Shedding Light On Houston’s ‘Invisible Cyclists’

The image many people have of a cyclist may not be totally realistic. A new report looks at who’s actually riding bikes in Houston.


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Andrew Keatts wrote an article for Rice University’s Kinder Institute on just who’s cycling on Houston streets.

Keatts says according to Census Bureau data, it’s estimated about 40 percent of big city cyclists are workers who have few other options for getting around. 

“They’re basically working-class people who need to get to their job on time and quickly, and sometime buses aren’t the best way to do that and walking can take forever,” explains Keatts. “So for a lot of people it’s a much easier situation to just find a bike.”

And those riders don’t always get a lot of recognition in the cycling community.

“It’s not just that they’re missing a big piece of the group of cyclists,” says Keatts. “It’s that they’re missing the biggest piece.”

Those low-income riders are sometimes referred to as “invisible cyclists.” And it’s not just because of a lack of advocacy. Appearing last week on Houston Matters, Keatts says those cyclists often are invisible, because in many cases they can’t afford illumination for their bikes.

They may also ride on the sidewalk or on the edge of the roadway. And on-street bike lanes aren’t always suited to their needs.

“Those things are predominantly focused on getting people who don’t bike now to consider biking as an option, and they are less helpful to the people who are already biking and who are going to be biking no matter what,” says Keatts.

Houston is currently working on a comprehensive Bike Plan that would set up a network of bike routes throughout the city.

One of the stated goals of the plan is to provide easier ways to pedal to work.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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