Bethlehem citizens are discussing the city’s potential to facilitate alternative transportation modes to cars, specifically the use of bikes.
Members of the Lehigh Valley Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (LVCAT), the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), the Sierra Club of the Lehigh Valley and other community members gathered at IceHouse Tonight to discuss ideas for making bicycling a more accessible and widespread form of transportation.
“The main purpose of this meeting is to hear what the community thinks about improving the biking infrastructure and making (Bethlehem) a biking city,” said Katie Trembler, Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council member.
Doug Roydson, Sierra Club Program chair, said he is working tirelessly on the evolution and development of Bethlehem’s walking and biking culture.
In his introduction, Roydson said he wants residents to have the ability to bike from one end of town to the other, more like the infrastructure in some European countries.
“Bethlehem goes Euro — that’s what we’re after,” Roydson said.
After the initial briefing of the issue, the forum split into four different discussion rooms where community members could wander between rooms and provide opinions on each talking point.
One room discussed what Bethlehem, the biking city, could look like; another focused on how Bethlehem as a biking city would benefit individuals, the city and the environment; another asked what community members want from the city and what the city government can do to help; and the final room specified how walking and biking more can help deal with climate change.
Citizens analyzed mental and physical health, climate change, safety issues and the economic impacts of making Bethlehem a biking city.
Support for this initiative can be seen in the Bethlehem Climate Action Plan, which was completed in April 2021.
Trembler said one of the goals laid out in the action plan is to improve biking and walking safety, and the EAC is forming a transportation committee to work more closely on this issue.
Scott Singerland, director of LVCAT said he got involved with this initiative when he noticed how much the Bethlehem population is growing and how much traffic is increasing.
Singerland said riding bikes reduces the need for parking lots and garages, improves health and creates a greater sense of community. He also said drivers go too fast in Bethlehem, and he likes the idea of a city-wide speed limit.
Singerland said he looks to Vision Zero, a policy initially adopted in Sweden, to eliminate traffic-related deaths, when strategizing about pedestrian and biker safety.
Singlerland said he has not owned a car in 10 years and bikes whenever possible.
“Biking for me brings me enjoyment and has saved me a lot of money,” Singerland said. “We want to support everyone who wants and needs to ride their bike in Bethlehem.”
Citizens also mentioned the creation of a new bridge or the renovation of the existing bridge that connects North Bethlehem and South Bethlehem.
One community member said Bethlehem would benefit from creating biking lanes along every street, like they have in New York City, while another individual disagreed.
“We’re asking for nice crosswalks and 10-foot-wide sidewalks on either side of the bridge,” Singerland said.
Trembler said they plan to work with the city council to make new bike lanes and reduce speed limits.
The forum moderators documented the discussions in order to present a report to the city.