.  Don’t know how to work your gears? need to replace or repair a tire or pump up a flat one?  Need to get rid of a squealing brake or a noisy chain?  Go to CAT.  CAT also offers basic and advanced mechanics classes.

Most useful to anyone considering swapping out car rides for the occasional bike trip, CAT offers classes on how to ride the roads safely.  They can also help with logistics like route choices best suited to your comfort levels and how to equip your bike for city travel.

  1. BIKING IS ENJOYABLE

Doh! Do I really have to say this?  Of course cycling safety is serious, but riding a bike is fun.  It’s human-scaled transportation at a speed that connects us to our beautiful city.  You don’t need special shoes or lycra or glow-in-the-dark clothes.  Get on your bike, pedal, smile.  It’s that simple.

Anne

You can always find the link to the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) on the Gadfly sidebar.

The pedestrian bridge and improving our sidewalks are not mutually exclusive goals (23)

(23rd in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Paige Van Wirt is a Bethlehem City Councilwoman, physician, and small business owner.

Gadfly,

I am responding to Kate McVey’s piece as I am mentioned in it a few times. I am very happy to be having a dialogue about this, and happy citizens have a forum in Bethlehem to air their ideas. While this forum is valuable, I think the most powerful advocacy out there is coming and speaking before city council. It is remarkable how an informed, passionate citizen can sway opinion and open minds.

In terms of the bike lanes in Bethlehem, I agree they are inadequate. The concept is “sharrows,” which are shared lanes between bikes and cars. They are meant to help indicate where cyclists should be safe. They are less preferable than dedicated bike lanes, which I agree should be implemented in Bethlehem. This would cost time and tax dollars, but that does not mean it can’t be done. Citizens coming and speaking before council about their concerns and desires for safe cycling lanes is a very effective way of advocating for the dedication of tax dollars, or asking the city to obtain grants with the help of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission; the LVPC has a number of ongoing projects and exploratory studies to address this very issue — how do we foster safe cycling in the valley. I encourage you to come and speak and let City Council and the Mayor’s administration know how you feel. We would benefit from dedicated bike lanes on certain streets in Bethlehem. Even better would be an off-road set of paths and trails that could be shared by pedestrians and cyclists alike. Ironically, to your point, a pedestrian bridge would be a valuable part of any off-road system. A local group
involved in cycling advocacy is Lehigh Valley Coalition for Appropriate Transportation: http://www.lvcat.org/lvcat/. [You can always find this link on the Gadfly sidebar.] Walk Roll Lehigh Valley, through the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, is creating a master plan for walking and cycling in the Valley: https://www.lvpc.org/walkrolllv.html. These organizations are open to the public and welcome your advocacy and input. For every project, there is a cost/benefit analysis that must be data-driven and easily understood by the citizens.

I could not agree with you more about the condition of our sidewalks. In many places they are deplorable. The legal structure in Bethlehem means that homeowners are responsible for our sidewalks, and that puts a serious financial burden on homeowners as neighborhoods age and root systems wreak havoc on our sidewalks. One idea for improving our sidewalks is to increase code enforcement in houses that are sold — the sidewalks must be repaired, if needed, before the sale goes through; we should target absentee landlords in this particular transaction. This is a law on the books in Bethlehem which we are not consistently enforcing. Another idea I have proposed to the administration that we take a small portion of the $2.5 million we are using for street paving from the casino transfer fee and dedicate it to our sidewalks; the casino transfer fee is a one-time cash payment Bethlehem will see in the sale of the casino. As it is, this portion of the CTF is entirely dedicated to street-paving. Our streets must be maintained, but so must our sidewalks, as not all transportation in Bethlehem happens in cars walking is a valuable form of transportation. There are ways to offer grants to homeowners with this money instead of loans, to get our sidewalks into good shape.

Where I do disagree with you is the idea that when it comes to transformative projects like the pedestrian bridge project, and the sad state of many of our sidewalks, that the situation is zero-sum gain. It is not. The purpose of the pedestrian bridge study is to answer many of the questions you pose, and to explore the many different federal and state alternative transportation funds available for projects like the pedestrian bridge project. Most pedestrian bridges in the US are built with federal and state alternative transportation funds (along with tourism-related taxes such as the hotel tax), and there is no reason Bethlehem should not claim its share of those funds. The project, if feasible, would help create an off-road walking circuit in Bethlehem, linking our north and south downtowns, and transform our relationship to the river. I encourage you to bring your questions to future meetings of the pedestrian bridge project, as all citizen input, critical and laudatory, is welcome.

We should fix our sidewalks, look at the structure and costs of developing dedicated bike
lanes, and we should explore projects that may change the way we link our two downtowns and create a healthy, livable, and joyous city. These are not mutually exclusive goals and in fact should occur side by side.*** The funding for these goals is out there — we must must now show the will to implement them.

Paige

*** For a similar view, see “smandrew’s” comment on the previous post in this series.

Some replies to Kate (22)

(22nd in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

The condition of public infrastructure in Bethlehem is not so good. Our streets, sidewalks, parks, Payrow Plaza, etc. need much work. The questions become, how much will it cost and where does that money come from? And, all of these grants from the federal, state, and county governments, they are also public ‘tax dollars’ so it’s not exactly free money. I was reminded of that often when I was the City of Bethlehem’s grants administrator. A comprehensive approach to allocating limited funds to a myriad of needs is always a challenge for public officials.

Dana

Well said, Kate! You are absolutely right. Most of the sidewalks in the City are bad because of the trees that the City planted years ago. These are also the owner’s responsibility and the City can plant another tree in a location where you have one removed (which you have to use their “approved” contractors). The sidewalk in front of my home is raised, but to fix the sidewalk I will need to remove the tree in front of my home, which will cost me $7,000+(not including the cost to replace the sidewalk). Not to mention the damage it will do to my water line and foundation of my home! When I sat in on the Northside 2027 meeting a couple of weeks ago, they talked about adding more trees! WHAT? Who the heck did they survey? The trees are a nuisance (although quite beautiful), but for a middle class homeowner it is way too costly to care for these trees and the damage they do to your sidewalks/homes. Instead of a bridge, why aren’t you helping your homeowners??

Julie

I have also noted—and mentioned to city officials & council members—the many major problems with sidewalks. These are, of course, the property owners’ responsibility, but the city has to set sidewalk safety standards and enforce them. (They might want to start with sidewalks on city property!)

The bike symbol on the streets is often called a ‘sharrow’ and signifies both that the lane in question is to be shared by bicycles and motor vehicles and that the bicyclist should occupy the lane and stay away from the danger zone near parked cars.

Peter

Walking and biking: “let’s get our priorities straight” (21)

(21st in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Kate McVey is a concerned citizen, 30-year resident of Bethlehem, professional organizer, dog owner, mother of two children, been around, kosher cook . . . explorer.

Ok, Gadfly, so let’s talk about walkability and bikeability for the City of Bethlehem.

I’ve attached photos of the current bike paths I took recently early on a Sunday morning. Well, actually I’m guessing this is a bike path because I don’t really know what a bike painted in the middle of a busy street really means. Is that a bike path? What are cars to Kate bike 1do? That can’t be bike paths because they are painted in the middle of busy thoroughfares. Elizabeth Avenue has several such painted bikes;  Fahy Bridge has a painted bike;  Main Street has painted bikes. (Several years ago a biker was tragically killed on the Fahy Bridge.) Does this mean that cars are to yield to bikers? Does this mean that bike traffic (against all bike-riding regulations) should travel in both directions in that one lane?  If the city is going to paint bicycles in the middle of busy streets, please inform the public as to what those painted bikes mean. I am pretty astute, and if I don’t know what I am to do when I drive on a street with a painted bike, I’m guessing a lot of people don’t. Is it simply: BEWARE BIKERS MAY BE ON THE ROAD?

Ok. So let’s tackle the walkability issue. There’s been a lot of discussion about this as several citizens and at least one council member really want a pedestrian bridge across the Lehigh River. Hmmm, there are three existing pedestrian crossings at this time. Do we need the expense of a bridge for bikes and walkers when there are already three?  Where is this bridge to be located? What is it connecting? Do we need it? Is the Lehigh River a river that requires contemplative crossing? Will there be benches placed along it for sitting and watching the sunset etc.? Is there something exciting going on in the River? In Denver I have watched kayakers (outside of REI) do their thing in rapids below — that was fun. But do we have this in Bethlehem? The Lehigh River is a fun recreational place, but simply to walk across it doesn’t offer that much gratification. Usually pedestrian bridges connect one immediate social area to another; that, if my understanding of placement of this Bethlehem bridge is correct, will not be what this proposed bridge will do. And, I am very open to correction.

I have two dogs, and I walk a lot. Here are pictures of sidewalks within one block of my house. They certainly are not safe. I have fallen while walking because a sidewalk slab was raised four inches up from the next slab. These irregularities are all over Bethlehem. Many older adults I have spoken with won’t walk in Bethlehem because of the bad sidewalks and the risk of falling. They feel much safer going to the gym to walk. When Kate walks 4events that are clearly walkable from my home come up, no one near me wants to walk to them because they don’t want to fall on the poorly lit and treacherous sidewalks.

I saw that Councilperson Paige Van Wirt announced that money had been secured for a feasibility study of a bridge. I really hope that these funds came from private money (not taxpayer)  for this study. To replace sidewalks is very expensive. $40,000 allocated for a feasibility study would be better spent correcting poor sidewalks that are now the responsibility of the homeowners. I understand there are loans available to residents for sidewalk replacement, but a loan needs to be repaid. Residents simply do not have the thousands it takes to replace sidewalks. It isn’t as if it would be several hundred dollars; my research is that is would be several thousand.

So, where are we?  Would a pedestrian bridge be a nice perk for some of our citizens?  Indeed. Is it necessary when so many other things are needed? I think not. Will it make Bethlehem more “walkable”? Not when the sidewalks are of such poor quality that you must constantly be looking down so as not to trip.Kate ADA 1

I understand that the Sierra Club favors the bridge. Have they given thought to some of these other issues? Is it not in the interest of Sierra Club to want the entire City to be more walkable? I don’t believe I have seen or heard anything from them concerning the deplorable condition of our current sidewalks. If a resident has to drive to access the pedestrian bridge, then the carbon footprint problem is increased, not diminished

Finally, there is this sidewalk on Elizabeth Avenue. As ADA regulations require a four-foot-wide sidewalk, this space is not compliant. While the City is busy putting in and correcting the curb cuts around the City (my favorite are the elaborate curb-cuts put in at Macada Road and Center Street where there are absolutely no sidewalks for miles, so good luck to the person in a wheelchair; once they cross the intersection where the heck are they going to go?), perhaps the person responsible for ADA compliance for Bethlehem should be investigating the sidewalks also. Just saying . . . let’s get our priorities straight, and if walking and biking in Bethlehem is a goal, let’s start with real bike paths and good sidewalks.

Kate