COMMENT OF THE DAY: UNLEARNING THAT NASTY STOPPING FOR PEDESTRIANS HABIT “I recently moved back to Houston after living in Colorado for a few years. I still find myself in the habit of coming to a complete stop any time that I see a pedestrian attempting to cross a street. In CO, it is state law to stop at any legal pedestrian crossing should someone be there. Many of those crossings have signage that illuminates when the pedestrian presses the button to cross. Some even illuminate the crosswalk itself á la Galleria crosswalks, but it’s expected that you stop whether those are in place or not. Also, most people there abide by the rule of allowing people to cross at major intersections (traffic lights) before passing through in their vehicles; this is something that my fellow Houstonians always honk at me for doing here.” [TD, commenting on Walk This Way] Photo: Kevin Trotman (license)
Lower Westheimer is, of course, one of those select “walkable” areas of Houston, but last weekend’s first corporate-sponsored Sunday Streets made it especially so — even in the absence of a traditional neighborhood festival. The Montrose road was blocked off to automobile traffic from Taft to Woodhead for 4 hours.
Video footage of the event from a DJI Inspire 1 piloted by Adam Brackman shows rare scenes of introduced free-range human bipedal and bi-pedal activity in not-so-native habitat — from a few new angles:
And 4 more blocks to go: Site work began last week here in East Downtown to chunk up the pavement into such tidy piles and clear the way for that 5-block pedestrian path known as the EaDo Promenade. These photos show what the very north end of the path, at McKinney and Bastrop St. a block south of BBVA Compass Stadium, looks like, as of yesterday:
There are almost 6,000 miles of street in Houston, according to the Memorial Examiner, and now about a half a mile of one in Midtown can call itself remarkable. The Greenroads Foundation, which confers on streets a kind of LEED-like designation, gave its first formal props to a project in Texas to Bagby St. between Tuam and St. Joseph Pkwy., for the $9 million in improvements built along the 0.62-mile span the past few months.
Included in those improvements are bike racks, street furniture, wayfinding signs, wider sidewalks, and narrower, less harrowing crosswalks. (You can see in the photo above that these improvements don’t include burying utilities.) But the designation isn’t meant just to make the lives of pedestrians more aesthetically pleasing: LED lights were installed; rain gardens were put in to help with drainage; “fly ash” concrete, which reduces carbon emissions, was used where possible; and Bagby itself, with its potholes, patches, and cracks, was repaved atop what the Midtown Redevelopment Authority calls “newly stabilized materials” that are supposed to require less maintenance over the long haul.
Construction should begin by the end of October to transform a chopped-up industrial street in East Downtown into something like the pedestrian promenade rendered here. Anton Sinkewich, the director of the East Downtown Management District, explains that 5 blocks of Bastrop St., between Bell and McKinney, running near the Houston Food Truck Park and leading toward BBVA Compass Stadium on Walker, will be regraded. A pedestrian-only crushed granite path will be installed and dozens of trees planted. This first part of the project is modest, says Sinkewich, though there are plans in place to include more amenities if and when the ’hood continues to grow.
In February, the Art Guys went for distance, walking the marathon that is W. Little York Rd.; tomorrow, they’ll be going for danger. The 9th of their “12 Events” requires Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth to maintain pedestrian safety techniques and situational awareness as they cross the street, all day, at Westheimer and Hillcroft/Voss, what they’re claiming is the “busiest intersection in Houston.”
Here’s the deal: They’ll start their day off walking clockwise, and, presumably to avoid the monotony, switch things up and go counterclockwise the rest of the afternoon. It’s unclear whether they’ll be taking advantage of the various muscle supplements and joint remedies at the nearby Vitamin Shoppe in the Westhill Village Shopping Center there on the southwest corner.
Struggling to make themselves heard above the whoosh of traffic along the Washington Corridor, Better Houston’s Pedestrian Pete (a.k.a. one-time mayoral candidate Peter Brown) and visiting Harvard prof and city planner Peter Park take a very short stroll in this recently uploaded video. Their objective? To lament the guy wires, utility poles, and other hindrances for would-be pedestrians on the few feet of sidewalk they traverse in front of Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Buffalo Wild Wings in this strip center near Leverkuhn at 3939 Washington.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN HOUSTON BUILDINGS WEREN’T SO SHY OF THE STREET “The main reason these old buildings are so charming is their zero-foot setback from the front property line, which results in a much more pedestrian-friendly streetscape.
Ever since the City created the Chapter 42 development requirements, with 25-ft setbacks along major thoroughfares (of which Washington is one) and minimum parking requirements, retail development shifted from pedestrian-friendly zero building line (e.g. 19th St or Rice Village) to strip centers with two rows of parking in front.
After all, if you can’t build within 25 feet of the building line, you might as well put cars there.” [Angostura, commenting on A Restaurant Renovation in the Old Sixth Ward] Illustration: Lulu