Big-time kudos to Houston's City Council for approving the new and sorely needed Bike Plan. After a two-week delay for further consideration, the Council passed the plan by a vote of 11-4.
UPDATE: In the original post, I mistakenly said that the vote was 13-4. Councilmembers Brenda Stardig (District A) and Ellen Cohen (District C) did not vote.
Take a look at this text from the Council's agenda, describing the goals of the Plan.
Kudos also to the Chronicle's transportation beat writer Dug Begley, with additional points for resisting the temptation to use "Houston, we have a bike plan" as a lead. He has covered the story even-handedly, addressing concerns such as the lack of a solid plan to pay for the Plan's implementation. Here are Begley's posts from Wednesday, after the vote, and from Tuesday before. Tuesday's article has the profusely illustrated Bike Plan PDF embedded within it. (You may need a digital subscription to get through the paywall.)
But I reserve the blue-ribbon kudos for Bike Houston and other citizen groups, along with the consultants they enlisted. It's always heartening to see activists' hard work rewarded with legislation of this sort, with the goal of improving overall quality of life, not just for cyclists, but for all users of streets—indeed, for everyone who breathes.
Some of the more conservative Councilmembers, the same four who tagged it for consideration two weeks earlier, voted against the Plan: Mike Knox (At-Large 1), Michael Kubosh (At-Large 3), Steve Le (District F), and Greg Travis (District G). The tagging was procedural in nature, advising that this change to the charter had to take place prior to passage. Then, as widely expected, they voted against it. (I admit that my understanding of this whole process is somewhat incomplete. Y'all are welcome to educate me.)
Conservative members Jack Christie (At-Large 5) and Dave Martin (District E), to their credit, saw through or around the cost argument. Christie, quoted in Begley's Wednesday article, seems to understand that cities benefit from investment in amenities like cycling infrastructure:
"We have to look to the future," At-Large Councilman Jack Christie said. "Bayou Greenways started 10 years ago with a plan to finish in 20 years...People came together with a plan and now it'll be completed four years from now."
As Begley notes, some people may blanch at the $552 million price tag for the plan, but that amount is spread out over 20 years. From what I have read, worries about the Plan siphoning funds from flood prevention and other necessary improvements are overstated. Our Councilmembers aren't all geniuses, but they're not so stupid as to fail to recognize the importance of abating flood damage. Improvements to Brays Bayou, which experienced three 100-year floods in 2015 and 2016 alone, are already in progress.
Giving in to morbid curiosity, I scrolled down to the Comments section of Begley's Tuesday article. Sure enough, the usual crowd of right-wing cranks offered nothing but negativity, but at least there were some comments in favor of the Plan. I took pains to remind the cranks of the ways better, safer cycling infrastructure benefits everyone, not just those of us who currently get around on bikes. For one, more cycling leads to a healthier, happier populace. I knew better than to mention Cuba, because anything good that happens in a Communist nation doesn't really happen, amiright?
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
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