In Texas, Houston joins Austin, San Antonio and The Woodlands as communities the League of American Bicyclists recognizes as bike-friendly.
The city’s sustainability director Laura Spanjian accepted the award during a bike-friendliness workshop at the Westin Memorial City in west Houston.
She says there are several reasons why Houston deserves it.
“We passed policies. We finally passed the safe passing law. Mayor Parker passed a complete streets executive order. But we’ve also launched initiatives, we launched the Houston Bike Share initiative, and we’ve launched major infrastructure initiatives — the Bayou Greenway, voters passed a $100 million bond and then the private sector community came in with another $100 million, so $200 million to build off-street infrastructure.”
Bill Nesper with the League of American Bicyclists says Houston got a bronze award, which means the city is on the right track, but there is still work to be done.
“It’s important to continue to scale up the infrastructure to close gaps in the bicycling network, so the trail system that is growing, that is excellent. You have an excellent bike-sharing system here, I think expanding the bike-sharing system. Really continuing to increase awareness of the events, biking events, that are going on in Houston. But also increasing awareness to the general public that you can go by bike to X, Y or Z location.”
Michael Payne is the director of Bike Houston, a bicycle advocacy group. He says Houston deserves the award, but the city needs to do more specific planning to further improve bike friendliness – and not just for downtown, midtown and the medical center but beyond.
“This is 6.2 million people going across 10 counties. It’s the fourth largest city in the country. We need our government officials, our elected officials to lead by looking into the future and thinking about what we need and not by looking into the rearview mirror.”
One critical point is improving safety. There have been three fatal hit-and-run accidents in just the last three months. The Houston Chronicle has found that 23 bike riders were killed in the past five years.
Bill Nesper says that’s a problem in many big cities.
“It’s important that Houston looks at where these crashes are happening, where fatalities are happening and address unsafe intersections to improve awareness that bicyclists do have a right to ride. On the other end, too, improving education for all parties.”
Laura Spanjian agrees that the city needs to do better in avoiding any more deaths on the road.
“I think there’s three things we need to do: We need to enforce the laws that we have now. We need to educate motorists and bicyclists about how to be safer on the road, and we need to build more bike infrastructure so that people feel safe when they’re on the road.”
Houston is one of 49 communities the League of American Bicyclists added to its Bicycle Friendly Communities this year. That’s out of 100 applicants.