In NW Houston, our roads are narrow, congested, and usually do not have a shoulder. There have been several widening projects and none seem to help accomodate pedestrian or bike traffic. Thus, I wanted to voice my opinion and write to my county government.
My initial desire was to see if bike lanes or other options were even considered in planning roads and bridges projects. I spoke of my commute to work, school, and shops and that I would like to see the county recognize this traffic and seek to create ways that would protect people on the roads.
Here is the response from my county official:
Thank you for your e-mail transmittal of September 15, 2005 regarding your desire for Precinct Four to install bicycle lanes along our roadways. We appreciate your affording us an opportunity to address this matter and regret the length of time taken to respond.
Please know, the county tax you pay contributes to road, bridge and ditch maintenance for all publicly maintained roads you travel and other transportation facilities like the Hardy Toll Road. Other services provided include the County’s operation of a county jail and detention system, park and library system, civil and criminal courts, district attorney’s office, county attorney’s office, county sheriff’s department, juvenile probation and detention services, juvenile homes and county public health and social welfare services. As you can see, our tax dollars go beyond the realm of road and bridge maintenance and provide for a wide array of county services and departments.
Harris County realizes a significant challenge as our rural areas develop and the need to upgrade our existing rural roadway system is encountered. Funds to upgrade Harris County roadways derive from bond funds. Harris County voters approved a road and bridge Bond Referendum in November 2001 and projects previously identified for improvements are being pursued. Unfortunately, the needs are greater than the financial resources. Public safety is very important to the Commissioner and our roadways are designed with safety in mind.
Costs associated with providing wider outside lanes accommodating a potential bicyclist along a major thoroughfare includes; however, is not limited to the need to acquire additional road right of way for the placement of additional pavement, drainage mitigation due to the elimination of back of curb swales currently designed to capture overland storm water flows and relocation of utilities located within the right of way. The estimated pavement costs to widen the outside lane by only one-foot in each direction for a length of one-mile is more than $200,000. Therefore, the expense for widening an outside lane from a typical 12-foot wide pavement increases the cost of a typical one-mile long four-lane concrete boulevard significantly.
Bike lanes on roadways designed to accommodate the safe movement of passenger vehicles and trucks is not the appropriate location for the majority of bicyclists. Providing additional lane widths would not offer bicyclists the safety benefit needed and would only provide a false sense of security; therefore, the inclusion of bike lanes on our roadway system cannot be accommodated.
Please know, Commissioner Eversole encourages his staff to capture opportunities for developing off-road system bikeways. Precinct Four has been successful in partnering with the Faulkey Gully Greenbelt Association for developing a hike and bike facility along Faulkey Gully, in phases, between Cypress Creek and Spring Cypress Road. Sections of the ten-foot wide asphalt hike and bike facility are already in place and progress is being made for the installation of yet another phase with the intent to complete the trail as originally planned. Precinct Four recently partnered with the city of Jersey Village to install a similar hike and bike facility along White Oak Bayou.
Again, thank you for affording me an opportunity to address this matter. Please contact Precinct Four's Community Assistance Department, at (281) 353-8424, or visit our website at www.cp4.hctx.net should you have any questions regarding other Precinct 4 Road and Bridge matters.