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POV: Making walking and biking safe for all

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?

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