COMMENT OF THE DAY: DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT THE WEATHER “I lived in Washington, DC for 8 years and the typical Washington summer day is every bit as miserable as a Houston summer day. (There are somewhat fewer of them, of course.) And all summer, the streets were crowded with people walking. In the dead of winter, when it was 20 degrees out, the streets were full of people walking. The difference is that the city was built for walking; sidewalks rarely vanished mid block. Pedestrian crossings weren’t a mile apart. There were relatively few city streets eight lanes wide to get across.
Obviously the central city density was a big part of that, but funny thing: people seem to actually like walking. Part of that time I lived in Arlington, VA, which is about like the Heights in density, and I thought nothing of walking 15 minutes up the street to the Metro station or the main boulevard where the shops and cafes and whatnot were. I also would regularly visit friends in Takoma Park, MD, another surburban-ish area, and . . . people walked.
When I was in college in upstate NY, people walked (most students didn’t have cars on campus, because why would you have a car on campus). People walked 20 minutes downtown on subzero nights to go drinking. People trudged up the giant hill to campus in snow and wind. They could wait for the campus shuttle bus a lot of the time . . . but mostly they didn’t. They walked.
There are very real reasons that people don’t walk as much in Houston, but the weather ain’t one of them.” [John (another one), commenting on Comment of the Day: Walking Is Not Native to Houston] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WALKING IS NOT NATIVE TO HOUSTON “. . . I do think Houstonians tend to really regard walkers as oddities of nature.
Our climate doesn’t really foster a natural desire to walk outside so it is a strange sight to see someone actually — outside. Walking. As a native Houstonian, it has taken me decades to realize that walking along a bayou trail — and using relevant sidewalks to get to/from it — is actually quite nice.
That being said, I’m more mindful of fellow pedestrians when I’m in my car. I yield for them not only out of lawful duty, general Southern courtesy, but also as a slight ‘Atta boy!’ for them actually walking.” [Wolf Brand Chili, commenting on Comment of the Day: Unlearning That Nasty Stopping for Pedestrians Habit] Illustration: Lulu
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)
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.
Photo of Art Guys on W. Little York Rd.: Everett Taasevigen
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: IT’S TOO MUGGY TO WALK HERE “IMO people in Houston do not walk as much as they do in other cities. I have a friend who lives at West Ave and drives to Whole foods across the street, stuff like that. This is why Houston hasn’t had more ground floor retail in the past and we require 2375646523 parking spaces per 200 unit apt complex. Now everyone blames the heat for not walking, but I blame it on laziness and crime. If you build a walker friendly area that is safe like on west gray or west ave then people will come.” [benny, commenting on Comment of the Day: Would Ground Floor Retail Work in the Rice Village?] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WALKING IN OAK FOREST “Greater Oak Forest probably has fewer opportunities to be walkable than either the newer or older master-planned communities (i.e. Eastwood or The Woodlands). The older ones have secondary thoroughfares spaced at shorter intervals, so for instance every four blocks instead of every ten blocks; they were built with sidewalks; deed restrictions tended to be weaker; and they were much smaller to begin with, easier to escape on foot. The newer MPCs were designed to have jogging trails and interconnectivity for recreation rather than for transportation, but that’s something at least to walk around for.
The Oak Forest walkability problem is apparent if you just look at Google Earth. It’s a big gigantic green splotch with only one viable commercial strip running through it and 34th Street (across the tracks) as the red-headed stepchild of neighborhood retail. The neighborhood streets tend to run parallel with the commercial strips with perpendicular streets at much less frequent intervals. It’s not walkable. It wasn’t intended to be walkable by design.
When I lived in that area, I’d walk two miles to Petrol Station and back. That’s how I justified to myself indulging in the Rancor Burger. But then . . . you have to understand that I am insane. Not as profoundly insane as the Art Guys, but I’m the sort of person that will walk alone from Montrose to Bellaire and back via the TMC from between 10PM and 3AM for no particular reason. Normal, sane people aren’t gonna walk like I walk.
But don’t get me wrong. I suspect that Greater Oak Forest’s relative lack of walkability or mixed-use potentials is part of what draws the big money in. They prefer it to be insulated from the urban core physically, aesthetically, and demographically. If you own property there, you will prosper. [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Drive for Oak Forest Retail]
WHAT IT MEANS TO WALK WITH THE ART GUYS Following them in his van as they hiked all 26 miles of Little York, photographer Otis Ike seems to have had time to come to terms with the piece the Art Guys are calling “The Longest Street in Houston:” “Having to explain the project in its most basic form allowed me, early on, to see Little York Road as an intricate social passage in which the Art Guys and myself were temporary and secondary to the basic necessities of the road’s users,” he writes today on Glasstire: “Yet there was something spectacular that started to emerge . . . . The Art Guys had become a moving target for me to frame the city and comment on the way that we manipulate, pave and . . . program the earth in the name of selling shit to people in cars.” [Glasstire; previously on Swamplot] Photo of the Art Guys on Highway 290: Otis Ike
And the celebratory stunt that the Art Guys pulled this month was walking the entire length of Little York Rd. Moving on, apparently, from their uprooting in early January at the Menil Collection, the shadowy figures Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing completed “The Longest Street in Houston” last Tuesday, walking the 29.6 miles of Little York from Mesa Road to where the concrete ends at Jasmine Crest Lane in Settlers Village.
This is some of what they saw:
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DRIVING IN HOUSTON? SO DéCLASSé Artists Carrie Schneider and Alex Tu — that’s Tu in the homemade Hazmat at right — recently walked the first leg of their revamp of Art Guy Michael Galbreth’s “The Human Tour,” a 40-mile hike through Houston in the shape of a body that he devised as a UH student in 1987; OffCite’s Edward S. Garza meets Schneider and Tu in a Midtown restaurant and looks to a higher source to understand what the artists “hope to accomplish,” he writes: “The televisions in Natachee’s are tuned to an episode of The Brady Bunch. Peter Brady is twirling a baton and doing a little jig in the living room. I think of how the Brady family would fit in well in Houston. They would certainly live outside the 610 Loop or, more likely, outside Beltway 8. Mr. and Mrs. Brady would seek somewhere ‘nice’ — that is, suburban, homogenous, and car-centric — to raise their children, and they would relish the array of choices: Pearland, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, Friendswood, Kingwood, Tomball, Spring, Clear Lake, Cypress, Katy. Anyone who has lived in this city for a considerable time will say it: in Houston, to be middle class is to spend a lot of time in a vehicle.” [OffCite; previously on Swamplot] Photo: OffCite
Invasion of the Art Snatchers: Carrie Schneider and Alex Tu, pictured above (though not in their everyday wear), are planning to reproduce the Art Guy Michael Galbreth’s “The Human Tour,” reports Houston Press‘s Meredith Deliso. As a UH student in 1987, Galbreth came up with the crosstown tour: a 40-mile, anatomically correct urban hike in the shape of a human figure.
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