Bethlehem walk audits, community collaboration looking to bolster pedestrian safety
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — About 15 people gathered Thursday at Sand Island in Bethlehem to help bring attention to troublesome traffic intersections in the area.
The community walk audits are an effort involving collaboration among United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, AARP, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley and the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
- Local organizations want your input on pedestrian safety by joining Community Walk Days or performing an audit yourself
- One popular intersection received an "adequate" score with suggestions on some simple improvements
- Many intersections were surveyed on Thursday, and the results will be compiled later this year
Erin Connelly, associate vice president of impact for United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, said Thursday's event was twofold — addressing whether streets and walkways are safe for pedestrians and also gathering information to compile and call for needed changes.
“It’s really special in that it’s not just about raising awareness and getting people out and moving and walking. But there’s also an opportunity to fix it and really create the solutions.”Erin Connelly, associate vice president of impact for United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley
“It’s really special in that it’s not just about raising awareness and getting people out and moving and walking,” Connelly said. “But there’s also an opportunity to fix it and really create the solutions.”
Areas of concern
Areas of concern on Thursday included:
- Fourth Street, at Hayes Street and South New Street
- Wyandotte Street, at Summit Street and Fourth Street
- Main and Bridge streets
- West Broad Street and Sixth Avenue
- Catasauqua Road and Kaywin Avenue-Westgate Drive
- Ostrum Street and St. Luke’s Place
- East Church and Center streets
- Center Street and East Elizabeth Avenue
- East North and Maple streets
- North New Street and Union Boulevard
Connelly said the west end of Broad Street is getting attention from the city for future pedestrian safety development, and she’s excited to see it come to fruition.
Down on Main Street
One team with a couple of AARP volunteers set off to check out the intersection at Main Street and the end of Route 378 near Hotel Bethlehem.
Jim Palmquist, a multi-decade volunteer with AARP as well as a former volunteer state president with the organization, has completed walk audits in other parts of the area, including his home area of Lower Macungie.
Palmquist said he’s taken part in more than 200 walk audits during his time.
He said that while it may be “silly,” he was sure to make note of the time it took for one of the intersection’s pedestrian “walk” lights to pop up after hitting its button.
At the intersection of Main Street and Route 378, audible push-walk mechanisms would go a long way for the popular intersection and tactile paving on the South Main Street sidewalk would help for those with limited vision.Walk auditors Jim Palmquist and Natasha Rudder
While that was about a 27-second process to see the switch, the “stop” hand began flashing after only a few seconds. The other pedestrian cross-point saw a 42-second process.
Natasha Rudder, another AARP volunteer and a Walnutport resident, said her move from New York to Northampton County was a welcome change.
The two worked to document certain aspects of the intersection, such as the sidewalk conditions in reference to wheelchair access, curb cuts, visibility of the traffic lights, nearby landscaping, sidewalk width, bicycle access, stop signs and pedestrian count.
Palmquist said audible push-walk mechanisms would go a long way for the popular intersection. Rudder said tactile paving on the South Main Street sidewalk would help for those with limited vision.
The two went with an “adequate” score for the intersection.
On the walk back to Sand Island, Palmquist mentioned an overgrown tree branch blocking the sidewalk near Main and Spring streets.
The next Community Walk Day will take place in Allentown on Thursday, Aug. 10.