United Way’s Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley Kicks Off New Initiative to Increase Pedestrian Safety in Partnership with AARP PA and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission
To ensure that walking is safe, accessible and convenient for all, Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley and partners will conduct walk audits of Lehigh and Northampton County neighborhoods in an effort to improve community walkways and increase accessibility.
Catasauqua, PA, April 25, 2023 – More than ever before, older adults are choosing to bike and walk instead of driving, making them a growing share of the nation’s pedestrians and cyclists. However, reports show that from 2010 to 2019, drivers in the U.S. struck and killed 53,435 pedestrians — an average of more than 14 people each day, and an estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated in the emergency room for nonfatal crash-related injuries in 2017.
To ensure that walking is a safe, accessible and convenient alternative for people who cannot or choose not to drive — and to reverse the trends in pedestrian fatalities and injuries — United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV) and Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley (AFLV) have partnered with AARP PA and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to conduct a walk audit to improve the community walkways, increase accessibility and help build transportation infrastructure.
“Our goal is to have an active community fully connected by pedestrian networks, allowing all residents to have equitable access to services and resources or an alternative mode of transportation,” said Carmen Bell, Sr. Director, Healthy Aging, UWGLV.
Partners launched the new initiative during an event at Catasauqua Park with support from the Lehigh and Northampton County Executives, mayors of the city of Allentown and the Borough of Catasauqua, as well as the Bethlehem Health Bureau.
“As Northampton County grows and ages, it’s very important for us to have the trails accessible to the population. It’s a fundamental necessity for us to participate in a program like this,” shared Lamont McClure, Northampton County Executive.
A walk audit is an activity in which participants observe and evaluate the walkability of a location to identify and document if and how pedestrians can safely travel along streets and trails as well as navigate intersections. Walk audits benefit all pedestrians and cyclists, including people in wheelchairs, those who are blind, persons with disabilities, those pushing strollers and many more.
“Walk audits are about more than just sidewalks and crosswalks – they’re about creating communities where people can move around safely and with ease,” said Kellie VonStein, AARP Pennsylvania State Associate State Director of Outreach and Advocacy in the Lehigh Valley. “By focusing on walkability, the Lehigh Valley is investing in the health, safety and well-being of its residents.”
Walkability has an impact on chronic diseases, injuries, pollution, aging in place and a local economy. Walk audits support the implementation of the region’s active transportation plan, Walk/RollLV, which provides a clear vision of how walking, rolling and other forms of active transportation fit within the larger transportation network. They will also provide data to support regional transportation infrastructure investments into the pedestrian network, ultimately improving safety along sidewalks, intersections and roadways.
“The Walk Audit program allows us to gather information that can better inform transportation investments and improve the Lehigh Valley’s pedestrian and ADA accessibility. This will significantly advance the goals of FutureLV: The Regional Plan and Walk/RollLV: Active Transportation Plan as well as support a safer and more equitable transportation system,” said Becky Bradley, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
“We can’t do this alone. We must all work together to make our neighborhoods safer for pedestrians, and that comes from making investments, enforcing laws and educating our public,” stated Mayor Matt Tuerk, City of Allentown.
In livable communities, people of all ages can safely walk for fitness and to get where they need or want to go. AFLV and partners aim to make Lehigh and Northampton neighborhoods more walkable by identifying the roads and intersections that should be walkable and crossable but are instead dangerous for pedestrians.
“Community health is a top priority for our city, and we are excited that United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley is leading the way,” added Bethlehem Mayor Willie Reynolds.
“I’m really proud to support this initiative to expand and maintain our walkways. We must make sure we have accessibility for our seniors, those without access to transportation and all of our population,” said Phillips Armstrong, Lehigh County Executive.
Lehigh Valley walk audits will begin in April and continue through November. Community Walk Days will be scheduled throughout the spring, summer and fall.
For more information, to join a walk audit or to volunteer, please visit www.agefriendlylehighvalley.org or direct questions to LVWalkAudit@unitedwayglv.org.
Photo credit: United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley/Marco Calderon Photography