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New Bike Lanes Taking Shape In Houston After County Commissioner Pledges Funds

The initiative is adding about 19 miles of new bike lanes. Many are in underserved communities where people rely on their bikes for work and errands.

In April 2018, Commissioner Rodney Ellis announced he was committing $10 million in Precinct One funds for new on-street bike lanes that could be developed in Houston over a 12-month time frame.

A year later, we sat down with Ellis at his office near NRG Park to follow up on what’s been accomplished.

“It breaks my heart to hear stories about pedestrian and bicycling fatalities in Houston,” said Ellis, who’s a cyclist himself. “The number of pedestrians and cyclists killed every year in Harris County is simply unacceptable.”

Ellis said he offered the money to help jump start projects that were consistent with the Houston Bike Plan and the city’s complete streets initiative. Because of that funding, he said Houston will have about 19 miles of new on-street lanes, including Hardy and Elysian Streets in Near Northside. There’s also new lanes on Lyons Street north of downtown. Other projects are in Midtown and the Third Ward.

“In terms of connectivity and equal opportunity, equity has been a key value driving our planning process for these bikeways,” said Ellis, pointing out that many low-income Houstonians rely on a bike to get to work. He cited figures from AAA showing that the average cost of owning a vehicle is about $8000 a year.

“There are many people in this city who simply don’t have an extra $8,000 a year for a car,” said Ellis. So I want to focus on equity in terms of making it possible for people to get to work, to drop a kid off at daycare, to get to a community college or high school.”

As for where he’d like to see more on-street lanes in the future, Ellis mentioned areas like Sheldon to the northeast and Alief to the west, as well as neighborhoods around Bush Intercontinental Airport and the Houston Ship Channel. He said there’s also a huge need in the Sunnyside neighborhood just outside the I-610 South Loop.

“If we can work with the city and get them to partner with us and put up some funds, I’d like to go down Martin Luther King Boulevard, as an example,” said Ellis. “It’s built much wider than the need for vehicles and you can take a lane out and have traffic, bicycles, and pedestrian lanes going both ways.”

But all of these projects will take another infusion of cash. Ellis said he’s seeking support from lots of different entities.

“It’s important that we maintain a collaborative approach and be creative,” said Ellis. “I want to challenge other organizations including cities, management districts, nonprofits and others to work together and use this as a model and take steps continuing to fill out the Bike Plan, fill in the gaps. No single organization can do everything.”

Full Conversation with Cmr. Ellis on Houston Matters:

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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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