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Bike commuting in Houston?

Old 09-14-10, 11:13 AM
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Bike commuting in Houston?

Hey all,

My wife and I are contemplating moving from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Houston, Texas sometime in the next year so that I can take a job at Rice University. So while this is preliminary, I was wondering if Houston is a bike friendly city? More specifically, how possible would it be to bike commute to Rice University within say a 15 mile radius of the campus? How much of an issue is the heat? I commuted by bike to and from work 5 days a week in Saint Paul, Minnesota since March, including days when the temperature was in excess of 90F and > 90% relative humidity without much difficulty (about 14 miles round trip).

Thanks,
Brad
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Old 09-14-10, 11:44 AM
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The Rice University / Village area is very bike-friendly. Exactly what area of town are you looking to commute from?

If you can do 7 miles each way in 90+ degree temperatures with > 90% humidity, you'll feel right at home in Houston. The great thing about Houston is that from November through February you can pretty much commute in regular work clothes because it never gets that cold (at least compared to MN).

Gina Mitteco, the Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator for H-GAC (Houston-Galveston Area Council), is also from Minnesota and commutes daily to the H-GAC office in Greenway Plaza, Houston.

Aaron
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Old 09-14-10, 11:53 AM
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Up here in Dallas, I ride all summer, but can't commute. Mainly because for about half the year, I would be dripping sweat after riding more than a half-mile. So if you can ride in high temperatures and high humidity without sweating, you're in good shape. Or if you have a place to commute to where you can shower, or where it's okay to drip sweat and stink when you start work, you're in good shape.

Houston does have a bit more rain than here- not sure how it compares to Minnesota.
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Old 09-14-10, 02:36 PM
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Most of Houston is fine, but there are just certain areas that don't have a whole lot of route options (I'm sure any city is like that). Rice area is good for commuting.

I commute ~13-15miles almost daily (when not in school). I definitely require a change of clothes, a splash in the sink, and some deodorant. I mean, it's hot... but it's all in what your job requires of you, how you feel, and how much out of your way you will go (e.g. maybe a local gym membership to use their showers if work has none?).

For the cold, I never wore more than windbreaker pants over shorts (it was warm enough in the afternoon for the shorts ), a short sleeve jersey with arm warmers. Probably a beanie under the helmet, probably some gloves.

Rain... eh... it's spotty. Always. Forecasts are wrong. Always.
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Old 09-14-10, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronechang View Post
The Rice University / Village area is very bike-friendly. Exactly what area of town are you looking to commute from?

If you can do 7 miles each way in 90+ degree temperatures with > 90% humidity, you'll feel right at home in Houston. The great thing about Houston is that from November through February you can pretty much commute in regular work clothes because it never gets that cold (at least compared to MN).
I don't really know yet where I'd be trying to commute from yet- I'm just doing some preliminary research about Houston, and since biking is important to me, it seemed like a good question to get answered. Right now I'm just in preliminary discussions with my potential employer, but if all goes well I will probably be down to Houston in a few weeks to check it out, at which point I'd start taking a look at neighbourhoods around Rice University.

Yeah, I was actually surprised that I was able to commute in the heat and humidity. I used to be rather prone to heat stroke, but it seemed that I was okay this summer as long as I kept moving and kept drinking. The worst of it was actually when I'd get home and lock the bike up in the garage. I no longer had a breeze, I'd built up quite a heat load from the ride, and the garage was hot from baking all day long. I'd quickly move from being warm/hot to extremely uncomfortable.

Gina Mitteco, the Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator for H-GAC (Houston-Galveston Area Council), is also from Minnesota and commutes daily to the H-GAC office in Greenway Plaza, Houston.
Hmm, well that seems pretty encouraging to say the least!

Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
Up here in Dallas, I ride all summer, but can't commute. Mainly because for about half the year, I would be dripping sweat after riding more than a half-mile. So if you can ride in high temperatures and high humidity without sweating, you're in good shape. Or if you have a place to commute to where you can shower, or where it's okay to drip sweat and stink when you start work, you're in good shape.
Oh, I definitely sweat- but I currently work at the University of Minnesota, and I'd be taking a job at Rice University, so there are generally plenty of showers available to clean up with after I arrive. As an added bonus (???), I work with bacteria, so I'm not sure anyone would notice if I stunk anyway.

Houston does have a bit more rain than here- not sure how it compares to Minnesota.
I lived in Vancouver, BC for 7 years- I'm used to rain.

Originally Posted by chevy42083 View Post
Most of Houston is fine, but there are just certain areas that don't have a whole lot of route options (I'm sure any city is like that). Rice area is good for commuting.

I commute ~13-15miles almost daily (when not in school). I definitely require a change of clothes, a splash in the sink, and some deodorant. I mean, it's hot... but it's all in what your job requires of you, how you feel, and how much out of your way you will go (e.g. maybe a local gym membership to use their showers if work has none?).

For the cold, I never wore more than windbreaker pants over shorts (it was warm enough in the afternoon for the shorts ), a short sleeve jersey with arm warmers. Probably a beanie under the helmet, probably some gloves.

Rain... eh... it's spotty. Always. Forecasts are wrong. Always.
Having grown up in Toronto, spent 7 years in Vancouver, and lived for two years in Minnesota, I don't think I'd ever likely complain about the cold weather in Houston. To be honest, I tend to prefer the cold to the heat, but this job is just such an amazing opportunity, and I've always wanted to live in Texas (despite the heat), that it seems too good to give up.

Thanks a lot!
Brad
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Old 09-14-10, 03:27 PM
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You should be able to commute year round down here.
I have lived here 32 years.
We have what I call Heavy Air. ( Very High Humidity)
You will most likely notice that when you visit here.

I got in 55 miles today.
100 miles each last Thursday and Friday.
It is a good place to ride a bike.
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Old 09-14-10, 09:52 PM
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One bonus of working for Rice is that all university employees and staff get a discounted ZipCar membership. So you could conceivably get by without owning a car - use your bike to get around the vicinity of the university and rent a ZipCar when you have to drive.

Unfortunately ZipCar is only available to Rice students and faculty, otherwise I would sell my car. I live in Montrose (WalkScore = 92) and I'm able to ride my bike or walk almost anywhere.

Aaron
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Old 09-15-10, 05:01 AM
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I don't know if we'd be able to get by with not having any car. We are (hopefully) expecting a baby in April, so while I'm sure that lots of people with newborn babies get by without a car, I don't think that's something that my wife or I are willing to experiment quite a this point . Actually, if anything we'd probably sell our current car and get a new one. It doesn't have air conditioning, which wasn't an absolute necessity when we lived in Vancouver, BC, and we've managed without it here- but I'm pretty certain we'd need it in Houston, TX- so I'd either have to get an aftermarket air conditioner, or just buy another car with air conditioning. And cars are so much less expensive here than in Canada, that it makes sense to do it.

Ugh, it makes me feel terrible thinking about spending all that much money on a car. I've started doing grocery shopping on my way home from work, and it's just such a joy. So much easier to get in and out of the store, and I don't spend as much time loading it up, or navigating the parking lot.

That said, it is good to know about ZipCar, that could be really helpful if/when we move there anyway.
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Old 09-15-10, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by bhdavis1978 View Post
Actually, if anything we'd probably sell our current car and get a new one. It doesn't have air conditioning, which wasn't an absolute necessity when we lived in Vancouver, BC, and we've managed without it here- but I'm pretty certain we'd need it in Houston, TX...
Ooooooooh yeah. BTW, the resale value of an air conditioner-less car in Houston is a lot less than in Minnesota.

I commuted and did a lot of urban riding when I lived there in the 70s - ancient history now. Hermann Park & Rice, the University Places, the 3rd Ward over to UofH, River Oaks & on out towards Bellaire. I remember it as very pleasant riding. Texas had a manditory sidepath law back then, but the only bike path - a sidewalk, really - I ever saw was down the bayou from downtown to Memorial Park. Things are different today.

Boone's is a hoot.

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Old 09-15-10, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
Ooooooooh yeah. BTW, the resale value of an air conditioner-less car in Houston is a lot less than in Minnesota.
Yeah, that's why I bought it in the first place. I was living in Vancouver, but the car was in Toronto. Toronto is much hotter than Vancouver, so the car was a great price in Toronto, but a similar car in Vancouver would've cost me easy $2000 more, even without air conditioning- so even after shipping it by rail, I still had a huge savings.

I commuted and did a lot of urban riding when I lived there in the 70s - ancient history now. Hermann Park & Rice, the University Places, the 3rd Ward over to UofH, River Oaks & on out towards Bellaire. I remember it as very pleasant riding. Texas had a manditory sidepath law back then, but the only bike path - a sidewalk, really - I ever saw was down the bayou from downtown to Memorial Park. [
tcs
Yeah, it's an opportunity I'm really excited about. My wife isn't quite so enthralled with the possibility. She hates the heat- when it gets over 70 she starts complaining about how it's too hot. The upside is, that we'd have a house that has air conditioning in Houston, versus nothing in Saint Paul. Plus, we'd get a car with air conditioning, so she'd be a lot more comfortable in doors than she is now. But we maybe having a baby in April, and she'd like to take at least a year off. I think she'll go a bit stir crazy during the day being cooped up at home with the baby, and I think it'll be uncomfortable hot for her to go take the baby out for walks. I realize this probably isn't the best place for this, and it's more than a bit off topic, but you guys have been so helpful already, that I'm going to keep asking questions. Are there a lot of indoor options where a mom could get out in the day time? Does the temperature cool off much at night, or is it hot all day and night?

She's more inclined for me to push to get the other position I'm applying for in Stanford, CA. She likes the climate there a lot better, and we'd be much closer to her parents. On the other hand, my salary won't support the both of us very well in Stanford, but we could live relatively easily on my expected salary at the job in Houston- even though the Stanford job pays a bit better. So, in Stanford, she couldn't afford to be a stay at home mom, but we could do that in Houston.
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Old 09-15-10, 07:52 PM
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First I'd like to say welcome to the "Southern Ivy League" which is by far 100 times better than it's more liberal and yankee counterparts. If you haven't seen Rice in person yet then you're in for a nice treat. The campus and the surrounding area is gorgeous, more so the areas between Rice University and The University of St. Thomas. Rice is also located next to the world famous Texas Medical Center, several of Houston's museums, and a train ride away from Reliant Stadium (Texans) and Minute Maid Park (Astros).

You're wife will have plenty to do if she wants to leave the house. Rice Village has some nice restaurants and shops, further south is Highland Village, the Galleria (a three story massive complex of a mall), and you're just outside of the downtown district where you can catch a show (live or on film).

Houston is actually underrated and has gotten a bad reputation that honestly isn't deserved. Houston is a melting pot of cultures (think Montreal or Toronto). The food is amazing and we have two things I guarantee you don't have up there in Yankee-Doodle-Land. TexMex and real BBQ (where they use a cow instead of a pig). Ever had brisket? The beer here is even better, we even have Molsen down here. While I'm referring to Canada I'll also mention that we even have ice hockey (season starts soon).

It is wickedly uncomfortable when Houston experiences it's more extremes of the climate map. The heat here tops out around the upper 90's according to the weathermen, but you'll see 110+ days in your backyard easy. The temperature isn't that bad in the shade, nor is the humidity. You get use to it, learn to dress according to the super hot days, and make sure you have great AC in your car and house. The winters here are bone chilling at it's coldest because of the humidity. If the temperatures drops below 32*F, any ice is spotted, or it drops one snow flurry the entire city will shut down (and everyone forgets how to drive).

Speaking of driving, buy a truck or an SUV. There is so much to Texas that you'll want a boat, RV, four wheelers, or a horse. You'll need it to haul whatever it is you buy. To not explore Texas is a crime, there is so much in the city and so much more outside of the city. We have places like The Hill Country where we float down rivers in tubes and drink beer. You can do dancing in a wooden dance hall that is over 100 years old while listening to Texas Country. We have amazing food that includes TexMex and brisket.

I'm not just saying this because I am a Texan, but this state is amazing. Honestly the best way I can sum up Texas since you are Canadian is to say this. Texas is to United States as the province Quebec is to Canada with Houston being the United States' Montreal.

-Nate
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Old 09-16-10, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by bhdavis1978 View Post
On the other hand, my salary won't support the both of us very well in Stanford, but we could live relatively easily on my expected salary at the job in Houston- even though the Stanford job pays a bit better. So, in Stanford, she couldn't afford to be a stay at home mom, but we could do that in Houston.
Like Shakespear said, "Ay, there's the rub."

Anyway, you can ride year 'round. The weathermen would report the occasional winter freeze out at the airport, but in four years at the University I never saw any ice on campus. On the other hand...

Originally Posted by bhdavis1978 View Post
She hates the heat...I think she'll go a bit stir crazy during the day being cooped up at home...
You'll see the gals out and about in the summer time wearing tank tops and shorts but carrying hoodies - 'cause once you're inside, it can be chilly. Refrigerated air! I'd personally rather walk a baby in July in Houston that in St. Paul in February, but humans can thrive in a wide range of conditons.

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Old 09-16-10, 07:08 AM
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When you visit Rice U be sure to stop by one of the LBSs in Rice Village and pick up a free copy of the local bike map.
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Old 09-16-10, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by dr. nate View Post
We have places like The Hill Country where we float down rivers in tubes and drink beer. You can do dancing in a wooden dance hall that is over 100 years old while listening to Texas Country.
That's to the west of Houston. To the north, there are immense pine forrests, camping, hiking and off-road biking. To the east, there's Galveston Bay, the Gulf, beaches and fresh-caught seafood. South is the coastal plains and a rich Hispanic heritage.

Oops, sorry, didn't mean to sound like the Chamber of Commerce.

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Old 09-19-10, 02:43 PM
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Large parts of Houston are very bicycle-friendly, and I would deem the Rice U area to be very cycle-able. Immediately to the north of Rice U is the Montrose, recently rated by some entity as one of the top ten most livable neighborhoods in the USA, with the ability to get around on foot and by bike part of that rating. North of that is the Houston Heights, another very cyclist-friendly area. To the west are the smaller, and very livable cities of West University Place, Southside Place, and Bellaire, all very cyclist-friendly. (I live in Bellaire.) East of Rice U are Hermann Park, the Zoo, the Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Garden Center, and the Texas Medical Center.

Not far to the northwest are the Greenway Plaza and Uptown areas, the truly international, cosmopolitan parts of Houston, a bit less cycle-friendly, but full of dining, shopping, and cultural opportunities.

To the south of Rice U is Braes Bayou, which has paved cycling trails that go as far west as S. Gessner Road to the west, and to the east links up with other extensive paved trail systems. Plus, this paved trail intersects some very cycle-able major streets, that take serious road riders to places out of town to the south and west.

Most Houston designated bicycle routes are not paved trails off the streets, or even marked bike lanes, but the streets themselves, with signs designating the routes, as well as reminding motorists to expect cyclists to be sharing the roads.

Houston's recent popular former mayor, Bill White, out of office due to term limits, and now a candidate for Governor, was/is an avid cyclist, which combined with the Lance Armstrong effect on Texas in general, certainly helped make inner metro Houston a more cycle-friendly place.

If you want to know about problem areas at or near a specific address, such as traffic issues or crime problems, let me know in this thread, or via PM.
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Old 09-21-10, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by airwulf View Post
When you visit Rice U be sure to stop by one of the LBSs in Rice Village and pick up a free copy of the local bike map.
hit bike barn. large shop. very professional staff, kinda mainstream retail feel to the shop.
daniel boone cycles in the museum dist is also good, little more earthy. excellent mechanics there.
bikesport does good work. excellent mechanics. little west of the university area.

i've bought accessories or had mech work done at those 3 and would give them all good reviews.

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Old 09-21-10, 10:37 PM
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Rice and med center area is the best around, thats not saying much though. I've lived and worked in the med center for 9 years and it has improved in that time and getting better
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Old 09-22-10, 09:09 AM
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UPDATE: for some reason the first time i loaded this page only one reply appeared. looking at it again now, i see that there are a couple of links that i'm going to start doing some research. quick question, though:

1) are the bicycle trail maps available at pretty much all LBS or just certain ones? i'm going to ask my friends stop by there and pick up some maps and also ask about rentals.

2) are there bicycle collectives-type-places that offer cheaper rentals than what i've found so far ($45/day)?

hi there. do you have any routes around the area that you'd recommend? i'm going to be visiting the area in october and wanted to take my friends bicycling, and i've heard that this area is a really nice area.

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Old 09-24-10, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by martialman.45 View Post
Rice and med center area is the best around, thats not saying much though. I've lived and worked in the med center for 9 years and it has improved in that time and getting better
The Texas Medical Center is actually larger than Downtown Dallas.

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Old 09-24-10, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by bluehurry View Post
UPDATE: for some reason the first time i loaded this page only one reply appeared. looking at it again now, i see that there are a couple of links that i'm going to start doing some research. quick question, though:

1) are the bicycle trail maps available at pretty much all LBS or just certain ones? i'm going to ask my friends stop by there and pick up some maps and also ask about rentals.

2) are there bicycle collectives-type-places that offer cheaper rentals than what i've found so far ($45/day)?

hi there. do you have any routes around the area that you'd recommend? i'm going to be visiting the area in october and wanted to take my friends bicycling, and i've heard that this area is a really nice area.
I've seen maps at all the LBS stores I visit so getting one should not be a problem.
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Old 09-24-10, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by airwulf View Post
I've seen maps at all the LBS stores I visit so getting one should not be a problem.
thx!
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Old 05-18-20, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by bluehurry View Post
are the bicycle trail maps available at pretty much all LBS or just certain ones? i'm going to ask my friends stop by there and pick up some maps...
Visit https://bikehouston.org/resources/ for maps. They publish an energy corridor map and a downtown map (if not more).
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Old 07-04-20, 01:40 PM
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Interesting to see this almost-decade-old thread get bumped to the top. It’s like a time capsule being opened.

My, how things have changed!
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