Leisure to watch the Spring come in

The Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sort

Gadfly got high on all this talk of walkability and bikeability.

Peeled his fingers from the keyboard.

Fished some Aardvark beauties out from way under the bed.

And went for a walk this afternoon.

Paying attention to the sidewalks, Anon., paying attention.

But they didn’t break my Spring spell.

Great to be retired.

People would ask me what I would do when retired. Echoing Thoreau, I would often say, “I’d finally have leisure to watch the Spring come in.”

Nature’s miracle.

What’s blooming around your way?

Vicki Snow drop

Victoria R. Leister

“The snowdrop is the first flower of the year that shows its nice flowers. Often the blossoming of the snowdrop is a sign that the winter is transforming to springtime. Therefore the snowdrop symbolizes hope, the hope that this winter will finish too, that new warmth will enter our lives.”

Existing bridges not good for either biking or walking (20)

(20th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

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

Gadfly:

Ped bridge would not be a panacea, but existing bridges are not good for either biking or walking.

On the Hill-to-Hill Bridge, biking in the traffic lanes is very dangerous at most times, so cyclists ride on the sidewalk, which makes it very bad for pedestrians.

On the Fahy bridge, there is only one sidewalk which duplicates the cyclist-pedestrian conflicts just as it does on the Hill-to-Hill Bridge.

Add to that the problem that both bridge sidewalks often have standing water that make these walks unpleasant unless you’re wearing waterproof shoes (not comfortable in summer) — and in winter, snow & ice removal is inconsistent, so icy conditions are common.

Peter

Pedestrian bridge: changing minds needed (19)

(19th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Gadfly knows the author of this post, who prefers to remain anonymous.

AS for the positing of the pedestrian bridge:

The pedestrian bridge very well MIGHT change Bethlehem, but walkability would be greatly enhanced if the city would help with keeping the sidewalks walkable (repaired) and bike lanes added to the streets. A bike lane that is to be shared with cars isn’t really a “bike lane,” the cars will always win.

To change the walking and biking and the transportation culture, you need to do a lot of changing of the minds of the residents. These are automotive people, even to go to the gym, they drive.

I live two blocks from Liberty High School, three teachers live on this block, not a one of them ever walked the three blocks to work. It just isn’t in the minds of this population.

Just saying . . .

By the way, if you ever get to New Paltz, NY they have a pedestrian bridge spanning the Hudson. On a trip in September, I stopped and walked across it one evening. Absolutely magnificent, lots of families out with their children, a real treat. Just want to point out that I am not against pedestrian bridges in general. I just think that since we have three at this time, unless someone other than the tax payers pick up the tab, it isn’t a necessary line item. If I remember correctly that bridge had a closing time so there were no late night walks allowed.

Anon.

Extending Monocacy Way northwest (18)

(18th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park. 

Gadfly –

Marquette 1 map

The old Lehigh and New England Railroad tracks branching off of Monocacy Way could be the next expansion of the Bethlehem trail system. It could connect Pennsylvania Avenue (think Queen’s Nutritional Products) to Burnside Plantation and on to the Colonial Historical District and the D&L towpath trail.

Marquette 2 Stop

Many readers will recognize this portion of the trail at Monocacy Way, Union Boulevard, and the Route 378 north onramp.

Marquette 3 dog

About a quarter-mile north, we see the branch of the old Lehigh and New England’s Allentown line head off to the west. For reference, the dog is facing east. Burnside is visible through the trees.

Marquette 4 track

As the track condition shows, the line is not active. It no longer serves the old Durkee’s plant and never served the Lowe’s.It passes under the Eighth Avenue overpass and roughly follows the (seasonal) west branch of Monocacy Creek.

Action steps Lehigh County and the City of Bethlehem would need to take would be to have Norfolk Southern formally abandon the line and transfer possession to the same entity owning Monocacy Way. The parks department and streets bureau would need to determine access points along the new trail. Selecting property for the access points, noting that they’d need to be ADA accessible, would be the most expensive part of converting the rail line to public access.

While public focus is now on the pedestrian bridge, this stretch of land offers residents of northwest Bethlehem new and grade-free access to the heart of the city. Norfolk Southern has a foundation offering grants which might pay for some or all of the rail-to-trail conversion.

I’ve seen early plans from the 1970s when the American Parkway was being planned showing it following this line to a major interchange with Route 378 at Eighth Avenue. That will never happen. This could.

John

The pedestrian bridge represents a new way of thinking about the city’s future (17)

(17th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Sara K. Satullo, “How a pedestrian bridge over the Lehigh might change Bethlehem.” lehighvalleylive.com, March 25, 2019.

“The Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club and Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative started conversations about the bridge in 2016 with a public forum. That exploration has continued over the last three years and included speakers to help guide the vision and architects and trail engineers to offer practical advice.”

“If all the funding comes together as expected the city will have about $140,000 to explore how Bethlehem north of the Lehigh River and the South Side could be linked by a pedestrian bridge.”

“All three offer pedestrian access on one side of the bridge, but there’s no dedicated bridge in the city just for cyclists or those on foot.”

“With ‘a safe way of crossing the river,’ Roysdon said, ‘there’s the possibility of creating a cityscape that is separate from cars, separate from traffic and safe. A lot of people love the idea of quiet’.”

“The public forums initially focused just on the idea of a pedestrian bridge, but its grown to represent a way of thinking about the city’s future, Roysdon said. Envisioning a walkable Bethlehem that is tied back into the Lehigh River — a place where you can walk from Illick’s Mill on the Monocacy Way trail all the way to the Saucon Rail Trail, a way to pass through the city’s historic sites while being tied to nature, he said.”

“Studies show pedestrian bridges can be a huge boon for economic development, tourism and promote walkability and recreation opportunities, said Darlene Heller, city planning director. Bethlehem’s in the unique position of having two downtowns and a robust recreational trail system, she said.”

“Roysdon sees the bridge as a way to create a new community gathering space where neighbors run into one another on their way to work or out to dinner and stop to talk and connect. He credits Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt with championing the idea. ‘If we are going to overcome the car, overcome the smart phone and media dependence and all of these things technology has given us, we are going to have to reinvent the public sphere, reinvent the way we get together,’ he said.”

Questioning the pedestrian bridge (16)

(16th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Gadfly knows the author of this post, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Ok what am I missing in this pedestrian bridge discussion?

Are there not already three bridges (all with pedestrian walkways) crossing the Lehigh?

And where is this to be located?

And, the best nighttime walk? Walking across a boring, lazy, dark river just doesn’t seem exciting to me.

I walk this town a lot, I’ve walked from my home (near Elizabeth Avenue) to the Steel Stacks, to Lehigh, and various places on the Southside, but I don’t know that there are that many walkers in this town.

What I notice when I walk is that many of the people don’t recycle (ignorance or lack of desire?), that the sidewalks are terrible, that many trees are in very bad shape along the walks and roads, etc.

Feasibility study? Meaning: possible to do easily or conveniently.  Sounds like with ADA issues, easily is out. That leaves convenient. So throw enough money at it and anything would be convenient, I guess.

As for the Lehigh River, I have kayaked on it and biked along it. I like it as something to recreate on and near but it isn’t an exciting river to look at.

I just think that the money could be better spent and benefiting many more than a pedestrian bridge.

And again the bottom line for me is that three bridges that you can walk across seem enough in my mind. Biking, not so much, but neither are any of the roads in whole city.

So what am I missing?

Anon.

Feasible or not feasible — preliminary thoughts (15)

(15th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park. 

Gadfly:

The biggest challenges to a pedestrian bridge are a) crossing the Norfolk Southern tracks on the South Side and b) the additional linear footage the bridge and its approaches will require to be ADA-compliant. I think the maximum grade allowed is one foot of elevation per 10 feet of length. (Engineers and architects, please correct this figure.) So, we need at least 26 feet of clearance over the N-S tracks, assuming they grant permission: where’s the drop back down to the south side going to be?

This isn’t a matter of measuring the distance from the Ice House to the Greenway and building a span that length. We have to go up at least 26 feet on each side of the river with a compliant grade.

This makes planning this bridge seem unimaginably costly. Suspending a bridge under the Fahy sounds like a feasible approach, if we base feasibility on the amount of money we have available.

John

Gadfly wonders a couple things:

1) The City is seeking money for a feasibility study. Who does feasibility studies? Can we assume imagination and creativity as well as the kind of knowledge to solve such engineering problems as John points to? (Gadfly leaves that preposition at the end — “to which John points” — no, yuk.)

2) The PB planning and discussing has some history among the local folk. Were any ideas floated that would be interesting to hear about?

3) I guess the logical spot for the PB is near Fahy Bridge. But were any alternate spots considered? I think I read somewhere that in the “old days” a bridge (or was it the ferry?) went from the Sand Island boat access spot to the Union Station area. So what if the bridge were farther west — would that help with the railroad problem at all?

 

A pedestrian bridge: re-inventing the public sphere (14)

(14th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Spring has sprung.

The sun is out pretty good as Gadfly writes this Saturday morning.

The 5k’s are gearing up.

The whoosh of bike tire pumps fills garages.

And the pedestrian bridge is budding.

The PB is among a list of things that might be funded through the Casino Transfer Tax when the Sands sale is finalized.

Says so right in the 2019 City budget p. 278

And Tuesday night City Council approved grant applications for funds for a feasibility study.

Increased walkability and bikeability are City goals.

A PB would firm up a corridor from Illick’s Mill across the river to the Greenway and on to the Saucon Trail, which now goes down toward Center Valley, where there are plans for even more connections southward.

A PB also would be an important nexus for the Delaware and Lehigh Trail along the Lehigh River from Jim Thorpe to Easton — and thenceforward to Philly.  We could be tempting those bikers to stop off in Bethlehem.

Connecting corridors are a big thing these days in the walking and biking world.

They are happening all around us, to everybody’s social and economic benefit.

Gadfly didn’t think he could be roused any higher about the possibility of a PB in Bethlehem.

But Doug Roysdon brought an emotional ratchet to Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Eschewing (good SAT word) familiar arguments for a PB like parking, safety, bridge success in other towns, Doug took a series of such new tacks as

  • the PB would turn Bethlehem into a “completely different destination”
  • it would provide “the nicest night-time walk in all the Lehigh Valley”
  • it would provide the rather unique opportunity of a historic tour by bike
  • if you lived in one side of the river and worked on the other, you could live a life walking to work, enjoying the benefits of better health and saving car expense money
  • it would help “create a young town”

Doug saw a PB as “reinventing the public sphere.”

Watch Doug on YouTube, or listen to him here.

He took “the road not taken” in effectively giving us more to think about regarding the value of a pedestrian bridge.

Attack on councilperson damages credibility (13)

(13th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Steve Melnick has had a career in economic development for over 35 years in several states, with the last 20 years here in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly:

Several points of debate have been raised recently that speak to the walkability issue in Bethlehem. Unfortunately when they are used to denigrate the opinion of a current city council person, they lose much of their credibility.

The points raised by Professor Thode may, in certain cases, be valid. However, Bethlehem is a unique community, and his advocacy of high rise development in our two urban cores is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to justify the fact that our leaders have allowed or, in certain cases, been forced into allowing developers to build what they want, where they want, with little or no accountability for our existing zoning and planning regulations.

Why do we have historic districts, conservation overlays and other zoning and planning regulations if we continue to ignore them? By the way, what defines our urban cores? Where do they begin or end? Is Stefko Boulevard in the urban core? Is the Lehigh campus part of the urban core? Experts usually avoid ambiguous terminology because it can skew perceptions.

Walkability is more than having access to supermarkets and medical facilities. It is true that the North side urban core has low density population. I view that as a positive attribute. Other communities that have allowed the subdivision of grand old homes and buildings into a myriad of apartments have seen the disastrous results of those actions.

Allentown, our neighbor to the west, has seen numerous high rise developments built in the last few years. Ironically, this increased density and alleged criterion for walkability according to Dr. Thode has resulted in not a single supermarket being located inside the urban core. Indeed, the Giant supermarket and Wegmans are 4 and 5 miles away from center square respectively.

I guess in that category we, as residents, have to make a judgment. Do we want crowded residential development to justify a supermarket on the north side, or are we willing to drive to one outside of the urban core and preserve the architectural beauty of our historic district?

Demographically urban core supermarkets market to the residents that surround their site. The C Town market on the Southside is the perfect example. Its product mix and pricing reflects the neighborhood it serves. I believe this debunks the low population density argument for the southside.

By attacking a current council person for advocating for sound urban planning, Dr. Thode has completely revealed his bias. Currently developers in Bethlehem have been allowed to build what they want, where they want with no thought to the existing zoning and planning regulations. Could Dr. Thode have an ulterior motive for attacking a candidate using the cover of academic expertise? Food for thought.

Steve

“you are not aware of my positions about walkability and downtown development” (12)

(12th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

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

Dr. Thode,

Since we have never met, it stands to reason that you are not aware of my positions about walkability and downtown development. I don’t know where you got incorrect facts.

“Since Councilperson Van Wirt is on record opposing high rise development of any kind in the urban cores of Bethlehem, good luck with that.

I wonder how many miles Councilperson Van Wirt logs on her car each year. Where does she shop for groceries? Where does she go for medical services? Where does she shop for household items? Where does she go to see a movie, or hear a concert? Does she walk to these places? Does she take LANTA? Or, does she take private transportation?

Stephen Thode”

I am not on the record opposing high rise development of any kind in urban cores of Bethlehem.  Please, show me where I said that? I voted FOR the Benner/Parks project on West Broad Street, which went against HARB recommendations, precisely because I do believe we need increased amounts of downtown residential development. My remarks at the time of the vote reflect this belief.  I am for the use of the Boyd for market rate housing.  I voted FOR the vacation of 2nd avenue for the Armory project. I have never once said I oppose high rise development in Bethlehem.  I have been on council for one year and my voting record is crystal clear for all to see. Please, be sure of your facts before having them published, in a blog or otherwise.

I am a physician for nursing home patients.  I take care of patients at over 25 different nursing homes and ALFs in the Valley. You can bet that if they were in one walkable radius, I would be walking there. How inconvenient for my personal transportation beliefs that they are spread from Sellersville to Hometown.

I shop for groceries at the Wegmans. I would be more than happy to shop at a local food market, such as C Town, if there was one in North Bethlehem.  But there is not, which is why my husband and I joined the Bethlehem Food Co-op, to help establish a market in a food desert.

I live in the heart of downtown Bethlehem, a choice my husband and I made so we could walk to as many activities as possible. The fact that you cast aspersions on how I live my life without even knowing me gives me great pause. I do not understand why you took your feelings on Bethlehem’s walkability to Bernie, without even bothering to have a conversation with me about this.  You are substantively and factually incorrect in your assertions.

Dr. Thode, I am deeply surprised that an educator such as yourself would not do the research before making assertions.   The sad thing is, we share the same beliefs about what would make Bethlehem better in terms of walkability.  If you ever would like to sit down with me and hear my own beliefs and then come to a conclusion on their validity, I would be more than happy to make the time.

Paige Van Wirt

The developer needs to be treated the same as the homeowner (11)

(11th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly:

So, I guess Mr. Thode (for whom I have a great deal of respect) believes in unequal application of the law as well? Because, what both Bethlehem Councilwomen Van Wirt and Negron have been battling is exactly that issue. Neither one is anti-development, but those who are attacking them are trying their best to portray them in that fashion.

Both zoning and historic district ordinances have requirements. In historic districts you are supposed to build to the scale and mass of the resources that qualified those areas to become National Register Historic Districts in the first place. In zoning certain uses are permitted in certain areas. These laws are not being applied equally in this City, and both Negron and Van Wirt see that, and many residents do as well.

Mr. Thode makes absolute sense with his assessment. And, for example, there was no public argument against the development directly across from the Fowler Center on East Third Street, because it was not subject to Historic Conservation Commission review and subject to the local Historic District ordinance. Both the 6 story office building and public parking garage on South New Street were. 510 Flats is a fantastic development that “fits” where it’s built.

And then to compound matters, everyone involved with the South New Street office development, including the City administration and five Members of Council, conveniently buried their heads in the sand when an unauthorized expansion of the 6th floor restaurant was undertaken without the proper review. The citizen commission recognized the faux pas and refused to endorse it because it contradicted the highly negotiated compromise of the original Certificate of Appropriateness!

So, the difficult part of Mr. Thode’s observation for Bethlehem is that both central business districts are also in whole or in part located in National Register Historic Districts. Studies have shown that a sense of place, including preservation of historic buildings and areas, is critical to these areas being successful. In these cases you can’t have it both ways, and that is exactly the position both Councilwomen have taken. You can build higher around them but shouldn’t within them. It’s that simple.

As far as Councilwoman Van Wirt’s use of her vehicle to do her job vs. her endorsement of walkability, these are totally different issues that can coexist. When your employment requires you to work at various locations throughout the Lehigh Valley, it’s plain and simple, you drive. Schedules, services, accessibility and appointments do not make walking conducive from say downtown Bethlehem to the Gracedale County Home, and public transportation options are limited. So, you drive your auto from one to the next point of service because you have to meet the obligations of your employment.

However, what you also do is walk from your residence to City Hall, restaurants on Main Street, visits with friends, parks, etc.

The bottom line is that both Van Wirt and Negron are not anti-highrise, density, or development. They want compliance with City ordinances and City Hall’s complicity with developers stopped. They want the developer to be treated the same as the homeowner who needs a permit to add a porch, or build a garage, or a historic district property owner who wants to paint their home. All they have been advocating for is equal treatment under the law. Nothing more, nothing less!

Dana

Challenging Bethlehem walkability (10)

(10th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Stephen Thode is recently retired as director of the Murray H. Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies at Lehigh University. These comments appeared today in the Lehigh Valley Ramblings blog.

Several factors mitigate against increased “walkability” in Bethlehem. Let’s walk through them:

1) The urban cores of both the North Side and South Side have relatively low population densities (both residents as well as day visitors and workers) resulting in

2) A paucity of mass transportation AND a paucity of resident services in the urban cores, i.e., supermarkets, medical services, shopping, entertainment, etc. resulting in

3) The automobile becoming the default mode of transportation for all residents who can afford a car (or know someone who can drive them around).

Bethlehem will not become more “walkable” unless:

a) The urban cores become much more densely populated by residents as well as office, retail and shopping venues which will only occur if

b) A substantial number of high-rise apartment buildings and office buildings (with first-floor retail) are developed in the urban cores, and;

c) Mass transportation becomes frequent enough and broad enough to be a viable option for people to take to and from the urban cores.

Since Councilperson Van Wirt is on record opposing high rise development of any kind in the urban cores of Bethlehem, good luck with that.

I wonder how many miles Councilperson Van Wirt logs on her car each year. Where does she shop for groceries? Where does she go for medical services? Where does she shop for household items? Where does she go to see a movie, or hear a concert? Does she walk to these places? Does she take LANTA? Or, does she take private transportation?

Stephen Thode

Lehigh University’s Multi-Modal Culture (9)

(9th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

A Gadfly tip o’ the hat and wave o’ the wing to follower Tony Hanna (Redevelopment Authority Director) for recommending the work of Jeff Speck on this subject. Gadfly is reading Speck’s Walkable City books now.

Gadfly followers will recognize that he is engaged in a bit of a beef with Lehigh University over the possible negative impact of the new parking system on the lower income strata of workers, some of whom, no doubt, are Bethlehem residents, taxpayers – and voters.

But

that new parking system is the result of a laudably ambitious plan to foster a multi-modal culture on campus.

See: A New Mobility Ecosystem

“Lehigh University’s Connections Plan will reduce the reliance on the automobile for on campus travel, promote ridership and expansion of the Lehigh University transit system and encourage health and wellness through walking and cycling, resulting in a more collaborative, less congested, and more sustainable environment for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors alike. The Connections Plan will seek to accomplish the following thematic goals:

  • Foster a multimodal culture
  • Achieve environmental sustainability
  • Enhance health & wellness
  • Minimize investment in new parking structures”

For more details, see the links on this main Connections page to The Pedestrian Experience, Transit System, Parking System, and Mobility Solutions for such specific sub-goals as:

  • Create a car-free zone of nearly 39 acres in the academic core of campus bounded by Packer Avenue, Taylor Street, University Drive, and Brodhead Avenue
  • Provide convenient, timely, and comfortable transportation options to eliminate vehicle dependence in the core of campus and provide access to all existing parking facilities
  • Limit vehicular access and parking throughout the core campus and establish the car-free zone
  • Partner with the public and private sector to deliver various transportation, carpool and ridesharing options (LANTA/LYFT/Enterprise).

Drilling down on the Pedestrian Experience, we find:

Pedestrian Experience

So there’s gonna be free Lanta, carpooling, car-sharing, bike sharing, etc., etc. – all kinds of things!

Gadfly has many followers on the Lehigh campus. Would anybody like to comment on this plan? It’s quite ambitious. Lehigh is built on the side of a hill (and I’ll bet somebody can tell us what degree of slope). Does the plan look good from your ground-level? Or how about other followers who are expert in such plans – is Lehigh on track?

A bridge under the bridge? (8)

(8th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

“Tail on the Trail” challenge started last week. Are you in? Not too late.

Gadfly needs everybody in shape in case we have to march on City Hall or something.

Spring is coming.

Yeah, right.

Gadfly was trying to push the season yesterday and get some outside Tail miles in.

Was the fastest 70+ in a 5k “in support of People with Disabilities” in deliciously sunny but windswept and frigid Fogelsville. 002

(Well, truth be told, he was the the ONLY 70+.  All others were sensible of living till 80. And, more truth be told, he was 4th from last. Just in front of 3 strolling women of a certain age eagerly engaged in a really quite interesting conversation — sprinkled with biographical admissions and evidentiary anecdotes — about whether if they were dating now would they find the Bezos-Sanchez pictorial email interchange a matter of routine. Normal conversation for a “Cupid” race in which participants — Only in America! — wore shirts marked “available” and “unavailable.”  The conversation actually helped keep Gadfly warm. )

Not Spring-y at all.

But he was thinking about Spring.

And realizing that he has let this thread go dark for about two weeks.

And so he went looking for several City studies done on walkability and bikeability.

Like the 2016 “Beth Connects: A Trail Study.”

Seemed beautifully done. Stem to stern. Soup to nuts.

Divides the Bethlehem trail system into eight easily identified geographical sections.

Take a look. Easy reading.

Because a pedestrian bridge has been in the news lately (funds for a feasibility study on the horizon), Gadfly was especially looking for info about a bridge.

See pps. 46-49 of the report itself.

I wondered where such a bridge would be.

Ok, possible bridge from the foot of Main St. at Sand Island over to Union Station area.

And, quite interestingly, possibly a bridge UNDER the Fahy Bridge.

Wheeee!

Belle Island

See as an example: Richmond: Belle Isle Pedestrian Bridge

http://www.rvariverfront.com/trails/belleisle.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THldCVllv7M

Has anything been done with this “Beth Connects” report? Does anybody know?

Gadfly has a vague recollection of news stories about the City with plans to purchase land to connect the east end of the Greenway with the Saucon Rail Trail.

Having worked in Academia, Gadfly is used to reports that collect dust. In fact, he wrote several of them.

Granted, all the Beth Connects recommendations have hefty price-tags.

But Gadfly hopes dust collecting is not happening here. Certainly looks like a lot of productive work was put into this study.

W-ers ‘n B-er’s: Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (7)

(7th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Gadfly’s trying to raise his knowledge about “walkability and bikeability” groups he should know about. So much he doesn’t know. Suggestions?

Coalition for Appropriate Transportation

cat

Speaking of things he doesn’t know. From the “Love Our Trails” page of CAT’s web site, Gadfly learns of a trail he hadn’t heard of, the Stockertown/Plainfield Twp Trail. On my list of places to go.

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

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

From the Gadfly’s clipping file from December–

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

Work/Roll LV

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

LVPC: Walk/Bike Lehigh Valley wikimap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How the Dutch do it! (4)

(4th in a series on Walkability and Bikeability)

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

Cheers to you, Gadfly

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

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

Judy

Car-free zones (3)

(3rd in a series on Walkability and Bikeability)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2nd in a series on Walkability and Bikeability)

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

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

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

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

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

Peter

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

(1st in a series on Walkability and Bikeability)

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

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

Gadfly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill