Downtown’s Newest Bike Trail: Along Bagby St. to a Precipice Above Sesquicentennial Park

The Downtown Redevelopment Authority is kicking off the engineering phase of its project to run a 2-way bike path along the east side of Bagby St. The new thoroughfare — to be designed by engineering firm Jones Carter — would begin more precisely on W. Dallas St. by the Allen Center parking garages off I-45, then cross Clay St. and hug the curve shown distantly in the rendering above before heading 2 thirds of a mile north up Bagby past 4 adjacent parks. Also on the route: the Houston Public Library, City Hall (shown fronting McKinney in the view at top), the Hobby Center, and Bayou Place.

After crossing Buffalo Bayou, the path would make a right turn and continue east on Franklin St. Following one more right, it comes to an end on Congress, at an elevated drop-off point above the Buffalo Bayou bike trail that crosses through Sesquicentennial Park:

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Bagby would lose 2 driving lanes — one southbound and one northbound:

 

The bike path would run between the road and the eastern sidewalk, with a row of landscaping buffering the 2 pedestrian zones. Widened 21-ft. sidewalks are also planned along the west side of the street.

This map of the bike lane’s full path shows its genesis down by the Allen Center, its hook-up with the Lamar Cycle Track, and its ending point near the bayou:

Also a possible connection: the not-yet-built Preston-St.-to-Wash-Ave bike path Mayor Turner included in the Houston Bike Plan he okayed last March. The map below indicates that planned trail in dashed gray at the top left, along with other existing and proposed non-car routes:

Images and maps: Downtown Redevelopment Authority

Bayou Biking Connection

28 Comment

  • NIce, but why make a 21′ wide sidewalk? Seems like parking would be a better use and even a revenue source.

  • To be honest, this street is currently in great condition and is lightly used. Why not spend the money to repave other major CoH streets that almost rattle you to death before you lose your car’s oil pan? Don’t waste my tax money on this project.

  • WR: Bikes don’t make potholes in roads. And every person on a bike is one less car you have to deal with.

  • Nah; and I wouldn’t have any use of it. CoH ought’a bite the bullet and make Main street bike-only. Think about it: Main cuts through the center of downtown and is a terrible route for getting anywhere downtown by vehicle (one lane wide, no left turns, random-seeming light sequencing– I sure avoid it). Main would be a perfect artery for cyclists in/out of downtown and not constrict motorists any much more than light rail has already. So, sure, there would need to be some concessions and designs to allow delivery and access to/egress from parking garages.
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    On top of that, it’ll have much more “Stockholm, Sweden” bicycle sex appeal than an unused Bagby.

  • Contrary to WR’s statement,this stretch of bagby street turns into a war zone at rush hour, with impatient drivers blocking the intersection to enter interstate 45. I literally just played frogger walking across it a few moments ago.

    Can’t wait for this to take shape!

  • in response the above in no particular order
    @cmoney – was also there moments ago and can confirm war zone
    @chris M – I actually agree with you. I am not a fan of the way light rail has been instituted in our city but if we are stuck with it on main the way it is, just close it off and make it bikes only. Its infuriating to drive on.
    @WR – I assume all things the make its way to approved status and hand out at the city are probably a waste of tax payer money.

  • this is exactly the projects that Houston needs to get it to the “next level” — of being a livable city with amenities other than restaurants, economy, housing, low cost of living etc. Things like lifestyle, outdoors, weather, research and education/grads resources (yes, compare to SV, LA, SD, Chi, even Au and ATL — but cna get better w/ help of TMC and advances by UH, TA&M, UT, Rice etc. ) , high tech workforce weigh the city down in comparison to other top cities (e.g. CA cities, NW cities, Austin etc.). See Amazon location of 2nd HW for example (houston never even was in the discussion). Some of those things are being addressed, and should have been addressed a long time ago. Private sector continues to help in this respect. In any case, tax dollars directed this way does have a significant ROI (good job on Convention Ctr, and Buffalo Bayou by the way)… also, don’t need to promote curb parking or cars downtown. That’s on the way out. Cities are changing drastically, esp. in the next 20 yrs, and Houston being progressive, and quick about it, is it’s chance to make ground over and pass other cities. In fact, we could use one more oil boom or medical tech boom to finance (taxes, and private/city partnerships) the city’s turnaround and further economic diversification.

  • @ cmoney:
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    Wait a minute. If what you say is true (“this stretch of Bagby Street turns into a war zone at rush hour”), then taking out a car lane to turn it into a bike lane would be illogical. None of the current drivers are candidates for biking home – who is riding their bike on I-45, for instance – so taking out a car lane will only make the gridlock worse.
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    Chris M(2)’s idea of turning Main Street into a “bike and light rail only” artery does make sense. Given its horrible light sequencing, no left turn ability from downtown to Midtown, and one lane, I avoid driving on it. Might as well go whole hog and turn the one lane into a bike lane.

  • @cmoney …. right, it is sooooooo busy that they plan on reducing the number of lanes on it.

  • This is great… but it would be WAY cheaper to make one of the lanes into a bike lane. Just sayin.

  • This is progress. I like that this is planned to link to bike lanes on W. Dallas and Washington.

  • Will this plan work if they leave Bayou Place as it is? No one wants to walk underneath the hulking mass. It really kills the pedestrian flow.

  • Fact that they are turning Bagby into a more aesthetically pleasing, and more walkable boulevard , an linking Parks downtown, is the key here. Reducing (and eventually, restricting) private car traffic and curb parking downtown are ultimate goals, as well as a “green’ flow between downtown and midtown, and the bayou. Houston needs such projects for to grow and compete. Happens to be a swamplot article of today’s date, which points exactly to such challenges for the city. Unfortunately, transformation wont be completed for decade(s), maybe. Planners must periodically give people slices of progress in order to keep them supportive… Take down the Pierce elevated and make a park already (i know, I-10/59 bypass not ready)

  • I suspect that a lot of that Bagby traffic in the evenings is due to people coming from 59 Southwest and needing to get to 45 North. Instead of sitting through the parking lot leading up to the Pierce Elevated, and on the Pierce Elevated itself, they hop off on Spur 527, which has an exit that dumps traffic onto Bagby, and then ride Bagby north to the 45 entrance ramp.
    .
    From Bagby east, literally every other street is northbound with multiple lanes. The traffic that doesn’t fit on Bagby can use those.

  • My bad, the Spur dumps out onto Brazos, right next door to Bagby. I always get those two confused. But the rest of my post stands.

  • Main could definitely be closed off to non-emergency traffic (which would also give ambulances a clear route through downtown to St. Joseph’s, and who knows, could save a few lives). That would then be the only north/south bicycle route needed.
    .
    This plan for Bagby looks okay. I don’t like that southbound cyclists have to ride against the flow of traffic though–same problem as with the Lamar bike lane. That’s dangerous because turning drivers often don’t check the opposite direction before pulling out.
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    Instead, one bike lane should go on each side of the street.

  • Main street would be horrible for bikes. Bricks and train tracks are not a good surface for cycling.
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    People drive to and from downtown because it is (or seems to be) convenient. Making it less convenient isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Some of the people might decide to take mass transit if gridlock increases a little.

  • I think more commuters into downtown would opt for biking (based on their comfort distance and protected bike lanes) if companies provided showers since we have a warmer climate most year round. They would also have to provide a spot to securely store the bike for the day and even offer a biking incentive. More and more companies are promoting physical activity as it is cheaper for them to sponsor such initiatives in the long run. I believe they can curb insurance premium increases if they prove their employees are being more active and practicing healthier living habits. My company is pretty good about this but I think it is more the exception. Unfortunately I live too far away to be willing to take the risk to get to a secured bike lane. Cars still rule the roads and we have a few generations before we come close to other biking friendly cities and countries.

  • I am in favour of this project as it benefits our city and adds mobility options. However, it must be part of a larger mesh or grid of dedicated bicycle lanes. We need more of these dedicated bike lanes throughout the city, e.g. downtown, midtown, MFAH. The point to make is that additional dedicated lanes intersecting this project’s lanes must also be implemented. So I’d say let’s not stall the momentum but rather build on it.

  • @ Memebag: You must not travel down Main Street (between downtown and Midtown) since you are unaware that the car lane discussed is made of concrete: a perfectly good surface for biking.
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    And, your theory of “make more gridlock to co-opt people into biking” is ridiculous.
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    More gridlock only leads to commuter anger as well as pollutes the environment by forcing everyone to idle (cars, buses, trucks). Also, not good for bicyclists since they are breathing all of that engine exhaust. If anything, we should be be promoting LESS gridlock.

  • Neat plan but pre/post show traffic in front of the Hobby Center is going to be a nightmare.

  • HouCynic, while I agree that biking should be promoted and I enjoy riding I just wonder how many people know they will definitely not need to suddenly go somewhere not practical for a bike? This could be to visit a client, go “on site” to a project or even grab a kid from school. I had a neighbor that always walked and biked to this place and that and constantly tried to bum rides while his Prius sat. And don’t get me started on the hazards of owning a pick up truck. I put electrical tape on the bumper that said “NO”.

  • I’m glad to see a lot of participation in this discussion. I am strongly in favor of facilitating people using bikes to get around, whether for work or pleasure. However, as a guy who is getting older, I don’t feel safe anymore biking around. Decades ago, I was hit broadside by a car while biking on the Memorial Drive “Hike and Bike Trail” , which is really just a sidewalk. I was lucky to survive that. And nowadays, we hear even more about how dangerous Houston is for cyclists.

    As for Main Street, I agree that it is not a very useful avenue to use. The lack of left turns, etc. So … I wouldn’t object to it being made a car-free street. Most of you guys are probably too young to remember, but there was a proposal decades ago (70s?) to make it a pedestrian mall. That was a fashionable concept in those years in places like Eugene, Oregon and other places. Many years have passed, but I’m not sure how that has worked out for cities that implemented it.

  • @Wolf Brand Chili: The “car lane” is covered with bricks. I’m looking at it right now on Google street view. It’s also full of railroad tracks. I ride my bike downtown at least once a week. Try looking here:
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    https://www.google.com/maps/@29.7580137,-95.3640244,3a,75y,213.16h,87.94t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sMj6DeuuGXHRKWQQXcsBYSA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  • Take a look at how Seville (in Spain) did their bike infrastructure recently to see how to do it right, by the way. They pretty much overnight went from nearly zero bike lanes to having a complete network. Their politicians rushed it through within one election cycle in order to reap the benefits of having the full network.
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    That’s the thing, incomplete bike infrastructure doesn’t do nearly as much to get people out cycling as a well-connected and thorough network. A bike lane like this is great, but if you still have to ride on trafficky, frightening streets like Washington and Dallas streets in order to get to it, people aren’t going to use it nearly as much.
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    On the other hand, if you IMMEDIATELY couple this with protected lanes down those two streets, you have entire densely-populated neighborhoods which can easily access the full network and use it to commute, for recreation, etc. That’s the way it needs to be done.

  • @Wolf Brand Chili: And as I said, more gridlock doesn’t have to lead to more gridlock. It can lead to less gridlock if people decide other forms of transportation are better for them.

  • There’s no need to encourage gridlock.
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    We’ve been needing to raise gas taxes for decades now. Congestion pricing inside the loop instead of building toll roads would be another obvious thought.
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    Really wonder sometimes what all the baby boomers, congress and state legs have been wasting their time doing these past few decades. Oh wait, fighting culture wars and wasting their grandkids futures by giving it way to billionaire foreigners.

  • @Memebag: as is now, I don’t believe bikes are allowed on the tracks anymore than cars are. And I’d welcome bricks to the massive potholes/drifts/rubble present on most asphalt bake-lane signed roads (ever try Woodhead? Hawthorne?)– seriously, Main St. is actually very nice to bike on ’cause of the lack of: cars, speeding cars, cars swerving around you (compared to other streets), curb-parking, and garage access.
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    Downtown’s already frustratingly congested. I don’t think about making it worse so people think to “bike more.” No. NO! The motorist’s answer to congestion is: bigger+faster roads. And that is not what we cyclists need nor want WHEN more and better cohabitable biking options are plausible.