John Sharpe on the Allentown Bike Lane Plan

I don’t know how many of you read Dan Hartzell’s excellent Road Warrior blog at the Morning Call now that it’s behind a paywall, so I wanted to reblog this commentary he posted from John Sharpe on the Allentown bike lanes:

To Dan Hartzell,

I’m writing to you as a supporter of the proposed bike lanes in Allentown. The bike lanes will eliminate a traffic lane on Turner and on a portion of Linden as you have covered in your previous articles.

What hasn’t been given much coverage is that the lane reductions would be on the residential sections of these streets. The commercial section of Linden will not have a lane reduction, instead where there is currently no parking on the south side of Linden Street from 6th to 10th it will become a bike lane. Also it should be noted that there are many options to entering and exiting the city. That is the inherent benefit of a city built on a street grid. Not happy with how traffic is moving? Then turn off from the street you’re currently on and go another way. Your articles have not mentioned this concept at all. Hamilton Street, Martin Luther King Boulevard, Tighlman Street, Hanover Avenue, American Parkway and the 8th Street Bridge all offer very good alternative routes into and out of the city.

The most interesting things that you have not reported on are the less obvious benefits that the proposed bike lanes will provide. It’s been proven that bike lanes help to make streets safer for all road users, not just for pedestrians and bicyclists but for motorists as well. Why is that? Bike lanes calm traffic, especially when you put the street on a diet and remove travel lanes. Over sized streets encourage motorist to drive at higher speeds, making them more difficult for pedestrians to cross and create less attractive places live. Traffic calmed streets also benefit the quality of life for the people who live along them. Residential urban streets with less traffic encourage people to socialize, interact and build friendships with their neighbors. They help to knit a community together.

Then there are the more obvious reasons which balanced investigative reporting would also cover. The health of our society is horrendous. Obesity and the resultant illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes have double in the past 15 years and now consume 2% of our GDP.  Our built environment, how we live and get around has created an automobile dependency which is killing us. The leading cause of death for young people, ages 5 to 35 is automobile related accidents. This needs to change and the Connecting our Community On and Off Street Trails plan is the city’s attempt to that. Will you and the rest of The Morning Call support the effort to build a healthier and safer community for all of Allentown’s residents? Isn’t this much more important than potential traffic congestion?

Thank you and regards,

John Sharpe, Connecting Our Community committee member


  1. Steven Ramos says:

    Jon, Thanks for re-posting. What continues to be missed, whether it is the bike lanes, the arena, the proposed entertainment complex, the waste to energy plant, the meter rate increases and expansions, is that the people who live and have businesses downtown, who will be affected the most are not being consulted and when we do stand up and object we are bulldozed.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I understand that sentiment, but I think the appropriate time for setting the city’s political direction is through elections. By all means, promote council candidates who support a different development agenda than Mayor Pawlowski. But right now, the Mayor and elected council members appear to mostly agree on all this stuff. They won elections, and they should do what they think is best for the whole city’s prosperity. They should listen to what residents and businesses have to say, certainly. Getting all the information on the table is important for making good decisions. But council meetings should really just be about information gathering. Just because a few dozen people show up to support or oppose a policy change, doesn’t mean council members should have to do what those people want. There are over a hundred thousand people in the city. The loudest people don’t speak for everybody, or even indicate the preference intensity of most residents. If people have a good point, they have a good point and council should take it into account, but ultimately they need to be basing their votes on their own thorough, independent research into relevant examples from other cities’ experiences, economics, etc.

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