The cover story of this week's Houston Press is a broad overview of cycling in Greater Houston. Main themes:
As a longtime cyclist, bicycle commuter, and facilitator for World Naked Bike Ride, you betcha this article caught my eye.
Within the city of Houston, in recent years, we have averaged just over seven cycling fatalities per year, plus dozens of injuries. This figure may seem minuscule compared to fatalities involving motor-on-motor crashes, but it still points to a glaring problem that notoriously car-dependent Houston could have and should have fixed decades ago. An appallingly high percentage of the collisions, including fatal collisions, are of the hit-and-run variety. (This one that happened Monday night, thankfully, wasn't; the driver stopped and called 911. Despite that, the cyclist is still dead.)
So why does any sane or rational person ride a bicycle on the streets of Houston? This is one of many questions that I would ask if I were, say, someone who commutes into town from Cy-Fair and often gets stuck behind a two-wheeler (or a pack of two-wheelers) pedaling along at 15 miles per hour.
In a comment for the online edition of the article, I pointed out that Meagan Flynn's feature could benefit from a sidebar with frequently asked questions about cycling in Greater Houston. Perhaps Ms. Flynn will take my advice and post a follow-up FAQ online in the coming days.
Meanwhile, I have a blog, and I can post my own. Here is Part I of my own FAQ, which here stands for "Floridly Answered Questions." I apologize in advance if I have omitted any questions you might have asked or heard, or if the answers reflect my own biases. Wait, no, I actually don't.
OK, I'll bite: Why do otherwise sane people ride bicycles on the streets of Houston?
That's a question with multiple answers.
We ride on the streets because that's where the law says we not only are required to ride, but have a right to ride.
In Houston in particular, we ride on the streets because the sidewalks, where they exist, are in horrible shape. This is often because the live oaks planted on the nearby easements have developed root systems as big as the nearby houses and made the sidewalks look like LA after a particularly nasty earthquake. Nevertheless, many underinformed cyclists ride on the sidewalks anyway, especially B-Cycle customers, who also ride without helmets.
As for why Houstonians might get around the city on bicycles, they do so for a variety of reasons, including one or more of the following:
Why do cyclists flout traffic laws in such a cavalier manner?
Ooh, impressive vocabulary! I'll flout your cavalier, buddy!
A common complaint in the comments section of any online article about urban cyclists, even from people claiming to be cyclists, is that these folks run red lights, weave between cars, veer outside the bike lanes, and perform other death-defying acts that endanger not only themselves but pedestrians and drivers. Of course, all it takes is a few such cyclists riding in full douche mode for motorists to conclude that it's an epidemic, that the douches represent us all.
I don't have any statistics, about this, but from my observations, the overwhelming majority of cyclists do not operate in an unsafe fashion. Yes, some of us run red lights, which carries a certain risk, but if done correctly, it is less dangerous than just riding lawfully. If we run red lights, it is because accelerating from a dead stop requires far more force than continuing our forward momentum, and far more human energy than switching one's foot onto a car's accelerator pedal. We make absolutely certain, at least 99.9% of the time, that there are no motor vehicles coming through the green light that might strike us, and no pedestrians we might strike in the crosswalks.
Why does Houston need the new Bike Plan?
You can read all about the planned 1,700 additional miles of high-comfort bicycle infrastructure on houstonbikeplan.org. But mostly, to encourage cycling in this heavy-traffic, heavy-pollution city, the new bike plan is required to replace the old bike plan.
The last time Houston implemented a bike plan of any sort was in the early 1990s. In a nutshell, it sucked then, and it sucks worse now.
The '90s plan mostly consisted of adding narrow bike lanes on the right-hand side of some major thoroughfares, such as Waugh Drive and Briar Forest Drive.
There are also trails skirting the bayous and rails-to-trails projects of varying levels of quality:
To be continued.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.