How Can We Make Houston Safer for Cyclists?

by Terry Bryant

People ride bicycles for several reasons. It’s cheaper than gasoline-powered vehicles. It helps reduce air pollution. Cycling is good exercise. For many, it offers a fun way to enjoy a city or the great outdoors. Unfortunately for many cyclists in Houston, it’s also extremely dangerous.

Houston has many things to be proud of but our safety protocols for bicyclists are notoriously inadequate. Houston Public Media reported early in February 2017 that three cyclists had lost their lives since the beginning of the year. After considering plans to create hundreds of miles of bike paths across Houston, the City Council on March 8th delayed a vote to move forward with the Houston Bike Plan.

The Houston Bike Plan was ambitious and it offered cyclists a safer experience in Houston. Currently, cyclists regularly voice concerns about the dangers of sharing roads with motorists. Our infrastructure has proven to be lacking in the number of designated paths and bike lanes, something that the Houston Bike Plan would have changed dramatically.

The good news for cyclists is that the Houston Police Department (HPD) is looking for ways to better enforce a safe-passing ordinance in Houston that has been in place since 2013. Undercover officers on bicycles will now have devices that can detect whether a driver gives the required three feet of passing distance between their vehicle and the cyclist. Under the current law, commercial vehicles and large trucks are required to give six feet of passing distance.

The new effort by the HPD comes after the Houston Press reported in September 2016 that hundreds of cyclists had been clipped or struck by vehicles since the ordinance passed in 2013, though only 32 drivers were ticketed for their actions.

Houston hasn’t taken steps to significantly update its biking infrastructure in over two decades, a fact that makes life difficult for those that choose the bicycle as a way to commute to work or enjoy the sights of the city. Cities around the country have been improving infrastructure that is catered towards cyclists, an investment that saves lives and reduces the number of vehicle collisions with bicycles.

While the future of the Houston Bike Plan hangs in the balance, we can all do our best to improve the safety of Houston cyclists by taking the following steps:

  • Always leave several feet between your vehicle and a bicycle when passing a cyclist.
  • Don’t assume that a cyclist can hear your vehicle approaching from behind. Give them plenty of space.
  • Be mindful of cyclists when you are making turns. Apply the same logic that you would for pedestrians, while keeping in mind that cyclists will be traveling much faster than walkers.
  • When parked on the side of the road, be mindful when opening your door into traffic. While cyclists try to give themselves room to avoid colliding with an opening door, your mindfulness is equally important.

If you or a loved one has been struck while riding a bicycle in Houston, contact Terry Bryant Injury & Accident Law to learn more about your legal options. We stand up for injured cyclists and make sure they receive the treatment they deserve. Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation with our experienced legal team.