The drought of 2011 has left its mark on Houston, which has lost several million trees. To support the reforestation efforts, the annual Tour de Houston bicycle ride event started last year to use its proceeds for the city’s Re-Plant Houston Program. After the tour had to be canceled in 2011 for lack of funds, oil company Apache Corp. signed on as the tour’s main sponsor last year and again this year.
Mayor Parker at the podium for the 2013 Tour de Houston press conference
The company has planted 3 million trees throughout the United States, including more than 390,000 in Houston. Houston Mayor Annise Parker says that makes Apache a good match for years to come.
“This is not something where we can just plant one year. Trees have to be renewed and refreshed and replanted every year, so I think this is going to be an ongoing partnership, certainly with this sponsor, but if we have others in the future, that’s going to be one of the things we ask for.”
In a city where temperatures hit the 80s and 90s a lot during the year, more trees can also mean more shade for bicyclists. And although Houston is predominantly an automobile city, Parker says bike-friendliness is growing.
“I don’t think the city of Houston has been given enough credit for being a bike-friendly city. We have an extensive network of trails, we just — thanks to the voters of Houston — embarked on a massive trail construction project, $200 million we’re going to be spending on hike-and-bike trails along the major bio system in the city of Houston.”
Parker also points to on-road bike lanes and the city’s bike rental program. In addition, she says, not many cities have the luxury of a climate where you can ride a bike throughout the year.
The city expects 5,000 riders for this year’s tour, which features 20, 45, and 70-mile routes. Those who opt for the short route might ride with Mayor Parker.