When I first moved to Delmar with my family 11 years ago, I loved the old trees and the quiet streets. I saw basketball hoops turned toward the street and marveled when cars stopped to let a play continue. I told my son he’d be able to ride his bike to school.
I counseled my kids on how to walk and bike safely around our neighborhood, which has few sidewalks. I taught them to meet drivers’ eyes before crossing in front of a car whether they had a stop sign or not. As a family we learned to walk on the left and to wear reflective vests at night. Streetlights are also few.
Delmar, like many neighborhoods in Bethlehem, seems walkable and bikeable. And yet, my kids know which streets not to cross and where to be especially careful. Some people drive too fast and others seem oblivious to bikers or walkers who share the road. There will always be a driver to watch out for.
But what about the rest of us? If you walk your dog around the block, if you walk or run the streets for exercise, if you walk to run errands at the post office or the bank, do you follow safe practices? Do you walk on the left, meet drivers’ eyes? Heck, do you wave in thanks to the car who slows down and slides over to give you three feet of cushion? And when you are behind the wheel, do you offer the same courtesy to your walking neighbors?
I wonder if you make the same allowance for bikes. On the narrow streets of my neighborhood, two moving cars cannot pass if there’s a parked car on the road. I see drivers wait patiently in these situations, but rarely see drivers be that patient with a slow-moving biker. Why don’t they wait until it’s safe to pass, rather than put that biker’s safety at risk? Why won’t they accept that biker’s right to the road?
If you’ve read this far, I can probably assume I’m preaching to the choir. So here I go.
What if Bethlehem residents who want to live in a walkable, bikeable neighborhood had a way to stand up and say so? What if they could pledge to be safe walkers, safe bikers, and safe drivers. How would you, the choir, feel if you knew that 500 of your neighbors had made such a pledge? Or 5,000?
I so often feel like it’s me against the world. Little idealist me against a faceless mass who are in a hurry and are driving in a community that – like most in the U.S. – has decades of infrastructure design built for the convenience of the car.
If I knew that a good chunk of my neighbors – and not just the ones I know personally – felt as I do, it would give me real hope. If I knew that a couple thousand Bethlehem residents were willing to commit to be role models for a multitude of transportation choices, I would feel less alone. I would start to believe that my town might be capable of following through on its commitment to sustainability. I would double down my belief that this is a great place to raise my kids.
Last year, I joined the Town of Bethlehem Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. As a group of volunteers in an advisory role, we are limited in what we can do to effect change. Our most recent project has potential, but it depends on you, our neighbors, to succeed.
We created something called the Roll Model Pledge. We invite residents to sign The Pledge, which details best practices for safe walking, safe biking and safe driving. The Pledge essentially asks you to make a commitment to support all forms of transportation in our town. We believe that by following safe practices, we can all become role models – or Roll Models – for a walkable and bikeable community.
You can find Roll Model Pledge brochures at www.sustainablebethlehem.org. After signing, please report that you’ve done so by emailing [email protected]