Transportation

Mayor Turner signs off on plan to add bike lanes on 11th Street in the Heights

The changes will unfold along a mile-and-half stretch in the neighborhood, from Shepard moving east to Michaux.

Bicycle road sign on asphalt.

A proposal to convert some vehicle lanes into bike lanes on 11th Street in the Heights will move forward.

Mayor Sylvester Turner made the announcement Tuesday in a taped video released online by his office. The project had split Heights residents and businesses, with some concerned about slow-moving roads and the potential for vehicles to use residential streets.

"For all this to happen, traffic on 11th street will have to go slower," Turner said. "This change won't be easy and won't satisfy everyone. We are trading off speed for safety. Walking and biking will be safer all day long."

The 11th Street project will improve access for those traveling on foot or bike in the Heights. The changes will unfold along a mile-and-a-half stretch in the neighborhood, from Shepherd moving east to Michaux.

For drivers, the move means lanes condensing from four to three in some parts, and in others, two lanes down to just one. The city is adding a pedestrian refuge island at 11th and Nicholson and more safety signs along the stretch. The bike lanes will be separated with concrete curbs.

"Houston roads saw more crashes and fatalities in 2021 than ever before," Turner said. "More than 300 people were killed and another 1,600 were seriously injured on Houston streets in 2021. We must put a stop to it and 11th street is one way to start."

Joe Cutrufo, the executive director of Bike Houston, says it's not about cars versus bikes.

"This is not a lane reduction as much as it is a lane conversion. Currently 11th street has four lanes solely to cars and trucks with no right of way for people on bikes," Cutrufo said. "What this project aims to do is provide a safe right of way for everyone, regardless of how they get around."

In 2021, Houston was recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project as one of just 95 cities across the globe that taking leadership on environmental action and transparency. During the same year, the city of Houston advocated for the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

"When Mayor Turner adopted the Climate Action Plan, the Houston Bike Plan and the Vision Zero action plan, he asked his planners and engineers to eliminate traffic fatalities, to reduce greenhouse gas initiatives, to give Houstonians safe alternatives to driving," Cutrufo said. "We need to let these people do their jobs."

The project is expected to take 20 months to complete and construction could begin within a few months.