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Bicycle Heaven in Bethlehem

For the biking enthusiast, Bethlehem might as well be Heaven on Earth. Whether you like pedaling around town, conquering challenging trails or just cruising the suburbs to unwind, there’s a place for you and your bike here. But don’t take it from us – hear it straight from some of the most avid bicyclists around.

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Getting Around

Anne Felker, Bethlehem Attorney

I like the easy independence of bicycling in Bethlehem. With my bike and a little equipment – fenders, panniers, decent lights – I have no need of a car to live a full life in this city. I get where I want to go – to meet with friends at coffee shops, restaurants and pubs around Main Street and South Side. I ride to my Center Street office, City Hall and other work meetings, plus the college campuses, grocery or hardware store and the bank. Biking in Bethlehem allows me to travel without the burden of finding a parking space and feeding the meter.

Bicycling allows me the most immediate experience of the day. I know from years of riding in every season that what looks like the worst of weather to a car driver – cold rain, blustery wind and even slushy snow – is when I am most content on my bicycle. I warm up quickly from the exercise and I feel great traveling by means of my own easy exertion.

Riding off road is an easy entry to nature both in and surrounding the city, whether along the paths bordering the Lehigh River and Monocacy Creek, or on the awesome trails in the surrounding mountains. Bicycling is my cheap and reliable thrill every day.

Onto the Beaten Path

Doug Pinkerton, President, Valley Mountain Bikers

Off-road adventures are immediately accessible from Bethlehem and can be combined with bike trips around the city to refuel at lively local restaurants, coffeehouses and bars – a two-wheel experience typically associated with such renowned cycling destinations as Denver or Portland.

The beginner-friendly Delaware and Lehigh trail, affectionately known as “the towpath,” connects Bethlehem with the Lehigh Valley’s other major cities, Allentown and Easton. Originally a path created for mules towing coal-carrying barges along the Lehigh Canal, this trail is full of history and features commanding views of the former Bethlehem Steel property. The towpath is relatively flat and is popular for cyclists, joggers and hikers alike. Pick up the towpath at Sand Island, near the southern end of Main Street. It’s approximately a 12-mile trip one way to reach downtown Easton if you head east. Allentown is about 5 miles west.

For the more skilled off-road cyclists, Walking Purchase Park features 10 miles of exhilarating singletrack. Built and maintained by the Valley Mountain Bikers, this is an advanced-rider trail network with challenging hills and extremely rocky terrain. Maps and directions are available at Valley Mountain Bikers web site: www.bikevmb.com.

Fun for the Whole Family

Janneke & Liam Bos-de Camp, CAT—Coalition for Appropriate Transportation Members

I empower myself by riding my bike in Bethlehem. I feel free to ride everywhere. Biking is perfect for me because I go as fast as the bus without the stress of driving a car. I love to walk, too, but biking saves time.

While biking, I can enjoy the different smells during each season and at different times of day. The fall brings with it sweet fragrances of fallen leaves and wet soil. Spring carries the smell of flowers. I can stop in early summer to taste the first wine berries.

My three-year-old son, Liam, loves to ride in the trailer behind my bike. His friends are always excited to ride along. They find it funny to tap each others helmets and giggle forever. They have toys and snacks and are protected by mesh from insects or with waterproof covers from rain. Riding for me and my son is a year-round adventure.

There is a sense of pride in using my bike in Bethlehem for transportation but I also feel more subtle emotions. Physically it increases my stamina; my mind has greater body awareness and everything seems to fall together more comfortably. Riding my bike, I am at peace.

Sharing the Road

Steve Schmitt, CAT Director

I love riding across the Lehigh River in Bethlehem, whether it’s on the Hill-to-Hill Bridge, the New Street Bridge or the Minsi Trail Bridge. Because there are only three ways to cross the river in Bethlehem, bikes and cars must accommodate each other more so than usual. The Shared Lane markings on the New Street Bridge invite bicyclists to ride in the road and encourage motorists to expect cyclists in traffic.

I enjoy meshing with the traffic crossing the river. Other vehicle operators don’t expect to see a bike stopped in line at a red light. Sharing the lane on these heavily traveled bridges is a trip. Knowing I can ride my bike safely in such situations is liberating. And the views! That’s my idea of fun.

The Places You’ll Go

Dave Trautmann, CAT Member & Bicycle Commuter

I think I’m bicycle obsessed. I commute to work on my bike, which is less than three miles. But it often takes me 11 or more miles of riding before I feel like going to work. And I ride weekend mornings for even longer distances.

Some of my rides have destinations, but many are just wanderings. My leisurely pace means I see many things that people in autos just drive by. Because I’m not in a hurry, I take lots of pictures. So I have captured the wonderful views that the Valley offers.

Two Wheels, Countless Options

Frank Pavlick, Shop Manager, Bethlehem Bicycle Cooperative (BBC)

I can ride many different styles of bicycles in Bethlehem and have a genuinely interesting experience. The varied terrain that surrounds the city means I can choose a relatively flat or rolling route, include some hill work, commute to work, hit the road for some weekend mileage or get my legs and lungs burning on favorite off-road trails.

I love taking my fixed gear bike into the night and heading into the farm country surrounding Bethlehem, experiencing the gently rolling terrain lit by starlight. The fixed gear ride is a stern teacher, compelling me to master conservation of momentum, with no coasting of the pedals, like a track racer with brakes.

With experience comes fitness, fluidity, and exhilaration. I allow the bike to lead, exploring familiar neighborhoods in meandering, unfamiliar ways, taking side streets that I pass by on day trips as I head out towards the outlying villages waiting to be found, if you’re still looking. Less trafficked than by day, these night rides offer the contemplation of stillness, a zen like, wordless ramble in subtle pursuit of whatever may lie around the next bend in the road.

The Lehigh Valley is blessed with great mountain biking, accessible without using a car. From Bethlehem, I can be on a scintillating set of trails after only a few minutes of road riding. Salisbury Township, my favorite ride, offers an incredible array of off-road track for beginning and advanced riders without the need to climb mountains to get there. For those with a taste for more hills, the trail system on South Mountain abounds with challenges for even the elite mountain cyclist. Write me at frank@car-free.org for help getting started.

Bethlehem is a mecca for the BMX culture. Many “old school” pros hail from these parts. Rising stars join the local faithfuls to spend countless hours sculpting and refining some of the region’s most infamous BMX riding destinations. You may encounter riders from New Zealand, Ireland or Japan, having traveled thousands of miles for bragging rights to move on these monuments to BMX culture. The only common language is the transmutation of two-wheeled fury into graceful flow. Check out Bethlehem’s bike shops: Action Wheels, The Source, Cutters and Saucon Valley Bikes for the scoop on where it’s at, whether you want to ride or just spectate. My Bicycle Heaven starts where I am, here in Bethlehem.

Past, Present and Future

Larry D’Amelio, Owner, Action Wheels Bike Shop

I originally opened Action Wheels Bike Shop in Bethlehem in 1980.
The city has lots of trails, the Lehigh and Delaware towpaths, plus plenty of parks such as Louise Moore, Hugh Moore and Jacobsburg. BMX and mountain biking started to bloom in the mid-80’s and Action Wheels became very active in the local BMX track.

The towpaths along the Lehigh River, for just one example, make Bethlehem a great place to ride. Very well kept (thanks to CAT and the city’s Parks & Public Property Department) and very scenic, with terrific views of the Lehigh River corridor. A ride from Sand Island in downtown Bethlehem to Canal Park in Allentown is invigorating for the entire family. Approximately 9 miles round trip, it’s a great way to get a quick workout and unwind at the same time.

We are looking forward to the new skatepark being built very soon. I’m sure it will help make Bethlehem a true bicycle heaven for all.

 

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