by Haley Wentzel
When Neha Kavan (right), moved to New York City from India to continue her education, she immediately immersed herself in the massive metropolis, walking everywhere and taking in the inspiring sights and sounds. It was a situation quite different from her home city, where walking was unsafe.
A walkable lifestyle was still high on her list of must-haves when she came to the Lehigh Valley to work as a graphic designer at Lehigh. Living in downtown Bethlehem, she chooses not to own a car. Instead, she has learned the local bus system to reach places beyond walking distance. And she walks to work every day from her north side apartment.
Neha appreciates the green and open spaces of the U.S. Each day, she soaks up familiar sights and appreciates noticing new things. “It might be easy to take for granted all the stuff that’s around you,” she said. “Especially if you’re from this country.”
Although her reasoning for walking to work stems from her desire to explore a place she did not come from, Neha is not alone among Lehigh employees in choosing to skip the drive to work. Many staff and faculty embrace a car-free commute to work.
Sharon Wiles-Young, Director, Library Access, makes her walks to work a social event. Alongside LTS colleague and friend, Christy Roysdon, Sharon walks to work as many times a week as she can. In fact, Wiles-Young tries to only use her car when completely necessary. She says walking with Christy is her favorite part about her car free commutes. “I get to walk with a friend and talk about local events, social problems and many other issues,” she explained.
Sharon and Christy head to work across the Fahey Bridge
Like Neha, Sharon also enjoys her walk because of the views and surroundings she experiences. “Since I have chosen to live in the city I like to walk to as many things I can and take advantage of a walking city,” she said.
Other Lehigh walkers enjoy the scenery during their commutes to work. Many of them agree that even though it is the same path, they encounter different experiences on each walk.
Karen Pooley (left), Professor of Practice in Political Science, is another Lehigh employee who appreciates her opportunity to walk to work. “It’s so much less stressful and aggravating than driving,” she noted. “You're likely to walk by one of the South Side's many coffee shops, and it's far easier to stop in for something when you're on foot.”
For Jennifer Cunningham (below), Assistant Vice President of Alumni Affairs, riding her bike to work at Lehigh is a continuation of her practice from when she worked at Cornell. There, she even rode in the frigid Ithaca winters. “I rode every day that it wasn’t icy or below 14 degrees,” she said. “Below 14 degrees, I found I couldn’t move my hands to brake – even with ski gloves!”
Jennifer choses to ride the eight miles to Goodman Campus whenever possible for a simple reason. “Why sit in a metal box when you can be active and outside? Biking is fun."
The mental benefits of a car-free commute were also cited by several Lehigh walkers and bikers. Neha blasts her music and allows her walk home from work to be her time to let go of things that happened in the day and relax. David Pryor (below right) uses his commute into work to think as well. It takes him about 30 minutes to get to Lehigh and 60 minutes to get home. Of starting his day with a ride, Dave says, “I’m so much happier. Ideas have already started flowing during the ride.”
Car-Free Day For A Sustainable Campus
Lehigh defines sustainability as the integration of social equity, environmental stewardship and economic prosperity into campus-wide administrative, academic and operational processes. The Office of Sustainability published its Campus Sustainability Plan 2020 last year as a follow up to the original 2012 campus sustainability plan. With 1,800 employees traveling to and from campus, our commutes do have an impact. While it’s not possible for all staff and faculty to eliminate car-based trips to campus, maximizing the potential of car-free commuting could make a difference.
Have you been considering going car-free? Leaving your car home even just once a week can have a positive impact on the environment and on your personal well-being.The perfect time to try it out is Car-free Day , Friday, September 22, 2017. This worldwide event promotes alternative environmentally sustainable methods of transportation.
Thanks to the efforts of the Office of Sustainability, Car-free Day will be a fun event around campus. There’s an added incentive for staff and faculty as well. Lehigh employees who take the “Car-Free Pledge” will rewarded 50 Be Well points.
- To take the Car-Free Pledge and earn those points, go to lehigh.edu/wellness and sign up for the appropriate challenge.
- If you don’t wish to earn Be Well points, you can still take the Car-Free Pledge by following this link.
- For more information on Car-free Day at Lehigh, go here.