Plus a judge backs bike commuters.
Way to go, Peter!
Jan. 14, 2008, 1:37AM
Reopening lanes will ease Memorial traffic
By RAD SALLEE
When construction puts the squeeze on freeway traffic, a lot of it squirts out into residential neighborhoods. But sometimes those streets get squeezed, too.
The Katy Freeway widening, for example, has driven motorists southward to Memorial and north to Westview, both of which parallel the freeway.
But for several weeks now, Memorial has been narrowed from two lanes in each direction to one at Texas 6, where an overpass will be built.
It doesn't take many cars on Memorial to generate a wait at the stoplight.
At 10:30 a.m. on a recent weekend, traffic there was negligible, but it still took three cycles of the light to get through. And that was nothing compared to a weekday rush hour or a weekend shopping day before Christmas.
Good news from Katy Freeway project spokeswoman Raquelle Lewis: The contractor anticipates having Memorial back to two lanes in each direction by the end of this week.
Make way for bicycles
County Judge Ed Emmett stood up for bicyclists in a Jan. 2 letter to Metropolitan Transit Authority president Frank Wilson.
Emmett praised Metro for equipping all its buses with bike racks and allowing bikes on the light rail trains, but he disagreed with a rule that limits them on trains to off-peak hours, weekends and holidays.
"Commuter bicyclists work the same business hours as other transit customers and commuters," Emmett wrote.
Metro spokeswoman Raequel Roberts said the agency prefers not to comment before replying to Emmett, so we will.
The aisle between train seats is pretty narrow for a bike and its owner. There's more space near the doors, but people are getting on and off there. A bike pedal can put a scratch, or a gash, into human flesh. At rush hour, it can be standing room only.
Some light rail trains — bike advocates showed photos of them to the Metro board — have racks or straps where bikes can be hung, out of the way, but Metro's are not designed that way.
Emmett's letter said he hopes that when the agency buys trains for its next five planned rail lines, the new design will "optimize space for all customers."
Sharing the road
Another biker, Peter Wang, isn't letting the county off easy, though.
"There are warning signs for ducks on West Road at Arranmore," he writes, "but no signs indicating that motorists should share the road with bicyclists (which is the law), and of course, no bike lanes or shoulders.
"Maybe I should dress up in a duck suit when I go bicycling? Would motorists give me more consideration?"
'An unknown substance'
Cliff Bivins, who rides another kind of bike, got a scare recently on the southbound Southwest Freeway near Sharpstown Center.
"In the center lane is a permanently wet spot that's slimy," he said. "I hit the ... thing and felt the wheels spin. Your heart leaps into your mouth."
Bivins said he was "going with the flow of traffic" about 70 mph, and his motorcycle's tires have "a lot of bite."
Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Karen Othon said a maintenance crew was sent out and found "an unknown substance" on the main lanes near Bellaire. They notified the Houston Fire Department, she said.
Without an exact location, it's not clear what Bivins ran over.
He thought the substance was gunk left from groundwater seeping up through a crack, but Othon said the crew found something that looked like spilled epoxy that had since hardened.
Whatever it was, Bivins pointed out a common road hazard, especially for motorcyclists. There are a lot of places, such as underpasses, where water collects and turns into slime.
Watch out when the roadway dips, especially if you're doing 70 mph on a motorcycle in traffic.
Don't take safety lightly
Thomas Fischer says a Dec. 24 item about school zone crossing signs that flash their lights at all hours of the day and night missed an important point.
Besides advising motorists about the law and children's safety, he said, Move It! should have pointed out the numbing effect on drivers.
"The more school zone flashing lights go off at incorrect times, the more area motorists will tend to ignore these signals," Fischer said.
He's right. Houston public works spokesman Wes Johnson urges residents and school officials to report these problems to 311.
Don't send them to the police department or the school district, he said, since public works maintains the signs, and 311 is the most direct route.
And if you don't get action in a week or so, drop us a line.