Breaking RenewLV News: Board Members Now on LVPC and Lehigh County Farmland Preservation Board

Two RenewLV Board Members Appointed to Planning Positions in the Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem, PA (Sept. 1, 2015) – RenewLV is pleased to announce that recently board members Julie Thomases and Ron Beitler were appointed to two important planning boards. Thomases, an Allentown native, was appointed to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and Beitler, a Lower Macungie Township commissioner, was appointed to Lehigh County’s Sterling Raber Farmland Preservation Board.

Lehigh County Commissioners recently voted unanimously to appoint both board members. Thomases joins about 30 planners from Lehigh and Northampton counties on the LVPC and Beitler is one of nine members of the  preservation board.

Referencing Thomases’ appointment, Lehigh Valley Commissioner Dr. Percy Dougherty said, “I think she’s a really great addition to the LVPC. We need someone to represent the interests of the city. She’s been very active in several different organizations, not only in terms of benefiting the city but also as a major advocate of farmland preservation.

Thomases represents the fourth district, which includes the western part of Allentown.

Beitler will work with the Bureau of Agricultural Land Preservation to preserve farmland within Lehigh County as a member of the Sterling Raber Farmland Preservation Board. Permanent preservation of farmland is accomplished through the purchase of conservation easements on eligible county farm properties. As of January 2015, the county has protected 257 farms covering 21,240 acres with perpetual agricultural easements.

Julie Thomases

Thomases retired in 2014 from her fourteen-year position as executive director of Embrace Your Dreams, a local youth development organization that served more than 10,000 Lehigh Valley children.

“I now have more time to dedicate to community service. I can think of no better way to ensure that our future generations experience a high quality of life than by participating in the regional planning process,” said Thomases.

Thomases currently serves on the newly formed Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council (LVFPC) that was a recommendation of the EnvisionLV process. Part of her interest in serving on the LVPC is related to her desire to implement the ideas put forth in the EnvisionLV Assessment Report: The Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy. These include growing our local food economy and reducing food insecurity.

“These goals are critically important now, as currently more than 10 percent of the region’s citizens are relying monthly on the region’s food banks to meet their food needs,” said Thomases.  In addition, 50 percent of the region’s food comes from California, underscoring the need for the area to be more food self-sufficient.

Joyce Marin, executive director of RenewLV said, “I’ve known Julie Thomases for many years and she cares deeply about the quality of life of Lehigh Valley residents.  She is knowledgeable about many issues that are important to residents, RenewLV and LVPC – from transportation and air quality to creating a more self-sufficient economy, and ensuring that the region’s natural resources are protected.  Julie is committed to understanding the complexities of the issues and doing the research needed to make an informed decision.

Ron Beitler

Beitler is a Lower Macungie Commissioner and farmland preservation advocate. According to Beitler’s Facebook pages, he said, “While the (Lehigh County farmland preservation) program remains funded currently at some level, a few years ago it was slashed substantially. We believe if a community truly values preservation the only way to do so permanently is to step up and purchase development rights. This is also the only fair way to treat landowners. Preservation by zoning is both political (therefore not permanent) and unfair.”

He went on to say in his Facebook post that he plans to push for a fully funded farmland preservation program by encouraging Lehigh County Commissioners to cash in on matching funds from the state. He added, “Along with our friends at RenewLV we hope to follow this issue closely in the upcoming Lehigh County Commissioner Election. They are the decision makers in terms of restoring funding to the program through the County budget process.”

Joyce Marin stated, “Ron has done a great job of understanding farmland preservation issues as they relate to local zoning and the county program. He is knowledgeable about the issues, and understands how to move the process forward to create change.  He is committed to improving preserving the quality of life in this region. He will be an asset to the farmland preservation board.”

Renew Lehigh Valley is a non-profit organization committed to promoting smart growth and smart governance in order to revitalize our core communities, preserve open space, and establish an economically and environmentally sustainable foundation for our region’s future growth.

Mark Your Calendar: The Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council Inaugural Meeting 9/24

FoodPolicyCouncilMembers

Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council

Invites YOU to its

 Inaugural Meeting

 September 24th

4-6 p.m.

Friends,

After nine months of working with key stakeholders in the Lehigh Valley food system, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley and fifteen other founding organizations, including RenewLV, are inviting you to the Inaugural Meeting of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council’s first formal membership meeting.

With one in ten people hungry in the Lehigh Valley, and exciting opportunities before us to grow the local food economy, we don’t have a moment to spare.

Since the end of the EnvisionLV process in 2014, a Founders Team of key stakeholders have been gathering and developing strategies through public engagement events organized by RenewLV.  Now we are ready to announce a formal Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council on Thursday, September 24th, and YOU are invited!

In the last year we’ve had some dynamic and informative events, discussions and collaborations on the topic of the region’s food economy. Through these earlier community-building events, over 150 residents and local organizations have participated in the development of the council. The event on September 24th will give you an opportunity to connect with others interested in this exciting topic and find your place within the now formal structure of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council in one of the nine working groups.

Why is the Lehigh Valley mobilizing a Food Policy Council now?  To resolve the hunger crisis in the Lehigh Valley and to take advantage of opportunities within the region to grow the local food economy.

1)  Food access is not a given for every resident of the Lehigh Valley.  Almost 75,000 people – one in ten – are relying on the food banks monthly.  In 2014, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley pledged to reduce food insecurity by 50% in the Valley by 2022.

2) Growing the local food economy and preserving farmland in the process will create great economic opportunities.  “If each of the 241,047 households in the Valley were to spend just $10 per week on locally grown foods during the growing season, would result in the annual generation of $97 million in economic activity.

On Thursday, September 24 from 4:00-6:00 pm at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown you can join the Lehigh Valley’s New Food Revolution at the Inaugural Meeting of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council.

Across the country food policy councils have effected positive change in their local food systems.  The creation of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council is a recommendation of Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s Assessment Report:  Lehigh Valley Food Economy.  In 2014 the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission published “1LV,” a summary document of the EnvisionLV HUD-funded sustainability planning effort.  This report documented 31 regional sustainability goals, four of which the fulfilment of would move the Lehigh Valley toward a healthier local food economy.   The Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council will work to implement these 1LV goals and the other recommendations from the Assessment Report:  Lehigh Valley Food Economy.

Who should participate?

Any person, organization or company can be a member of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council.  This council will continue to move forward with the regional work on food access and food economy through the nine working groups of the council.  If you are interested in solving any of these tough regional problems, you should join on September 24th:

1) Food Access – limited access, government assistance, emergency resources, traditional retail markets, non-traditional urban markets

2) Consumer Education – healthy diets, where to find nutritious food

3) Urban Agriculture – community gardens, urban farms, alternative food resources

4) Food Waste – food recovery, composting, gleaning

5) Land Use – farmland preservation

6) Promoting Local Food Economy – farm to school, community education

7) Farming – farmers, farms, new farmer training, capacity and production

8) Distribution – infrastructure, processing, aggregation, distribution, wholesale buyers, farms to institutions

9) Entrepreneurship – growing the local food economy through starting and scaling up food and beverage businesses

There is no cost to attend this event, but space is limited so pre-registration is required.  To reserve your spot, click here.

Or, send an email to:  smartgrowth@renewlv.org.

The seventeen collaborating organizations comprising the Founders Team include:  Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley, RenewLV, the Nurture Nature Center, Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, Counties of Northampton and Lehigh, the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, CADCA – Jordan Heights Neighborhood Revitalization, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Rodale Institute, Sodexo, Lafayette College, Seven Generation Charter School, St. Luke’s University Health Network, the Lehigh Valley Health Network, New Bethany Ministries and Penn State Cooperative Extension Office.

Change Your Food, Change Your Life. Grow Your Food, Save Your Life

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The FabFoto/Smart Quote Returns – “Change Your Food, Change Your Life!”

I recently had the pleasure of running into Chad Helmer and Donna Taggart of Taggart Associates at the corner of 7th and Hamilton streets in Allentown, last week after the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Conversation & Cocktails event featuring, Dennis Davin, the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

They told me how much they missed RenewLV’s FabFoto/Smart Quote feature…so by popular demand, this week we are bringing it back!

Today we offer you a super quote from Ron Finley, guerrilla gardener with The Ron Finley Project. You may know about this Los Angeles-based activist from an influential TED talk that went viral. His language is sometimes a little edgy, but his example is very inspiring.

Ron proves that growing food in urban neighborhoods can be tranformational to the neighbors and the neighborhood. One of the biggest obstacles to growing your own food in the city is space. Finley’s “guerilla gardening” efforts started with the organization L.A. Green Grounds around 2013 when he installed a vegetable garden on the 150 x 10 foot patch of ground in front of his house. He lived in an urban area that had suffered economic decline and the citizens were sick. He was tired of “seeing wheelchairs bought and sold like used cars, tired of seeing drop-in dialysis centers popping up like Starbucks and tired of driving a 45-minute round trip to get an apple that was not impregnated with pesticide.”

Things got interesting for Ron. According to an article on TedBlog, the strip of land he planted was an area between the sidewalk and the street that is owned by the city but maintained by residents. He was issued a citation and told to remove the garden. This was followed up by a warrant for his arrest. He didn’t back down. Eventually, the city of Los Angeles backed off. After a couple years, the city changed its ordinance to allow for these urban gardens.

In an excerpt from a recent article at Co.Exist.com: The gardens help give neighborhoods control over their own food while building community. “It’s about being self-sustaining,” Finley says. “It’s about you changing your life and being responsible for your health, and for your community. It’s you taking a stand that this is mine. We’ve basically been enslaved by food companies, and they’re killing us slowly. There’s other means and other ways to supply food.”

What does this have to do with us in the Lehigh Valley? Well, we have a substantial “food security” problem. Our friends at the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Second Harvest Food Bank tell us that almost 70,000 people in our region of roughly 650,000 individuals (more than 10 percent) rely on the food bank monthly to eat. That’s a sobering statistic that indicates we all need to do more to end hunger in our region.

Donations to the food bank are needed and encouraged, but we consider a broader question toward self-reliance: We ask,”What role could urban agriculture – “growing your own” play in reducing or eliminating food insecurity — while improving the vitality, livability and quality of life in our neighborhoods?”

With urban agriculture, people with very little money can take the reins for improving and maintaining their own health. According to the Assessment Report: Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy, “The unequal distribution of food resources in the Lehigh Valley Have left some of its communities without access to fresh, health foods.” If you garden, you don’t need much money (free seeds are available from the America the Beautiful Fund for community gardening efforts and people with SNAP benefits can use them for seeds.) Ron Finley and others closer to home have showed us you don’t need much space to eat well and grow enough to share.

So, we thank Allentown resident, Liz Bradbury for providing us with today’s FabFoto. Liz, who snapped the picture of her pepper on the rooftop garden at her place with the PPL Tower in the background, has been using her Center City rooftop to garden for more than 20 years. She has planted extensive vegetable container gardens on the specially constructed roofs of small garages. This summer, a picture someone forwarded to us of her bounteous peach harvest called our attention to her efforts.

liz bradburyspeaches
Liz is an example of an urban organic gardener. “We grow without pesticides or synthetic fertilizer in the rich compost provided free to Allentown residents at the City’s Oxford Drive Yard Waste Site,” says Liz. “This year we’re having garden dinners with tomatoes, butter beans, green peas, carrots, onions, shallots, leeks, Swiss chard, beets, romaine, radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, collards, green beans, all sorts of peppers, celery, eggplant, strawberries, grapes, peaches and many kinds of herbs,” Bradbury adds that sweet potatoes are their easiest and biggest crop.

Urban gardening can help turn a “block” into a community. Never before have we needed the neighborliness of gardeners to help strengthen the fabric of our urban communities as we do today. Urban gardening and the natural sharing of produce can be the way relationships are started and strengthened.

“We take turns watering other families’ gardens when they’re on vacation,” says Liz’s partner, Patricia Sullivan, who has been canning grape jelly and peach preserves for the last few weeks. “We’ve had a great time all summer going for long walks around the City, watching all the exciting changes, seeing all the people having fun downtown. Whenever we see someone from the neighborhood, we give them a jar of jelly or share some vegetables. We couldn’t manage the garden without the help of neighbors.”

To improve regional food security by expanding your sphere of garden generosity, when your garden is exploding with produce, please consider sharing your bounty with one of the Lehigh Valley’s food banks. They’re always in need of fresh produce. Enter your zip code here to find the food pantry or soup kitchen nearest to you. Then, any day when you have too many tomatoes or zuchinni (or in my case, kale) you can simply drop them off to benefit our region’s citizens in need.

No matter where you live, if you’re not already a gardener, consider starting a garden. Plant an extra row for those in need, and become a part of the national movement, Grow a Row to mobilize an end to food insecurity.

Remember, urban agriculture is a way to literally bring life to our cities and boroughs. You can be like Liz Bradbury and grow peppers on your roof. Or, you can be like Ron Finley with his experience in his Los Angeles neighborhood: “It’s walking outside your door and being greeted by hummingbirds and dragonflies and bees, and a green, healthy ecosystem that’s not in these communities—it doesn’t exist. I have birds that I’d never seen in my life before coming to my garden now. And you’re filtering the air. People walk by and see beautiful things, instead of just concrete.”

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Together, we can change our lives, save our lives, change our neighborhoods and save our neighborhoods.

p.s.  Thank you to Dan Poresky for the butterfly photo!

How “Smart” is the Growth and New Development in the Lehigh Valley?

NIZ

How “smart” is the growth and new development in the Lehigh Valley?

As we watch downtown Allentown’s rebirth, the importance of using the principles of Smart Growth has been on our minds, especially as it applies to walkability.

Understanding Traditional Neighborhood Developments (TND) and their principles, we think that the development in Allentown is very “smart.”

Traditional Neighborhood Developments are urban or village-style developments (either existing neighborhoods or new ones) that include a variety of housing types, a mixture of land uses and an active center. TNDs have a connected walkable design with a transit option in a compact neighborhood. Often there is a street grid with numbered streets.

Traditionally built cities like Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton and boroughs such as Emmaus, Hellertown and Nazareth are traditional neighborhoods by definition. There used to be just one way to build. New “infill” developments that take place within these communities would qualify as TND or “Smart Growth” if they follow the principles of Smart Growth.

The Ten Principles of Smart Growth are clearly evidenced in Allentown’s resurgence. Although citizens may argue a couple of points (and we welcome lively discussions), we believe that Allentown and its NIZ demonstrate Smart Growth and are taking the city on the right (walkable) path!

According to the Smart Growth Network, the ten accepted principles that define smart growth are:

  1. Mix land uses.
  2. Take advantage of compact building design.
  3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices.
  4. Create walkable neighborhoods.
  5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.
  6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.
  7. Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities.
  8. Provide a variety of transportation choices.
  9. Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective.
  10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.

But what about what’s built in the Lehigh Valley’s greenfields?

Regrettably, unlike other areas of the country we have not seen nor heard evidence of real New Urbanist-style developments being built on greenfields in the Lehigh Valley.

Seasidekentlands

New Urbanist Developments like Seaside Village in FL and The Kentlands in MD provide inspiration for what is possible in compact, walkable, mixed-use new developments in the Lehigh Valley. If you are a township official or greenfield developer who is presently working on zoning for or building a new village consistent with the principles of smart growth, please let us know.

However, because people are asking for it, walkability is finding it’s way into newly constructed conventional suburban developments. It’s our position that any increase in walkability which reduces our dependence on our automobiles and connects residential areas to retail is an improvement that we can all get excited about.

After a recent drive past construction of one the region’s most anticipated commercial developments, Hamilton Crossings in Lower Macungie Township, we began to wonder about the true “walkability” of this development.

HamiltonCrossings

It’s not “Smart Growth” because it doesn’t have a mix of uses. However, we asked, “Will people in the nearby residential neighborhoods actually be able to walk safely to the stores?”

Located on the Rte. 222 bypass and Krocks Road, Hamilton Crossings is being developed by Staten Island-based developer Timothy Harrison. He has said during meetings with Lower Macungie officials that he wants this commercial venture, which will be home to restaurants and large chain stores like Costco, Target and Whole Foods, to be “walkable.” He said that he wants to model it after the Promenade Shops in Saucon Valley.
Walking at the Promenade is easy, safe and there are sidewalks and beautiful outdoor common spaces – but it’s not connected to residential development nearby. At Hamilton Crossings there are residential neighborhoods within walking distance. Our hope is that residents who live near all new suburban development will be able to walk safely to commercial destinations.
By next summer Hamilton Crossings will be open. How walkable will it be?

hamilton crossings, 2
Good news. It turns out — surprisingly walkable – especially for people who live ½ mile east of Hamilton Boulevard. According to Sara Pandl, Lower Macungie Township’s planner, people who live in the areas east of the shopping mall will have a continuous dedicated walkway to the stores from their neighborhoods (including Shepherd Hills, Harvest Fields, Westwoods, Meadowick Condominiums and Hamilton Fields). Thanks to funding from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and an easement from PPL, a half-mile trail will be built in the PPL corridor (where all the power lines are located) east of the shopping mall.
“There also will be walkways along the entire stretch of Krocks Road and there are a couple miles of walkways inside the project itself,” Pandl said.
More good news. On the west side of the Rte. 222 bypass, Pandl said the township is currently working to get a walkway installed from Country Meadows, as well as a bike lane. The goal, according to Pandl, is to make Hamilton Boulevard a “Complete Street” – which means “multi-modal,” or with more than one type of transportation mode having access to it. Along those lines, good work has been done by Lower Macungie Township in the development of their Hamilton Blvd. Study by the Kairos Design Group. It conceives of a “Complete Streets” model for that corridor, calling for pedestrian and bicycle intrastructure that interconnects with transit to make it easier to get around without your car.
Retrofitting suburban communities to be walkable has been a challenge, but is not impossible, as evidence by this study and the work of citizen activist, Jim Palmquist. His herculean efforts are changing the face and function of Lower Macungie Township.

If you are a planner or traffic engineer or a municipal official who hires these professionals, there are resources to help you make our Lehigh Valley communites more walkable and bikeable — “smarter.” The American Planning Association, APA, has partnered with the National Complete Streets Coalition to develop a guide for planners who want to include complete streets in their designs.

We encourage you to:

  • If you’re a planner or traffic engineer, become versant in “Complete Streets” and help retrofit the streets of the Lehigh Valley.
  • Tired of maintaining your yard? Live a less auto-dependent lifestyle by moving to a traditional neighborhood like those found in the cities and boroughs of our region. As of last month, Stratta, the high end apartments in downtown Allentown are now available to rent!
  • Make your local municipal officials aware that you want pedestrian connectivity in your community. Be like Jim Palmquist and keep asking. Don’t give up.
  • If you’re a local planning commissioner or elected offical, support sidewalk ordinances and resist the temptation to hand out variances. Take the stand of Emmaus Borough Council President, Lee Gilbert. She recently told me when I asked her what her position on sidewalks is, “You’ve got to put them in.”
  • Pass TND ordinances.  Here’s one from Montgomery County, PA.
  • Stay informed of what is going on around the country and the Lehigh Valley regarding Smart Growth through our RenewLV Facebook page. “Like us” and leave comments.
  • If you want to connect in person, send me an email at smartgrowth@renewlv.org or give me a call at 484-893-1060.
  • To get plugged in, consider serving on one of our dynamic committees: Farmland Preservation, Food Sustainability, Smart Transportation or Smart Growth Education and Outreach — or help volunteer for our full-day conference, the Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities on December 4th.If you’ve appreciated our emails or events and if you want to continue to connect with others who support smart growth, sustainability and municipal cooperation, please contribute to our financial health by making a donation today. Over 700 people “like” us on Facebook. However, nothing says you really “like” us as much as showing financial support. Please become a real friend and give today.

Thank you for all that you do to learn about and implement smart growth, sustainability and municipal cooperation in the Lehigh Valley. Together we are making a difference!

No loss of life from traffic fatalities is acceptable

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What Does This Sign and What Do These Shoes Have in Common?  

No Loss of Life from Traffic Deaths is Acceptable 

A traffic safety campaign called Vision Zero, now adopted by Mayors around the world, and a flash mob of dancers dressed in yellow (stay with me…the entertaining video is at the end of this message) at Johns Hopkins are trying to tell us something:  We need to work harder for safer travel.

A new study, Cities Safer by Design by World Resources Institute and the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities cites seven compelling suggestions to increase travel safety.  

Globally, 1.2 million people are killed in traffic crashes every year.  That’s a tough number to get one’s mind around.   According the WRI study, that number is expected to rise as vehicle fleets grow, to become the 5th largest cause of death by 2030. In the US almost 40,000 people die in car crashes annually, a Vietnam War on our streets and highways each year.

Regionally, there were 66 people who died in traffic-related deaths in the Lehigh Valley, 37 in Lehigh County and 29 in Northampton County in 2014, according to Penn DOT.

We think that even one is too many.  

Too many of us have lost someone we love to a tragic accident.  Just this week a motorcyclist fatality occurred in Emmaus when the motorcyclist collided with a dump truck.

Penn DOT officials say traffic fatalities are down.  That’s good.  They’ve invested $50 million over the past five years for road safety improvements like rumble strips.  But while statistics show that while overall crashes are down, there is still room for improvement. Crashes involving heavy trucks, for instance, increased in Lehigh and Northampton counties from 385 in 2013 to 403 in 2014. This number could prove even more troubling given the fact that the area’s freight economy is expected to double by the year 2040.

What can we do?

The WRI study has seven recommendations to improve safety:

  1. Tap into the expertise of all road users. To build a successful safe and friendly city, consultations with all the road users are imperative. Different users are the experts on their own needs.

Given the fact that pedestrian traffic-related deaths increased in Lehigh County in 2014 – we should be talking to area walkers/runners. PennDOT reports that “pedestrian-related crashes represent 3.3 percent of total reported crashes but account for 13.9 percent of all traffic crash deaths. Bicycle crashes represent 1.1 percent of the total reported crashes and 1.6 percent of all traffic deaths. Although these percentages are small, they still represent  19 bicyclist deaths and 1,298 injuries in 2014.”

  1. Engage multiple sectors. Government cannot do it alone. Encourage public and private partners from multiple sectors to take part in the effort to be more inclusive of all road users, both as a business opportunity and a moral imperative. Museums, theaters, grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, churches, and block associations can all be leaders in creating safe and friendly cities.

Don’t miss opportunities to comment on regional planners’ comprehensive transportation plans.  The Draft LVPC Freight Plan is available for review and comment until Aug. 2nd. 

  1. Recognize that a safe travel environment is a contributor to the economy.

Take a walk down any Main Street and this point becomes crystal clear.  Emmaus, Hellertown, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Macungie and Alburtis all have Main Streets where economic vitality has been demonstrated through improved and safer pedestrian environments.  If you feel like you’re taking your life in your hands when you get out of your car, you’re probably not going to support the businesses on that street.

  1. Ensure that pedestrians, bicyclists, transit and bus passengers know about existing opportunities and resources.

One tool available is The Federal Highway Association’s  The Road Diet Guide.  “Road Diets will be one of FHWA’s 2015 Every Day Counts (EDC) Initiatives, in which FHWA works with state, local, and industry partners to deploy new innovations. Road diets help balance street space between vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit, and they can improve mobility and access for all road users, reduce crashes and injuries, and improve quality of life.”

  1. Adopt a “safe-in-everything” approach to community planning and the design process. Redesign street intersections with the safety of all road users in mind. Focus on areas near shops and services and on areas with high rates of pedestrian injuries. Add public seating on streets in accordance with location recommendations from pedestrians.

In 2014,  The U.S. Department of Transportation presented a report titled, Safer People, Safer Streets: Summary of U.S. Department of Transportation Action Plan to Increase Walking and Biking and Reduce Pedestrian and Bicyclist Fatalities. The report states: “With the increase in biking and walking, the potential for conflict between motorized and nonmotorized travelers has also increased. Since 2009, fatalities have been increasing for bicyclists and pedestrians. In 2012, bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities were over 16 percent of all traffic-related fatalities.”

  1. Advocate for improvements in public transportation. Focus on making transportation safe, accessible, and welcoming to all users. Good lighting, clear signage, and courteous drivers can be just as important as having an appropriate infrastructure in place.

In the Lehigh Valley, we could do more to “Love the LANta bus” and to advocate for the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure to link to the transit system.  “Streetscaping” or outfitting commercial “Main Street” communities with decorative street lights, benches, banners, street trees, planters and patterned crosswalks provide traffic calming visual cues that communicate to motorists that they are in a district where they may encounter pedestrians.   Understanding the concept of “complete streets” and encouraging your municipality to join the Complete Streets Coalition and adopt complete street policies will go a long way toward these goals.

  1. Increase accessibility to opportunities that promote health and socialization. Expand efforts to make parks, walking trails, swimming pools, beaches, recreation centers, and public events accessible and welcoming to all groups. Offer fitness and recreational programming designed for and of interest to all users.

The City of Allentown has provided leadership in the Lehigh Valley on this topic with its Connecting Our Community Plan.  More people will use recreational facilities or support the corner store if they can walk or ride their bikes to them.  It’s the interconnectivity of all transportation systems from those at the most local neighborhood level, to the regional level that will increase our quality of life and our mobility.

And, last but not least, plan for safety through mobility plans, city plans, traffic safety action plans, and other plans to prioritize safety in city designs.   

Lower Macungie Township has done some commendable work in that regard that could be emulated with their Hamilton Cooridor Study.

Join with us in support of that radical idea being adopted by Mayors all across the world:  Vision Zero.  It basically says,

No loss of life is acceptable.

Kudos to the good planning work done around the region from the local to the regional level.  However, until we have zero deaths, we need more bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, more connectivity of transportation systems, more education, advocacy, communication and cooperation.  

Let’s work better together until our no one is hurt or killed getting around the Lehigh Valley.  If you want to join forces with others to tackle this issue regionally, contact me at jmarin@renewlv.org.  We have a Smart Transportation Committee that is organizing to make a difference.

Warm regards,

Joyce Marin

Executive Director

RenewLV

P.S.  To see the yellow-clad dancers at Johns Hopkins drawing attention to pedestrian safety:  Check out this Fun Video of their Road Scholar flash mob!

Lehigh Valley’s freight economy to double — Comment to LVPC by Aug. 2

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Do you realize that the Lehigh Valley’s freight economy is expected to double by 2040? The Morning Call recently reported that the total tonnage of goods traveling through our region would increase from “40 billion tons in 2011 to more than 80 billion in 2040.”

If you care about what happens with truck traffic in the Lehigh Valley, you may want to make your voice heard by commenting on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s new report – MOVELV Lehigh Valley Regional Freight Plan.

The deadline to comment is Aug. 2, 2015 at 5 p.m. and you may submit comments four ways:

· Click here for online submission

· Mail: Lehigh Valley Transportation Study, 961 Marcon Blvd., Suite 310, Allentown, PA 18109

· Email: comments@lvpc.org

· Phone: 610-264-4544

In the report the LVPC wraps up its findings with twelve recommendations on the topics of Safety, Mobility, System Preservation and Stewardship. After reading these, I still had many questions. For instance, will the LVPC’s recommendations address issues like pedestrian safety? Of particular concern to me is the impact of truck traffic on small towns that have their Main Street designated as a state road.

One of the report’s recommendations is to “develop and publicize alternative routes for heavily used freight corridors.” Would this steer trucks to our downtowns or away from them? Would it help to prevent tragedies like the one in downtown Emmaus where an 11-year-old girl was hit and killed by a car while crossing the main thoroughfare?

We encourage you do to so as well. After the comment period is over, LVPC will host a lunch/discussion to discuss the plan on Aug. 13, from 12 to 1 p.m. at the LVPC offices at 961 Marcon Blvd., Suite 310, Allentown, PA 18109. The LVPC website states that the discussion is expected to include “strategies for infrastructure investment as our freight economy is anticipated to double by 2040.”

Balancing safety and economic opportunity while preserving our clean air, our regional identity and our quality of life will likely prove challenging. If these issues matter to you too, you may want to consider serving on our smart transportation committee. Let us know at smartgrowth@renewlv.org.

By the way, what do you think of supporting a plan that strives for zero pedestrian and bike deaths? RenewLV’s Smart Transportation committee is discussing this idea that already has the support of the mayors of New York City and Philadelphia: Vision 0. According to a recent article at PlanPhilly.com, Vision 0 was “invented in Sweden in 1997 and the premise is that there’s no such thing as an accident, and life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society.” That’s a beautiful ideal to hold while we plan for increasing freight traffic to the region.

Speak Out On the Future of Local Transportation

trucks2If you care about the future of transportation in the Lehigh Valley, clear your calendars for Thursday afternoon.

That’s when the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission will host a public meeting on its draft transportation plan, allowing people to hear about the plan, ask questions and make comments.

The meeting is scheduled for noon on June 18 at the LVPC offices, 965 Marcon Blvd. in Allentown. It will focus on MOVELV, the region’s $3.9 billion transportation funding strategy.

Who should attend? Municipal officials and citizens concerned about regional growth and transportation issues.

If you can’t make it Thursday, the LVPC will hold a second meeting Wednesday, June 24 at 6 p.m. at its offices.

On a related note, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual transportation forum on June 30, 2015 at the Mack Trucks Customer Service Center, 2402 Lehigh Parkway South, Allentown.

The forum will include featured speaker Leslie Richards who is Pennsylvania’s first female transportation secretary. Becky Bradley, AICP, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Secretary of Lehigh Valley Transportation Study will follow with a presentation of the release of MOVELV: Lehigh Valley Long Range Transportation Plan 2015-2040.

After that, the forum will move to a panel discussion featuring representatives from The Traffic Club of Lehigh Valley, LANta, Lehigh Valley International Airport, Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, and LVPC.

It’s $50 to attend the forum — $25 if you’re a chamber member — which kicks off at 10:30 a.m. and goes to 1:30 p.m.

The draft plan can also be found on the LVPC’s website at www.lvpc.org.

You can access a hard copy from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (at the above address), PennDOT District 5 Offices (1002 Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA), LANta offices (1060 Lehigh Street, Allentown, PA), Allentown Public Library (1210 Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA), Bethlehem Area Public Library (11 West Church Street, Bethlehem, PA), and the Easton Area Public Library (6th and Church Streets, Easton, PA).

Comments on the plan may be submitted electronically from the website, via phone at (610) 264-4544, or via fax at (610) 264-2616.

On July 9th, LVTS will adopt MoveLV. LVTS is committed to compliance with the nondiscrimination requirements of applicable civil rights statutes, executive orders, regulations and policies. The meeting location is accessible to persons with disabilities. With advance notification, accommodations may be provided for those with special needs related to language, sight or hearing. If you have a request for a special need, wish to file a complaint, or desire additional information, please contact 610-264-4544.

Smart transportation is important to us. It’s the idea that communities should embrace all forms of transit, what’s commonly referred to as “multi-modal”: motorists, bikes, pedestrians, public transportation, light rail and passanger rail. It means considering solutions beyond just widening and repaving roads. It considers the importance of the interconnectivity of transportation choices.

If this issue matters to you too, you may want to consider serving on our smart transportation committee. Let us know at smartgrowth@renewlv.org.

Thank you, and we hope you’ll take the chance to speak out.

FoodPolicyCouncilMembers

Friends,

The Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council, together with RenewLV has held three community events on growing the region’s food economy this year. They have each felt like a booming success.

But recently we decided to measure that success, taking a survey of what attendees thought of our last event, a lunch/discussion that focused on urban agriculture and “joining the Lehigh Valley’s new food revolution” on May 29.

And the results look good. You like us!

Nearly everyone who responded to the survey, 95 percent to be exact — rated their experience as “good” or “very good.”

People sometimes ask, what are the actual outcomes from these events? We learned, quite a bit: 87.5 percent of the respondents said they had either met someone or learned something to help them move forward on a project, program or initiative.

Among those programs: the Rodale Institute’s Organic Allentown, the urban agriculture efforts at the Children’s Home of Easton, and the possibilities behind SPIN farming, as brought to life by one of the event’s panelists, the dynamic Linda Borghi.  If you came to the event and something great transpired, but you haven’t told us about it, please do let us know.

The people who took our survey also expressed satisfaction that through the discussion portion of these events, organizations and citizens in the Lehigh Valley are actively working together, collaborating to improve the region’s health, economy and access to food.

The only downside: most of the people felt that there wasn’t enough time at the event for table discussions. That confirms what we’ve been hearing anecdotally from attendees since we began these events earlier this year. It’s reassuring to hear that folks value the collaborative time and have more ideas to discuss than time to discuss them as we move “from ideas to actions” in implementing the ideas in Buy Fresh Buy Local’s Assessment Report: Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy.

Knowing that 8.5 million people live in that big city 90 miles east of us (NYC), we can’t understand why the Lehigh Valley can’t do a better job of feeding and profiting from feeding some of those 8.5 million mouths. It is curious to us that food products that come from as far away as California and as close as Lancaster County drive by the Lehigh Valley on the way to large markets. We believe that we can be smarter about keeping our farmland as productive farmland.

Our next event will be a lunch/discussion on Thursday, October 29th, “Making Connections.” We’ll be taking a look at another facet of supporting food and beverage entrepreneurship and the ways that area farmers, food and beverage entrepreneurs and local producers can scale up their businesses by understanding the perspectives of distributors and institutional buyers. Judging from our survey, the idea of making connections is something that resonates with many of you. If you want to reserve your spot, (and space at these events is becoming more and more precious), please click here.

Thank you to everyone who has attended our events, everyone who took the survey, and all of our dynamic partners on the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council Founders Team (logos listed above), and especially, our sponsor, Samuel Adams, Brewing the American Dream.

We encourage you to support the work of the food policy council by finding the organization and the projects they are working on that resonate with you — and then supporting them with volunteer hours and donations. And if you’re a fan of the work RenewLV has been doing of convening stakeholders and hosting these high energy events to discuss matters of regional importance — whether it’s on food sustainability, farmland perservation, smart growth or smart transportation — please support us with a donation. Click here to make a contribution online, or send a check to RenewLV at 1337 E. Fifth St., Bethlehem, PA 18015.

Thank you,

Joyce Marin

Executive Director, RenewLV

Spread the Word About Summer Meals

kidseatWhen school is session, more than 21 million children across the country take part in the federal government’s free and reduced lunch program.

But when summer break comes, only 3.8 million kids take advantage of the USDA’s Summer Meals program, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

School may be out, but that doesn’t mean kids need to go hungry.

Visit the USDA to find Summer Meals sites near you. (There are at least three in the Lehigh Valley.) And share this post to spread the word about this program.

Most Likely to Succeed? New Film Challenges The Way We Think of School

MLTS-Event-24june2015-Flyer-165 percent of today’s grade school students will go on to work in jobs that haven’t yet been invented.

That’s according to Most Likely To Succeed, a new documentary designed to challenge the way we think about education.

It argues that the American education system is preparing students for jobs in an economy that no longer exists, and that by focusing so heavily on testing, we’re leaving our children uninspired and unprepared for life after school.

The documentary, which was screened at Sundance this year, will be the centerpiece of “Changing Our Schools for a New Age,” a community forum June 24 in Allentown.

Hosted by The Allentown Center City Educational Subcommittee, the forum is aimed at getting people talking about a number of questions:

  • In today’s talent-driven economy, where can a truly effective education system take us?
  • What would it look like?
  • What goals must education satisfy to achieve that vision?
  • Who can help us get there?

The quality of local schools can determine where people decide to live. At RenewLV, we’re committed to preserving our core communities, which means attracting people to urban centers with good schools.

But this isn’t just a topic for politicians and educators. Parents, students, business owners and community members all need to take part in this discussion.

Let your voice be heard at the forum, scheduled for Wednesday, June 24 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Sacred Heart Hospital conference center, 421 W. Chew St. in Allentown.

If you can’t make it Jun. 24, you can catch a screening of the film today at 5:20 p.m. at the Victory Firehouse at 205 Webster St. in Bethlehem, part of the South Side Film Festival.

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