Lehigh University has plans to encourage more foot traffic and decrease the number of cars on campus by becoming a walking-friendly campus.
University Architect Brent Stringfellow said this transition has been underway for the past 20 to 30 years with the removal of parking lots in front of some buildings, such as the University Center, and the creation of additional walking paths.
“Parking in front of the UC is not exactly the image the campus wants,” Stringfellow said.
There are two more changes planned that will continue to “pedestrianize” the campus, keeping safety and campus quality in mind.
The first of these changes, which Stringfellow said needs to first be approved by the City of Bethlehem, is to close the area on Packer Avenue between the new Vine Street and Webster Street bus stops so that it is accessible to foot traffic only.
Stringfellow said if the closure is approved, a traffic study and test closure would be conducted to assess the impact of the change. Stringfellow said Lehigh is currently discussing what this would look like with the city.
Akeive Burrows, ‘21, said he does not have a strong opinion on the issue because he does not drive on campus, but he could see how this would inconvenience those who drive.
Burrows said drivers would probably have to loop around Farrington Square or take another route to get across campus. However, Burrows said the Packer Avenue area is already congested, so pedestrianizing it may help.
“It would make it easier to cross and not have to look both ways,” Burrows said.
The other proposed change — which has already been approved — is to close Sayre Drive and convert University Drive into a two-way road in the next few years.
Stringfellow said it would be possible to get to the top of campus by taking Taylor Street or Brodhead Avenue. There would no longer be a route for cars through the middle of campus, creating a car-free zone.
These roads would still be open to authorized vehicles. Students with disabilities or injuries can use the AccessLU shuttle for transportation directly to academic buildings.
Stringfellow said increased accessibility on campus is under consideration with the construction of new buildings.
“You can essentially use the buildings themselves as elevators to get up the hill without using stairs,” Stringfellow said.
The removal of Sayre Drive would also mean that better sidewalks and pathways would be constructed on campus. Stringfellow said turning more asphalt roadways into walkable paths would be ideal.
Kelly Vaughn, ‘20, a commuter student, has issues with this proposal because she has to drive to campus.
“Lehigh becoming a walking campus is a good idea in theory, but I just think it’s not practical,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said it is difficult for her to figure out the best place to park and get to class because the buses are unreliable. Closing Packer Avenue and other roads, she said, would worsen this situation.
If Vaughn is running late to class and misses the bus, she said she likes to park near her classes on Packer Avenue.
The addition of the bus stops on Vine Street and Webster Street were made with the closing of Packer Avenue in mind. Closing inner campus roads, Stringfellow said, would also improve bus routes.
“University Drive would be a better drive for the buses because you’re cutting out a lot of tricky turns,” Stringfellow said.