June 4, 2023

It’s like riding a bike

As Freddie Mercury sung, “I want to ride my bicycle,” and Bethlehem’s Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) encourages people to do that for their upcoming event.

During the week of May 13 -21, CAT will be hosting “Lehigh Valley Bike to Work Week”, where people can log their adventures and attend local events. As an added bonus, riders can win prizes for themselves, their town, their local bike shop and their employer.

“The whole focus is encouragement – to get people to ride to work – who are maybe thinking about it or want to try it, but they just need a little support,” said Director Scott Slingerland, who has worked with CAT for eight years.

Anybody who works or resides in Lehigh or Northampton county can participate through an online competition, but events are held in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton throughout the week.

“If they ride to work, they can stop by and get a bagel and a coffee. We also have a lunchtime bike ride in Easton, where people can go for bike ride at lunch and be back within the hour. Hopefully, the mayor will ride with us. City employees, as well as the public, are invited too.”

After being founded in 1994 by Steve Schmitt, the non-profit organization promotes walking/biking trails and public transportation through Lanta Bus, but put their main focus on education.

“We have school programs, where we go to elementary schools. Their focus has to be fun, but there’s education in it,” he said. “We literally can create traffic mazes in parking lots, which have stop signs and one way streets using tennis balls cut in half and chalk. The kids can learn, but remember the fun of it. Adults probably want to get into the fun of it too. I worked with a woman who was 60 and never ridden a bike before, but we practiced and she learned.”

CAT has 4-hour bicycle mechanics class on Tuesday evenings, as well as a 16-hour advanced class that’s run every couple of months on weekends. They also teach a bicycle traffic skills class to provide knowledge, fun and confidence in a person’s ability to ride correctly in the flow of traffic. Students of all ages are able to practice handling skills and tour the streets of Bethlehem.

“People ride for recreation, transportation, sport, and for physical health. More people riding means less traffic congestion, less air pollution, a tighter social community, and support for local businesses,” Slingerland said.

“Predominant culture is car-oriented. Especially, in the Lehigh Valley and areas that have been developed, where things are far apart. Now, we have commuters that are going 100 miles a day in a car and it takes some life reorganization if you want to live without a car or ride your bike to work. It’s not always easy, but I hope people can think about it and organize their life with how they want to live. Not feel like they’re a victim to having to be a certain way.”

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