Goal is to be gold-level bike-friendly city by 2026
One year and 4,000 online survey responses later – coupled with dozens of public meetings and community events – the Houston Bike Plan is bringing forth a vision to a Houston City Council vote in August that could make a car-driven city the gold standard for bicycling metropolises.
Council Members reviewed the plan in June that calls for 1,789 miles of bikeways across Houston with more off-road trails, high-comfort bike lanes to make riders feel safer, and connections so riders can get to where they need to go.
While ambitious – the plan is a 20-year vision with a $500 million price tag –planners believe it can be partially implemented through grants and existing dedicated city funding of up to $5 million per year. In fact, planners believe adding close to 800 miles of bikeways is doable within the next decade. Beyond that, creative funding will be required, such as seeking donors or a possible referendum to give voters the opportunity to weigh in.
Nearly 700 miles of proposed bikeways would be separated from automobile traffic creating what are called “high-comfort” lanes.
“That is a fundamental way to increase bicycling in major cities, because survey after survey indicates people want to bike but they just don’t feel safe or comfortable doing so on city streets,” explains Clark Martinson, general manager for The Energy Corridor District.
If the plan comes to fruition, it would connect more Houstonians with more destinations via bicycle to job centers, parks, schools and entertainment venues.
“Adding connections between existing bikeways would encourage more bicycling,” says Martinson. “Right now, Houston has a hodgepodge network of bike lanes and trails. It’s challenging to bike east and west, and several neighborhoods in West Houston simply don’t connect with trails or bike lanes. Creating bike connections is something The District continues to work on as part of our leadership with the West Houston Trails Master Plan.”
More Energy Corridor Trails, Bike Paths
In The Energy Corridor, the Houston Bike Plan calls for several bicycling enhancements, including:
- off-street lanes along N. Eldridge through War Memorial Drive to Clay Road;
- off-street lanes on North SH-6;
- dedicated on-street lanes along Addicks Howell Road, Eldridge Parkway, Enclave Parkway, Dairy Ashford Road and North Kirkwood Road;
- utility corridor trails that could connect a huge swath of residents, bridging bicycling gaps from south of Buffalo Bayou to Addicks Reservoir trails and onward toward Jersey Village in the north and Spring Branch in the east;
- an extended off-street Addicks Dam trail;
- a proposed Turkey Creek trail.
The city has taken significant strides to improve bicycling in the past few years, earning Houston a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community award from the League of American Bicyclists in 2013.
Not Waiting Around
“The momentum is there to create a metropolis that provides outstanding transportation choices,” Martinson says. “By voting for the Houston Bike Plan, City Council can set the stage for Houston to become one of the healthiest cities in America, rife with bicycling opportunities and alternative transportation choices.”
But The District is not waiting for Council approval. Already, it is working to implement plans that would make some busy intersections under IH-10 safer and more accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians alike. As part of the city’s Memorial Drive reconstruction effort, The District has developed plans to create a bike- and pedestrian-friendly intersection at Eldridge that would make it easier for office workers and apartment dwellers to connect with retail and businesses north and south of Memorial.
“If Houstonians want more opportunities for safer bicycling, now is the time to let your city council member know,” Martinson says.
Council members representing the Energy Corridor District include Brenda Stardig for District A, Greg Travis for District G and all five at-large council members, Mike Knox (Pos. 1), David Robinson (Pos. 2), Michael Kubosh (Pos. 3), Amanda Edwards (Pos. 4) and Jack Christie (Pos. 5).
For now, The Houston Bike Plan is supported by 4,000 public comments, 97 percent of which were positive, according to Bike Houston, the city’s only non-profit bicycle advocacy group, one that played a key role in community outreach for the plan.
Review an executive summary of the plan and an interactive map of trails and bike lanes here.