Jeff Speck: “Urban Triage” Key to Promoting Walkability
Jeff Speck’s talk at Zoellner last night highlighted that Bethlehem is doing quite well in creating walkable places and offered numerous and wide-ranging ideas for how the City could do even better.
The guiding principle for his recommendations was what he called urban triage. Rather than trying to spread the “magic dust” of walkability in all places, Speck suggests, cities should first focus resources on taking those areas that are near perfect (in terms of walkability and livability) and making them perfect. Most of his talk had to do with recommended improvements in and around the North Side (Main Street area) and South Side (3rd and 4th Street) downtowns–and with ideas for linking the two.
At one point during the Q&A, Speck was asked what single thing he would do first to increase walkability in Bethlehem. His answer: improve bike/ped access to and safety on the Fahy Bridge. (This is the river-crossing bridge that links New Street from north to south, providing the most direct connection between north and south downtown.)
Speck noted that both 3rd and 4th Streets (South Side) are highly walkable in themselves, but that the streets connecting them are generally not very walkable.
On the North Side, Speck had great things to say about Main Street. Among his thoughts on improving this area, two key suggestions were: (1) narrowing the roadway on the Broad Street bridge, by introducing some on-street parking here and adding space for tree plantings; (2) implementing streetscape enhancements at the bottom on Main Street (just below the Hotel Bethlehem) that send a clear message–to both walkers/cyclists and drivers–that this is a place for bike/ped travelers.
These are just some the highlights from what was a very engaging–and well attended–talk. The folks at Zoellner were taking a video of the event; I’ll link to it if it becomes available online.