The Bike Lane That Got Away
By Jessica Wiggins
In May 2016, a temporary two-way cycle track was introduced on Houston Avenue. TxDOT and City of Houston were proactive in designing and building this detour which linked the Heights Hike and Bike Trail and the White Oak Bayou Trail and preserved access to off-street trails during construction of a bridge over White Oak Bayou. Community members quickly began to use the temporary connection and made the new amenity one of their preferred routes.
Last month, during the week of November 12, an announcement was posted on the Houston Bikeways website which said, “Given TxDOT project completion, the associated bike detour is to be removed from Houston Avenue effective immediately.” Within days the bike lane was gone.
Knowing all that went into creating this detour, we were stunned by how suddenly it was removed. Though we might have quibbled about its design, losing the Houston Avenue bike lane felt like a huge step backward.
From the beginning, this bike lane was described as temporary, but in our view, this is a notable lost opportunity to embrace a new approach to improving streets. In other cities, temporary bike lanes have become permanent when they were shown to be useful and well-conceived. In fact, many cities now use temporary-to-permanent as a design strategy. Temporary bikeways are deployed as pilot projects, an intermediate step on the road to permanent cycling infrastructure — and a more bicycle-friendly city. Read about it here. We truly hope that the City of Houston will embrace this pragmatic approach to implementing bike plan projects.
The Houston Avenue protected bike lane is gone, so what now? It is clear from comments on the BikeHouston Facebook page that cyclists used and valued the Houston Avenue bike lane. We encourage our readers to reach out directly to us by email (Jessica) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know what you think about the Houston Avenue bike lane.Or you can reach out to your city council person, and the city’s bikeways program to let them know what you think about the Houston Avenue bike lane. Did you use it? What did you like about it? What could have been improved? Would you like to see it brought back?