Category Archives: Uncategorized

No loss of life from traffic fatalities is acceptable

Vision-Zero-logoshoes_0

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

trucktraffic

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.

See What’s Growing in Easton This Saturday

carrotsOne of the many inspiring, exciting things about our lunch/discussion last week was hearing from Sophia Feller of the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership in Easton*, about the boom in community gardens/urban farming in the city.

You’ll have a chance to see some of this work for yourself Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. when the WWNP hosts its community garden fair at Paxinosa Elementary in Easton.

The fair will include a plant exchange — you bring one, you take one — along with a plant giveaway (donations please).

There’s a chance to weave on the community loom, as well as the opportunity to meet Boomer, an Easton canine celebrity.

You can find the garden along North 12th Street in Easton, near 12th and Northmapton streets.

The event coincides with Bike Smart Easton’s Paxinosa Bike Day, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the elementary. Bike Smart Easton is designed to encourage kids to be active bike riders. It connects kids with professional bike instructors who teach them to treat bicycle riding with respect.

*We should note that the WWNP is, like RenewLV, a program of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley.

Help The Environment and the Community at the Great South Side Sale

southsidesaleAt RenewLV, we value environmental stewardship and community building.

The Great South Side Sale, happening this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Fourth and Buchanan streets in south Bethlehem, is an example of both these things.

And its organizers need your help.

The sale needs people to act as greeters at its tent Saturday, and to fold clothing, straighten up tables, and set up/clean up at the beginning and end of the event.

If you’ve never heard of the Great South Side Sale, it works like this: Every year, when students move out of Lehigh University, they leave things behind — clothing, desks, tables, mini-fridges, books, curtains, rugs, etc.

The school puts all those items up for sale. The proceeds fund children’s education programs in south Bethlehem. Last year, the sale raised close to $20,000.

So by volunteering at the event, or spending money there, you’re helping build the community. By giving the Lehigh students’ stuff a second life, you’re helping the environment.

If you’re interested in volunteering, visit this link. You can call the Lehigh University Community Service Office at 610 758-6674 if you have any questions.

Speak Out For Farmland and Open Space Preservation in Lower Milford

bogturtle“Not in my backyard.”

It’s a saying that has its own acronym (“NIMBY”), and one that’s often used to signify a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of something new being built in your corner of the world.

It’s not really used as a compliment. We equate NIMBYism with the idea that these folks don’t care where something disruptive goes, as long as it’s not near them.

What do we call it when we see something that’s not in our backyard, but still affects us?

Take the Geryville Materials quarry project in Lower Milford Township. If you live in, say, Bethlehem or Bangor or Emmaus, it may not mean much to you.

But it should, especially if you care about things like preserving farmland and open space.

For as far back as anyone can remember, Lower Milford Township supervisors have made a commitment to preserving farmland.

For more than a decade, Lower Milford and the quarry project have been locked in a legal battle over the company’s plans to mine rock at the property.

Tonight, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will hold a hearing on the 127 acre project from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the township headquarters, 7607 Chestnut Hill Church Road in Coopersburg.

To speak at the hearing, contact DEP Community Relations Coordinator Colleen Connolly, at DEP’s Northeastern Regional Office, coconnolly@pa.gov or at 570-826-2035. You’ll also be able to register on the day of the hearing.

If you can’t attend the hearing, you can share your comments in writing. Send them to:

Mike Kutney, P.G.

Pottsville District Mining Office

5 West Laurel Blvd., Pottsville, PA 17901

No matter where you live, if you are a supporter of farmland preservation or preserving the environmental integrity of region, we recommend that you mark your calendars and plan on attending this meeting or write a letter.

Why is it important for you to go to give the DEP your input?

First, the quarry site is at the top of Mill Hill, one of Lehigh County’s last highland nodes, with over 600 acres of contiguous woodlands and wetlands.

According to a Morning Call article from June 2005, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has said the quarry site is close to an area called Big Beaches that is considered a region of ecological importance statewide. Citizens of Lower Milford Township have been organizing against the quarry and for the preservation of this land.

The Appalachian Mountain Club lists the region as one of Pennsylvania’s “critical treasures.” Bog turtles —  considered threatened by development by the federal Endangered Species Act — and a number of kinds of breeding trout have been found on or near the site.

The township has more than 3,000 acres of preserved farmland, hundreds of which are adjacent to the proposed quarry. It’s also next to a working farm.

For all these reasons, this project affects more than just Lower Milford Township.

Attend the hearing. Speak out. Talk to your elected and appointed leadership about your support of farmland preservation.

It’s not a matter of “my backyard.” It’s OUR backyard.

Smart Transportation Should Involve Pedestrians

pedestrian2

Every year in America, thousands of pedestrians die in motor vehicle accidents.

In 2013, 4,735 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes, according the U.S. Department of Transportation. Judging by historical data, 2015 will probably see a similar number of deaths.

Instead of numbers, let’s focus on two names: Abbie Zukowski and Anna Lewis, both victims of recent fatal pedestrian crashes in the Lehigh Valley.

Anna, an Allentown grandmother, was killed in a horrifying hit-and-run crash March 15 on Airport Road.

Abbie died after being struck by a car May 18 in her hometown of Emmaus, a few blocks from her elementary school.

Her death is particularly poignant because Emmaus has worked on a multi-pronged strategy to improve pedestrian safety over the last two decades.

The circumstances behind the two accidents are different, but they both underscore the same point: the issue of pedestrian safety urgently needs our attention.

It’s not enough to just give pedestrians tips on how to walk more safely.

We can’t tell people “Use crosswalks” and “Wear bright clothing” and then continue to build out communities that don’t have sidewalks or those that regularly experience unsafe vehicle speeds.

We can’t shake our heads after a fatal accident and say “They shouldn’t have been walking there.”

Instead, we need to push for improvements that make travel safer for people behind the wheel and on foot.  When we make communities safer for pedestrians, we make them safer for everyone.

Here are five ways to accomplish this, courtesy of the American Public Health Association (APHA):

  1. Reduce speeds. According to a report by Smart Growth America, 61 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes happened on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or more.
  2. Improve your street design. Streets in both rural and urban communities should be designed for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, and should accommodate people with disabilities. RenewLV supports Complete Streets as a concept that makes sense for all municipalities to adopt.  Municipalities should consider planting street trees and instituting “road diets” in order improve their community’s safety and sense of place.
  3. Work together. Local government, law enforcement agencies, LANta and PennDOT should all have the same vision for making traffic safer, with input from the community as well. Improvements and enforcement are both equally important.
  4. Keep kids safe. This is our responsibility as adults. While child pedestrian deaths dropped between 2002 and 2012, that’s more of a function of fewer kids playing outside rather than the result of some larger public safety policy. Programs like Safe Routes to School make it safer for kids to walk and bike. Kids walking and biking to school has numerous health and community benefits, too, and should be encouraged.
  5. Encourage alternative transportation. “When walking biking and public transportation programs are strong, they’re in the public eye — making them more visible to drivers,” the APHA says. Public transportation — along with walking and biking — can also reduce the number of drivers on the road, leading to a better air quality, a citizenry getting more exercise and a healthier community overall.

By the time you read this, another Lehigh Valley family could have gotten the same horrific phone call the Lewis and Zukowski families got. It’s not a pleasant thought, but statistics aren’t on our side.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. You can campaign in your community for planning that accommodates vehicles as well as pedestrians. You can petition your public officials to support alternative transportation.

At RenewLV, we’re committed to smart transportation. That means making sure people get where they’re going safely, no matter how they choose to get there.

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