Eliminate Right Turning Lane on Bethlehem’s Fahy Bridge

Bethlehem cyclists recently had another memorial ride for Pat Ytsma, the cyclist who was tragically killed by a motorist on Bethlehem’s Fahy Bridge back in 2011, with a bike ride, and I just want to use this occasion to remind everyone that this intersection will continue to be very dangerous for pedestrians until the right turning lanes are eliminated.

Going from south to north, the right turning lane is designed to speed traffic right through the cross-walk, precisely where pedestrians are supposed to enter the pedestrian/bike path. This is designed to be a death trap, and it’s not going to get safer until the turning lane is eliminated.

That is what Jeff Speck recommended in his 2009 walkability report for Bethlehem, and he said both sides of the pedestrian crossings needed to be fixed “in short order.” This was two years before Pat Ytsma was killed.

This is an issue that is really pure politics masquerading as a technical decision. Who gets the street space? Motorists want to have most of the street space in this intersection because they want to drive fast. Cyclists and pedestrians want more of the street space because they don’t want to get killed. People need to decide if high speeds are appropriate to this intersection and bridge, or if it should be more accessible and friendly to pedestrians.

That’s a political choice. Once the political choice is made to make this intersection safer, the problem can be fixed very quickly and cheaply. It’s true that a long-term fix could get expensive like if you wanted to turn that whole traffic lane into a nice wide sidewalk or bike path. But in the short term it would cost Bethlehem virtually nothing to close off the turning lane tomorrow with some road cones, or some paint and planters.


  1. Bethlehem officials have been working on plans for a year plus to do away with the current right turn lane going northbound. I think last time I talked to Mike Alkhal he said the work was going to be done later this year. Here’s a story I wrote on the project in April 2012: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2012/04/fahy_bridge_lane_in_bethlehem.html

  2. The major Fahy project planned for 2015 (assuming Corbett’s transportation funding is approved) also would redo the pedestrian access near Columbia and Third streets — it would be directly onto Third. They may also do away with the other “slip” ramp coming off West Lehigh Street. http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2013/04/bethlehems_fahy_bridge_to_get.html

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