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United Way of Lancaster County


Participants envision a future of walkable, bikeable streetscapes at Active Transportation Summit

Scenes from the Lancaster Global Shapers’ Active Transportation Summit on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Photos: Brian Nguyen except bottom right: Tim Stuhldreher)

Scenes from the Lancaster Global Shapers' Active Transportation Summit on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Photos: Brian Nguyen except bottom right: Tim Stuhldreher)
Scenes from the Lancaster Global Shapers' Active Transportation Summit on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Photos: Brian Nguyen except bottom right: Tim Stuhldreher)

"It was really powerful to just get everyone and all their knowledge and experiences and passion in the same room," Laura Pauls-Thomas said.

Global Shapers Lancaster Hub leaders Laura Pauls-Thomas, left, and Caleb Bornman welcome attendees to the summit. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Pauls-Thomas was speaking moments after the conclusion of the Global Shapers Lancaster Hub's Active Transportation Summit. Held Saturday at West Art, it brought together a range of individuals interested in encouraging walking, biking and public transportation use in Lancaster and beyond.

An offshoot of the World Economic Forum, the Global Shapers network brings young adults together to create change in their communities. The Lancaster Hub has been around since 2015 and has made active transportation one of its key focus areas.

Last year, it launched Ride, Roll & Stroll, a National Bike Month initiative in which participants earn points by using active transportation to reach selected destinations. This year's destinations are listed here; the promotion wraps up May 31 with a party at The Common Wheel on North Queen Street.

Promoting active transportation is a joint priority of Lancaster city and Lancaster County. In 2019, they adopted an official Active Transportation Plan: It calls for building "an interconnected network of pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities," including off-road trails, roadway corridor improvements and mobility hubs, such as bus and train stations, surrounded by walkable development. Several city and county planners were among the attendees Saturday.

(Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Summit participants were invited to write down their proposals to advance active transportation and post them on the wall. The responses were divided into five categories; each category was then assigned to a small group which brainstormed an action plan and presented it to everyone.

Among the ideas: A "bus buddy" program to help first-timers unsure of how the system works with experienced riders who would help them with scheduling, routing and other logistics; adding more roundabouts to calm traffic and reduce the crash risk at intersections; and arranging "bike bus" convoys for community events or commuting to school.

Repeatedly, the discussion returned to the importance of advocacy. Roadways are designed, built and maintained by municipal and state government: For them to consistently incorporate active transportation, they need to hear from residents who want it.

Compared with Lancaster city, which is developing "complete streets" through its Vision Zero plan, "there is a world of low-hanging fruit" in the surrounding townships, city resident and Home Rule Study Commission member Carl Feldman said. A network of people willing to champion active transportation on an ongoing basis could make a big difference, he said.

John Hursh

A couple of years ago, John Hursh drew attention to the lack of accommodation at Red Rose Transit bus stops by setting out chairs. Those kinds of small, iterative changes at the grassroots level can help build walkability over time, Hursh, now a City Council member, told the summit audience. It starts by "humbly observing" one's surroundings and noticing what is and isn't working.

Truly transforming car-centric development patterns into walkable ones takes decades, he said, citing Amsterdam as an example, and being an advocate can be lonely and frustrating at times. So be it: "I'm in for the work, I'm in for the fight and I hope you are, too."

The past few years have seen increased momentum building around the idea of active transportation, Pauls-Thomas said, and "we really want to see that continue."

As young adults looking ahead, she said, Global Shapers members want to help create a more accessible future, one that works for everyone.