YOUR CHANCE TO TALK ABOUT LOWER WESTHEIMER BEFORE THE REDO PLANS GET DRAWN UP A meeting is set for 6pm Monday for anyone with opinions about what the Montrose section of Westheimer Rd. should or shouldn’t look like, as the ReBuild Houston folks turns an eye toward the corridor. Traffic consultant Geoff Carleton tells Dug Begley that bike infrastructure is low on the project wishlist, as bike lanes are already planned for W. Alabama. Carleton says that widening the road, which Metro’s larger buses can’t currently fit down, will be a hard enough sell already, adding that current priorities are for Westheimer to be both “walkable and transit-friendly.” A list of links to previous studies of the area’s transit situation is included on the city’s meeting info page. [Houston Chronicle] Image of Lower Westheimer study area: City of Houston
COMMENT OF THE DAY: MIXING MEDIA TO DRAW BIKE ROUTES OUTSIDE 610 “I find it’s usually possible to find a good bike route inside the Loop, but things quickly deteriorate outside of it. Because the roads are not a grid, the only option is often the route aligned with vehicular traffic. Occasionally, you can pick your way through neighborhood streets, but the route tends to be very circuitous. A few routes along major right-of-ways could be a God-send if they are true segregated bike paths and not merely a paint stripe. The plan also includes use of many utility right-of-ways, which is an excellent solution for off-street paths.” [Heightsresident, commenting on A Third Chateau Ten for Houston; Drafting a New Bike Plan] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MORTAL DANGER OF TAKING THE EASY ROAD “As an expert level cyclist, I would never, and have never [ridden] my bike in a designated bike lane. They are death traps and make novices overconfident. Anyone with a bike and a functioning brain can take a little time to find a safe way to bike in Houston. The idea that a bike lane should be the most expeditious route aligned with vehicular traffic will only lead to more frustration and deaths.” [The Roanoker, commenting on A Third Chateau Ten for Houston; Drafting a New Bike Plan] Illustration: Lulu
Reader Scot Luther, who claims to have witnessed “wrecks and several flat tires” on a gap in the bayou-side trail along the north side of Brays Bayou just across N. MacGregor Way from the eastern border of Hermann Park wonders why this portion of the several-year-old concrete trail was never completed. Here’s a photo of the scene — where more cautious bike riders regularly dismount for the muddy or bumpy path under the Almeda Rd. bridge. A few hundred ft. beyond the bridge, the trail picks up again on its way to Riverside Terrace.
Photo: Scot Luther
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WILL THE NEW BIKE TRAIL SYSTEM BE THIS SHOCKING? “Here’s something a little off topic but has to do with putting trails on power easements. Has anyone ever experienced what happens when you ride under the lines down the dirt road in Memorial Park? The electromagnetic field actually shocks you where you are touching the frame or handlebars especially during peak Summer usage hours and when sweaty. Not sure if that’s ever been addressed.” [j, commenting on FPSF Moving Next to the Astrodome; I-10 Toll Hike Delay; Secrets of the I-45 Redo Plan] Illustration: Lulu
Over the weekend construction began on the new bikeway meant to connect the heavily used trails along Buffalo Bayou west of Downtown with the Columbia Tap trail on Downtown’s east side — and from there to the trails along Brays Bayou and the Medical Center. The 2 blocks of Lamar St. between Smith and Bagby now have this green zone installed along their southern side, replacing curbside parking spaces on the one-way street. Additional construction is scheduled for every weekend between now and March 8, when the steadily growing green bike path will reach Discovery Green.
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Bayou Bike Connector
There’s a rather bold new plan for 2 of the Houston area’s major parkland reserves hiding in an image included in an almost-final draft of the West Houston Mobility Plan being prepared by the Houston-Galveston Area Council for submission to TxDOT. A new roadway connecting Briar Forest Dr. to Highland Knolls Dr. through the heart of 7,800-acre George Bush Park is shown in a proposed major-thoroughfare plan for the area. (See segments in blue in image above.) A segment of Baker Rd. is also shown linking to the new parkway. And north of I-10, a similar major roadway is seen connecting Hammerly Rd. to Patterson Rd. — through the Addicks Reservoir.
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Connecting Briar Forest Dr. to Highland Knolls
Over Thanksgiving weekend city workers opened a portion of the proposed hike-and-hike trail that will one day link downtown and Acres Homes.
Work began last October on this new section, one that heads west from the MKT hike-and-bike trail’s former official western terminus at Lawrence Park, under the N. Shepherd Dr. and N. Durham Dr. overpasses, and over White Oak Bayou, west to Cottage Grove and north towards an eventual link with the existing White Oak Bayou trail.
This link legitimizes a an unsanctioned though fairly popular “ninja route” long used by off-trail cyclists, who had been pedaling the gravel path from the park to a rickety, burned-out White Oak Bayou railway trestle known to as the “Bridge of Death,” seen below in a 2012 photo.
That’s been demolished and replaced with a sturdy span of of concrete and steel, complete with fancy, built-in insignia, and skyline and AIG building vistas.
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Bike Path Breakthrough
HIGH VOLTAGE NEWS FOR HOUSTON BICYCLISTS Parks and Rec department director Joe Turner tells the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris that a powerline right-of-way crossing on University of Houston property northeast of the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Old Spanish Trail will be the first improvement allowed by a new agreement between the city and CenterPoint Energy (subject to city council approval this week) that will allow hike-and-bike trails to be cut along electrical transmission-line right of ways throughout the city. Most likely the next up, according to Turner: a trail from Sims Bayou to Cambridge Village Park in southwest Houston. That route, along with others being contemplated, runs north to south. As Mayor Parker noted in her announcement, that should complement the bayou-side (and therefore mostly east-west) trails being created as part of the Bayou Greenways 2020 project. CenterPoint is donating $1.5 million toward the creation of new trails on their property, possibly because it got what it wanted in the deal, which also involves the conversion of all 165,000 city traffic signals to LEDs over the next 5 years. Writes Morris: “Bills to allow trails on utility right of way were filed as early as 2007 but stalled over questions about how much liability CenterPoint should face in opening its land for recreational use. A compromise was reached last year. The utility is liable only for a serious injury or death caused by its ‘willful or wanton acts or gross negligence.’ Under the agreement announced Friday, the city would pay the utility’s legal bills if lawsuits are filed.” [Houston Chronicle ($); more info; previously on Swamplot] Photo of bike trail along Brays Bayou: Dave Fehling/State Impact
In case the names carved in steel plate on each don’t make it clear to you, the Montrose Management District and Bike Houston want you to know that they are the parties behind these new bike racks going up around Montrose; they’re part of an effort to “improve bike safety” in the neighborhood (or at least keep the ones being used around for longer). New racks went up in front of MV DiY beer, wine, coffee, and candle café at 3224 Yoakum last month; this week a few more were installed in the Hawthorne Square shopping center at 3407 Montrose Blvd. graced by Starbucks, Einstein’s Bagels, and Berryhill Baja Grill (see photo at top) as well as Gratifi Kitchen + Bar at 302 Fairview:
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As many as 8 new bike-sharing stations could open inside the Loop in the next 2 weeks. Will Rub, director of Houston B-Cycle, tells Swamplot that permits are in hand and the bikes forthcoming for these 5 stations: Spotts Park, at 401 S. Heights Blvd; the intersection of Taft and Fairview, at 2401 Taft St.; the Menil Collection, at 1529 W. Alabama St.; Leonel Castillo Community Center, which is undergoing a restoration at 2109 South St.; and the intersection of Milam and Webster, at 2215 Milam St.
And Rub adds that 3 other locations are just waiting for their permits: Stude Park, at 1031 Stude St., and 2 others east, for the first time, of the Southwest Fwy.: Settegast Park at Garrow and Palmer in the Second Ward, and Project Row Houses at Holman and Live Oak in the Third Ward. Rub expects those to be ready to roll September 19th or 20th.
Photo of station at Lamar and Milam: Reddit user txsupernova
WHY NOT BANISH CARS FROM MAIN ST.? Monday morning’s fatal collision between the bicycling Rice University architecture student and a southbound Metro train seems to have occasioned the folks at Houston Tomorrow to wonder at the best uses for Main St.: Blogger Kyle Nielsen shows — with a rented B-Cycle and a tape measure — how little room there is for a motorist to give a “vulnerable road user” the 3 ft. now required by the city for “safe passing” and suggests that the Downtown corridor should be closed off, once and for all, to traffic: “It seems to me that it would enhance cyclist and pedestrian safety, encourage the type of walkable retail and bars/restaurants that Downtown needs, decrease motorist frustration at being stuck behind a bicycle, and enhance motorist and transit safety by eliminating the motorist [illegal] left turns that still hit the Metro rail cars sporadically.” [Houston Tomorrow; previously on Swamplot] Photo: kylejack
ARE HOUSTON’S B-CYCLES ‘MERELY TOYS FOR URBAN BOHEMIANS’? Houston has some 175 rent-a-bikes available at swipe-a-credit-card kiosks here and there in Midtown, Montrose, and Downtown, with plans to expand to the East End, Med Center, and universities soon. But an editorial yesterday from the Houston Chronicle seems to doubt that all these bikes are making much of a difference so far, pointedly wondering whether they represent “legitimate transportation or merely toys for urban bohemians. . . . After all, there are no B-Cycle stations in the poor neighborhoods surrounding downtown’s B-Cycle core. It is not as if these neighborhoods aren’t bike-friendly. The Fourth Ward is accessible by West Dallas St., a designated bike-share road that connects directly with downtown. And the Columbia Tap bicycle trail stretches from east of downtown through the Third Ward to Brays Bayou — one of the most convenient bicycle paths in the city, utterly wanting for a B-Cycle station.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Market Square Park B-Cycle Station: Flickr user YMKM Agency
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE PLEA OF THE ANONYMOUS BICYCLIST “To all the anti-bike crew, I see some cyclists pull some pretty stupid maneuvers and I apologize that y’all have to put up with that. I mean, I see folks pull some really stupid stuff. Running signals without even checking for oncoming traffic, cutting people off, riding right down the middle of gaddang West Richmond at 5mph . . . On behalf of the majority of cyclists who don’t ride like jackasses please accept my condolences. They give all of us a bad name. But please, let’s realize two very important things in this situation:
1) Just as some cyclists pull stupid crap on the road, so do folks in cars. It’s not all drivers, of course not! But dang, Some folks are just straight-up dangerous. Running signals without even checking for oncoming traffic, cutting people off, driving down gaddang residential streets at 45mph . . . I mean, all those wrecks on 59 I keep hearing out my window at 7AM certainly weren’t caused by bikes.
2) We live in a city, y’all. . . . Part of living in a city means people getting in each other’s way, like ALL the time. It sucks, it does. . . . Just look at the traffic on the freeways! At 5PM you’d get through Midtown faster going 15mph stuck behind my slowa** on Fannin than parking on 288. Being inconvenienced by the existence of other humans is part of living in a big city. . . . If you can’t take the heat, get outta the kitchen. Just don’t blame it on bikes if your commute sucks.
So, here’s what I propose:
I’ll do my best to stay out of y’alls way. I’m not a spokesperson for cyclists or anything but I’ll encourage my friends to do the same. Believe me, I don’t like holding up traffic and I do my best to avoid it.
In return, all I ask is not to be treated like some insidious pain in the arse that is intentionally destroying Houston — and especially your life — because I cost you an extra 13 seconds on the trip to Randall’s. I’m just some dude who’s trying to get to work so I can pay rent and taxes and buy groceries and beer. Please cut me a break if I’m taking up the right lane and going all slow because there’s a headwind. Drop it into 3rd and write off that few seconds you’ll be delayed, or, I dunno, go around if there’s another lane. Just be nice. Getting angry over minor things will give ya heart disease or something.
Truce?” [dangdang, commenting on Ordinance Now Protects the Vulnerable from Passing Cars, Projectiles]
ORDINANCE NOW PROTECTS THE VULNERABLE FROM PASSING CARS, PROJECTILES Yesterday, city council approved an ordinance requiring Houston drivers to play nicer with others. That means: No throwing things at them anymore, and no passing “vulnerable road users” without maintaining at least 3 ft. of space (or 6 ft., if you’re driving a commercial truck). And how are you supposed to know which road user is vulnerable? Maybe you can print out and keep in your car this list — not organized, presumably, by order of importance — from the city press release: “walkers or runners; the physically disabled, such as someone in a wheelchair; a stranded motorist or passengers; highway construction, utility or maintenance workers; tow truck operators; cyclists; moped, motor-driven cycle and scooter drivers; or horseback riders.” [City of Houston] Photo of cyclists on Fry Rd.: Flickr user josephkynguyen