Mary joined BikeHouston in the fall of 2014 and took the leading role for the passing of the new Houston Bike Plan with determination and stamina for the long haul. Jessica Wiggins first encounter with BikeHouston was a summer job two years ago. After a temporary move to Washington DC and graduation from Texas A&M she is back in Houston, the city she was born and raised in.
When asked about their most defining bike ride, Mary says it was one late at night a couple of months after she moved to Houston and found herself at a loss navigating the city’s street for a safe bike route. “I was glad when I finally got home and it really inspired me to do my job as the Advocacy Director for BikeHouston. We need to provide safe places for people who ride their bike to work and have no other mode of transportation. That’s what the new Bike Plan should bring. And people who do have a choice also might find it more easy and more fun. Exploring the city on a bike should be a great experience.”
For Jessica it was a ride in north Houston next to the 45, where she met a man with a fully loaded bicycle who asked her how to get to the nearest grocery store. “I felt embarrassed that I had to admit I didn’t know there was a way to get to a grocery store in a safe way, on a bike. We kept talking for a while about science, he told me he was a Vietnamese immigrant and it was a great encounter. But it also made me realize once again that I am privileged, because I don’t need to ride my bike when it is uncomfortable. That really inspired me to do more, to help make Houston more bike friendly.”
Houston Bike Plan
Regarding the newly adopted Houston Bike Plan Mary says the City of Houston needs to start connecting neighborhoods to trails as fast as possible; as well as closing corridor gaps like crossing highways and other barriers. Jessica says she doesn’t want to wait five years for the first short term projects. She says we should accelerate those that impact safety of vulnerable road users the most. She adds BikeHouston is the fire that keeps the Bike Plan going, that keeps it on the docket.
Mary says she learned lots of her work at BikeHouston that she will take to her new destination. “From moving an idea and a plan all the way to a city ordinance to the details of fundraising and selling memberships to a non-profit around the city. It was a wonderful experience for me. I am looking forward to coming back to Houston and see new projects on the ground and more people riding.”
Jessica says Houston will undergo a culture shift in the next couple of years. She says people will understand that better bicycle infrastructure is not only important for people who already ride their bikes.
“I hope to expedite that culture shift.”
Jessica goes on to say she may have the Advocacy Director title but the real force are all the people that are out on the streets and ride their bikes. “I want people to know that they do make a difference when they show up at a meeting, when they contact their city council member. When you ride your bike in Houston you make a difference. You are an activist.”
We are sad to see Mary go, but excited to have someone with as much passion picking up the baton.