Transportation

Protesters Demand Change After Two Cyclists Are Killed At A Problematic Intersection

Rice University students say just crossing the street can be a major source of stress, no matter what mode of transportation you’re using.

Cyclists want the City of Houston make major changes at the intersection of Main Street and Sunset Boulevard, a crowded intersection where two cyclists have now been struck and killed.

The intersection is just across from the Rice University campus. And it’s not easy to get through no matter what mode of transportation you’re using. If you want to walk or bike to the nearby light rail stop you have to cross over six lanes on Main Street and two on Fannin. To get to Hermann Park you have to cross over the light rail tracks and two more lanes on Fannin.

Just down the street there’s a ghost bike covered in flowers. It’s in memory of Rice University Professor Marjorie Corcoran who was struck by a light rail train while riding her bike in February 2017.

Soon there will be another ghost bike to remember a cyclist who was killed at the intersection last week when her bike was struck by a dump truck.

As vehicles whizzed by on Main Street, protesters gathered at the intersection Thursday morning to demand safety improvements. The event was organized by Bike Houston and Rice University Cycling and Triathlon.

One of those taking part was Rice University senior Madeline Pelzel, who referred to the intersection as “extraordinarily stressful.”

“I think it causes people anxiety every day,” said Pelzel. “I have so many friends who use it to commute every day and their parents are constantly anxious for them, trying to get them to change the way they get to school.”

And Pelzel added that students shouldn’t have to put their lives at risk just to get to class.

“This intersection, the entry to our university, should not be one that are parents are scared for our lives every day.”

We also spoke with Rice University graduate student Cat Majors. She said there needs to be a brightly colored crosswalk and additional signage.

“I actually avoid this intersection,” said Majors. “I don’t go bike in Hermann Park as much as I would like to simply because I am terrified of this intersection.”

Another Rice student taking part in the protest was Ronan O’Connell, who said when he’s riding his bike in the area he just assumes that people aren’t going to see him. We asked him how he thinks infrastructure improvements would enhance safety.

“One way would definitely be to create more protected turn signals here because there’s a lot of congestion and a lot of confusion. I think the cars are more focused on other cars than they are on pedestrians and cyclists,” said O’Connell. “I also think bike lanes are a definite way to improve safety here because you have designated areas where cyclists are known to be.”

During the protest groups holding signs walked back and forth through the crosswalk, chanting and encouraging drivers to honk in support. And we saw a lot of the problems that plague Main and Sunset on a daily basis, like cars turning in front of pedestrians.

“I mean the time we’ve been standing out here, it’s been less than an hour now, there have been five or six or seven incidents where cars have almost run over people,” said John Long, Executive Director of Bike Houston. “It needs to be a people-centered urban environment and we’ve got a long ways to go at this point.”

Long is part of a working group that convened last year to look at ways to improve Main and Sunset, a process he calls “frustratingly slow.”

Rice University’s Mobility Safety Committee is also working on the issue and expects to soon issue its initial recommendations.

 

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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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