Three hit-and-run bike fatalities happened over a 45-day period. They occurred in different parts of Houston, and they were all at night. The latest accident happened earlier this week on Harrisburg near Brays Bayou.
While the city has developed an extensive system of bike paths over the past few years, all of the crashes were on city streets. So is Houston a dangerous place to ride a bike? Michael Payne with the advocacy group BikeHouston says a lot more needs to be done.
“Houston as a city has not really yet begun to embrace cyclists as users of the streets, and the fact of the matter is that cyclists have a legal right to share the road safely.”
Payne says according to the group’s numbers, about 200,000 bikes are sold every year in Houston, and more people are starting to use bikes for their daily activities. He’s calling on HPD to do more to enforce the city’s Safe Passage Ordinance. That’s the measure that requires drivers to move over at least three feet when they’re passing a bike.
Payne also wants the city to put together a high-level working group to develop a Master Bike Plan that supports Houston’s Complete Streets Initiative.
“And that means putting money into improved facilities, hiring bicycle planning professionals, doing education.”
Asked about the recent accidents, Mayor Annise Parker says the city is taking measures to keep cyclists safe, and she supports HPD’s efforts to enforce the Safe Passage Ordinance. But Parker adds a lot depends on drivers.
“One of the things we get asked for is more bike lanes, and you will see a few more bike lanes, but when you have an impaired driver, having a stripe down the road is not going to help you.”
Payne agrees there are things drivers and cyclists can do to avoid accidents. He’s appealing to drivers to put down their phones and pay attention. Cyclists also need to follow the rules, and should do everything possible to make themselves visible, even during the day.
“Wear a helmet, but also wear bright colors. Get some Day-Go jackets. Make sure your reflectors are working and your lights are working before you leave the house.”
And if you ride your bike on city streets, Payne suggests you plan your route, and choose quieter streets with a speed limit of less than 25 miles per hour.