Improving Safety for Houston’s Pedestrians and Cyclists

by Terry Bryant

Houston is one of the deadliest big cities for pedestrians and bicyclists. Each year, more than 100 walkers and cyclists are killed and hundreds more are seriously injured in accidents with motor vehicles. Fortunately, some positive steps are being taken to try to reduce the number of crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists.

Study of Dangerous Intersections Performed

A week-long study performed earlier this year by City of Houston officials and traffic safety advocates looked at intersections in the city that are among the most deadly for walkers and cyclists. The goal was to identify what makes these particular spots so treacherous and to determine how the dangers can be fixed for all users. The study looked at things like the number of vehicles, walkers, and cyclists that use the intersections, what times of day crashes most often happen in the intersections, and how long it takes pedestrians to cross streets safely in relation to crossing and traffic signals, among other things.

The study team included individuals from Bike Houston, LINK Houston, the Houston Public Works Department, and the Federal Highway Administration. They are expected to produce a report with recommendations for improvement.

The intersections reviewed in the study included the following:

  • Long Point & Gessner
  • Fondren & West Bellfort
  • Bissonnet & Wilcrest
  • Shepherd & Allen Pkwy & Kirby
  • Taylor & Spring & MKT Trail
  • Hawthorne & Spur 527 & Holman.

Earlier Study Looked at Six Other Intersections

This year’s intersection study was the second of two parts. The first portion, which took place last fall and was performed by the same group, looked at the intersections at these locations:

  • Bellaire & S. Gessner
  • 11th & Nicholson
  • Patterson & Washington
  • Fannin & Pierce
  • Ranchester & Bellaire
  • West & Airline.

Together, the 12 intersections reviewed were identified by LINK Houston as the most dangerous spots in the city for accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians.

Bike Houston Advocacy Director Jessica Wiggins, who was on the study team, was quoted in a Houston Public Media article as saying that the city’s design standards need to be readdressed and that people shouldn’t be blamed for the incidents that are happening to them.

Tips for Safe Biking & Walking in Houston

While design fixes definitely need to be made and blame shouldn’t be placed on innocent victims of traffic crashes, pedestrians and bicyclists can take steps to help ensure their safety on Houston’s busy streets.

Here are some tips for safe walking and biking:

  • Don’t wear earbuds (or headphones) or talk on the phone while cycling or crossing at intersections. Always stay alert to the traffic around you. Look in all directions before crossing.
  • For cyclists approaching intersections, look out for cars turning right in front of you and stay well back. Drivers may not see you. Assume they do not. Also, ride with the flow of traffic, which data shows makes bikes more visible to drivers at intersections, according to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, a national education and advocacy organization.
  • Use crosswalks and obey walk/don’t walk signals. Make eye contact with drivers before you head into the roadway to ensure they see you and are going to stop.