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Bicycles become a Houston mayoral campaign issue

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Bicycles become a Houston mayoral campaign issue

Old 10-05-09, 08:51 PM
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kf5nd
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Smile Bicycles become a Houston mayoral campaign issue

One of the challenges facing commuting cyclists is in using their bikes in conjunction with public transit. If METRO could find a way to better assist cyclists, we would all collect multiple dividends in the form of reduced congestion and pollution, and improved public health and energy efficiency. In a hot, sprawled-out city, bikes can help people roll a mile or two to a transit line, completely replacing a car trip.

During the Mayor Bill White / METRO CEO Frank Wilson era, METRO installed bike racks on its buses, and the usage of these racks has grown at a phenomenal rate. METRO failed, however, to extend rush hour access to the light rail train, despite exemplary equipment and policies that have been successfully deployed in other American cities. Now is the time for cyclists to ask for full, unencumbered access to the light rail train.

I emailed the four major Houston mayoral candidates and asked each of them whether they would influence METRO to install bike hangers in the light rail vehicles and allow bicycles in the vehicles during rush hours. Here's what they had to say, in order of their reply:


Annise Parker's answer -

"The answer to your question is 'yes.' We must have a multi-modal transportation system in Houston, including bicycles and bike lanes."


Roy Morales called me personally on the phone, which I appreciated, and said that he wants to chose a new METRO CEO who will be sensitive to the needs of cyclists.


Peter Brown sent me the following email -

"My comprehensive transportation blueprint, which you can view on my website, calls for making Houston a more bike-friendly city, along with expanding access to livable, walkable neighborhoods and effective, efficient mass transit. And it’s important that all these different transportation options function effectively together. My blueprint specifically calls for “a transit system that facilitates biking,” a commitment to find ways to make METRO more accessible for bicyclists. Peak-period access and bike hangers are two options that I would definitely take a close look at, as long as we can make sure that they are feasible and safe for commuters. But a bike friendly Houston doesn’t end there. I think it’s also important that we continue to expand our network of dedicated bike lanes, trails, and other routes. And we need to make sure our law enforcement officers are trained to acknowledge the rights of bicyclists, and protect them on the road. I’m committed to expanding transportation choices, and that includes promoting bicycling as one of those choices."


Finally, the Gene Locke campaign had this to say:

“I believe we can work towards finding a way remove the peak hour ban on bicycles access to the light rail. We need to take a serious look at the feasibility of putting bike racks on light rail cars. We will balance the desire to carry bikes on light rail cars with the safety needs of a high used line such as the red line.”


Cyclists should celebrate the fact that this issue has risen to the attention of the next Mayor of Houston, whoever he or she may be. Clearly, our work is cut out for us. We need to:

1. Vote on November 3. Early Voting starts October 19.
2. Ask the Mayor-elect to appoint a CEO to METRO who has a solid track record in their previous employment of creating and managing transit systems that fully accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians
3. Show up at the METRO Board and Houston City Council meetings, and Harris County Commissioners Court to continually ask for bike access to the trains
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Old 10-06-09, 09:35 AM
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Of all the responses, I like Morales' the best, because it is time for some new blood at Metro. They have been opaque to public scrutiny and evasive about plans and funding for far too long now. It is critical that a publically funded transit organization be responsive to the public. METRO has made it clear over the last 5-10 years that they have no interest in working with the public, and has consistently tried to prevent the public from gathering information about what they do or where their money is going.

I like Peter Brown's response, but having a great plan doesn't mean much if you don't turn it into actual accomplishments and steps forward. LA has a great bicycle access plan, but it is just that, a plan. Nothing has been done to implement it and it is just sitting on a shelf gathering dust. If he is that serious about his plan, why not propose it before city council for formal adoption by the city? Why wait until he is mayor to do it?
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Old 10-06-09, 01:32 PM
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Not one of them said, "yes, i will allow bikes on the light rail during commuting times". In other words, politics as usual.
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Old 10-06-09, 01:40 PM
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Considering that Houston's light rail line extends the total distance of what, maybe 8 miles, there is no place that it goes that you could not simply avoid the train and ride the bike.
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Old 10-06-09, 03:22 PM
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I think the point is that people need to be able to bring their bikes with them so that they can ride rail to near their destination point, and then use the bike to get around from that point on. Perhaps the rail stop is a mile or so away from their office?
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Old 10-06-09, 05:14 PM
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I liked the part about EDUCATING the law enforcers. There is SO much ignorance among local LE guys and gals regarding cycling laws and the rights of cyclists.

Being a Bellaire resident, however, I cannot vote in Houston elections. I may donate to the candidate I favor. I don't favor the principle of outsiders influencing an election, but I spend so much time in Houston, and pay enough sales tax in Houston, I am not a true outsider.
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Old 10-08-09, 02:11 PM
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Rex, you forgot to mention that you are an employee of the city of Houston.

As far as issues go riding the light rail with my bike at anytime is pretty much a non-issue. Not nearly as important as something I've noticed over the years. Here and there, I've noted that whenever road improvements and new construction takes place bicycle infrastructure seems to disappear with no suitable replacement. This happened when they expanded the Katy Freeway, and when they built the Westpark Tollway.

Just seems to me that a bigger issue would be to make sure that all future construction and improvements not only preserve existing infrastructure but actually add more and better infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians. When they start taking these types of steps to insure that everyone is accommodated, not just people driving cars, I might start to consider that the politicos just might actually be working for the common good of all citizens.

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Old 10-08-09, 06:33 PM
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Tex, I like to keep my employer low-profile. Public employees are largely muzzled by policies prohibiting the discussion of political topics.

Yes, the larger police union has endorsed a candidate. That is all I can say at this point.
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Old 10-09-09, 02:32 AM
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Forgot that working for the "guvmint" often involves giving up some of the basic freedoms.
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Old 10-09-09, 07:04 AM
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Well, it is a matter of public knowledge that the larger police union has endorsed Locke. Don't think it is because police unions are conservative, though Locke is known as a default candidate for conservatives this time 'round. Police unions are labor organizations, which tend to endorse pro-labor candidates.

I think this post has stayed with facts, and not strayed into personal opinion.
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Old 10-09-09, 11:45 AM
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Peter, thanks as always. Sadly I too live outside the limits, but can try to influence those I know that do. I wonder where the candidates would/could do one what happened with Yeticross.

Tex, I wouldn't pick on RexG too much. Unless of course you like bracelets.
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Old 10-14-09, 05:07 PM
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Angry KUHF 88.7 FM - Bicyclists want more access to light rail

October 12, 2009

by: Rod Rice, KUHF Houston Public Radio News

While Houston is not the most bicycle friendly city, cycling advocates say commuting by bike here is growing. To increase what's called "inter modal" transit METRO has installed bike racks on its busses. Now cyclists want METRO to do something similar on its trains. Rod Rice reports.
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Old 10-12-11, 01:32 PM
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Old 10-13-11, 08:04 AM
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Being a Dallas area resident, I have only peripheral interest in this but it's a great thread and thanks to the OP for your efforts.

Question for the crowd: If bikes are allowed onto rush hour trains, how many other commuters will be displaced? We all know that bikes on a train are big bulky objects, and even if hanging in a dedicated space, that's space taken away from regular seating. Meaning, every bike on board is one less passenger, maybe more. Therefore, another car trip added to the mix.

What's Metro's position on this?
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Old 10-13-11, 03:04 PM
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Creakyknees, speaking as a Dallas area train commuter, typically during rush hour we leave the fold up seat space under the bike hooks to the pedestrian commuters and park our bikes in the standing area near the doors. And if the train is too full, I wait for the next one. It works ok, you just have to be watchful and be ready to move aside to let folks in and out. I bet the Houston metro could function similarly.
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Old 10-20-11, 09:29 AM
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I've noticed that over the past year, Metro has removed the sideways facing fold up seating on the light rail. Now there's just standing room/space meant for wheelchairs, bikes, and strollers. WAY better for everyone.

Honestly, you could probably hop on the train at most times of the day with a bike, and no one would have an issue. I've seen more congestion caused by two or three ladies each with giant multi-kid strollers on their way to the zoo.

So what does everyone think of the revision of the Washington Ave "bike lane" to the shared lane? I suppose it makes more sense than having a bike lane that gets parked up all the time.
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