Sharing the road

10 tips for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to create a safer experience for everyone downtown and on the trails

Sometimes you will have to path to yourself. Sometimes you need to share. F. Carter Smith

Houston’s biking community is growing, especially as downtown continues to develop. Biking and walking trails are growing all over the city. More people are using bicycles to get around, and the availability of rentable B Cycles has given people who don’t own bikes an opportunity to ride around town.

Downtown has a dedicated bike lane, as well as what it calls “bike paths,” which are often small painted off areas along certain roads. But those are mitigated by the fact that cars are allowed to park there, forcing bikes back into the street. So the city has made strides, but not enough. And one of the practical problems is that cars, bikes, and pedestrians have to find a way to co-exist safely. Bikes and cars in particular are often at odds, when some simple courtesy both ways could help make the roads safer for everyone.

The biking populace is not going anywhere. And deaths, unfortunately, are becoming a problem in Houston, including this one that spurred a lot of protest from the biking community. The sad fact is unless motorists and cyclists both change their habits, deaths and injuries are not going away. As both a motorist and a cyclist, I have seen the worst of both. Don't get me wrong, the majority of motorists and cyclists are good, thoughtful people. But there are a growing number of both that are making the experience downright dangerous. Here are five tips for each to make the roads and paths safer for everyone:

Tips for motorists

  1. Share the road: It should not be just a slogan. If someone is riding a bike responsibly  in their lane and following the rules of the road, don’t try to crowd them, cut them off or intimidate them. Just be courteous. It might seem cool to try to intimidate a cyclist, but trying living with it if you hit somebody and seriously injure them because you did not like seeing them on the road.

  2. Pay attention: If you are on a road with bike lanes, pay extra attention. Give them a little room when you pass them. You should do this anyway, but stop texting and posting to social media, especially in heavy traffic situations. Downtown, especially near the bike lanes, you should always take a second look for both cyclists and pedestrians. Accidents happen every day from running red lights or blasting through turns on a red without stopping. They are much worse when they involve a cyclist or pedestrian.

  3. Parking problems: If there is a dedicated bike path, avoid parking there unless there is no other option. In reality, the city should not allow this, but since they are going to do nothing, take it upon yourself. Parking is at a premium in most areas of downtown, so this is not always an option. But when it is, please consider it. Also, don’t park in dedicated bike lanes where parking is not allowed and put on your hazards on like that makes it OK. It doesn’t.

  4. Stop with the “I pay for inspection and licenses and bikes don’t" arguments: You pay for inspections because you have a motorized vehicle that emits pollution. Bicycles do not. As for licenses, I would have no problem with cyclists having to get a license. But as we all know, that is no guarantee you follow the rules of the road or obey traffic laws.

  5. Keep an eye out for pedestrians, too: Especially downtown, where people are walking from work to lunch or to wherever they are going from parking lots. Remember that pedestrians obeying the walk signs have the right away. Just be patient, let them cross the street and don’t creep up on them to rush them. (Memo to pedestrians: get off your damned phone and don’t dawdle. Just cross the street).

Tips for cyclists

  1. Obey the rules of the road: So many cyclists pay no attention to traffic laws; they run red lights. They cut off cars. They go the wrong way down one-way streets. The idea is to share the road, not try to take it over. You can’t expect drivers to be courteous if you are not. Intentionally taunting drivers and acting like you own the road is rude, dangerous and gives a lot of cyclists bad names. This goes for your big bike rides on the street, too. Obey the traffic stops and don't take up all the lanes; allow cars an opportunity to go past safely. 

  2. Share the bike/walk paths: We recently did a ride that was designed to show off the new connections of the city’s bike paths. We bailed on it halfway through, because there were too many people -- well over 100 -- and the cyclists were ruining a nice Sunday experience for a lot of people who were just out for a family stroll, jog or bike ride of their own. Here is a simple rule: If you want to ride side by side and chat on a path, that’s fine, but when you see someone coming from the opposite direction, switch to single file until you pass each other, whether it is another bike or just someone walking their dog. Again, just be courteous.

  3. Be aware on the paths and road: As a follow up, on that same ride, two men with wide handlebars rode side by side the entire trip. They almost hit several pedestrians, then forced a bike going the opposite direction off the path. They never even noticed, because they were completely clueless. Paying attention and not being oblivious makes for a good time for everyone. It seems like a simple thing, but awareness of others is a must. It’s also important on the road. You need to think for the drivers out there as well as yourself and don't cause an incident because you are not paying attention.

  4. Avoid the sidewaks: There are times you can’t do this, and if there are no pedestrians it’s fine. Cyclists get angry (rightfully so) when pedestrians start wandering into the downtown bike lane. They already have a little thing called the sidewalk. Cyclists need to leave that to them. The same courtesy you ask of cars, as of yourself for pedestrians.

  5. Do the little things: If you are in the right hand lane at a red light and are going to continue on without turning and there is a car behind you that wants to turn right, just move your bikes to the sidewalk and let them turn, then return to the road. It’s a simple thing that can foster good will and does not impact you at all. If you find yourself in heavy traffic, just pull off the road and let it clear up. It's safer and does not clog up traffic. If you are on a busy road without a bike lane, go find someplace else to get where you are going. Slowing things down creates enmity everywhere. There are enough roads with dedicated lanes to get you where you are going.

It all comes down to simple courtesy on all ends. That really does mean “sharing the road,” not breaking laws, being jerks or ignoring others. If everyone can just be a little more decent to each other, the roads will be safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

 

Add these to your grocery list

Best foods for runners to eat before and after a run

Courtesy photo

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

I'm looking in my email inbox. One thing is clear (other than I really need to delete some emails), race season is beginning. There is the Hot Chocolate Run, the Bayou City Classic, and Run Like a Diva Marathon. I'm getting totally excited thinking about all the medals I can get. Then, I think about last running season. My habits were pretty sloppy last race season. There is a reason why you haven't seen my finish line picture. My nutrition was shotty. So I went to my friend, Google, and did some research on the best foods for runners. Here is what I found:

As an experienced runner, what you eat before you run is of the utmost importance. It is no fun to run out of steam due to not eating. It is also no fun to eat the wrong thing and get gassy. It is no fun to eat something that makes it hard to move and slows your time down. Once before a long run of 16 miles, I grabbed a plum from my fridge in haste. I forgot that a plum is really a prune. I got what they call runner trots (that's diarrhea) around mile 11. And that's really no fun. So what are the best foods to eat before a run or a race.

Banana

Bananas are full of potassium which help regulate the body's muscle contractions and prevents cramping. It also has enough starch to provide the glucose (where energy comes from) for your run and is easy to digest earning the name Old Fait.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal

If you are in the mid point of training for a half, full marathon, or a spartan race, you will have long strenuous workouts and runs. Oatmeal makes a perfect choice to get you through. Like the banana, it is easy on the stomach and is full of carbohydrates to get you through your workout. It's a wonderful source of protein and because it has a low glycemic index, it provides sustained release of energy thus making sure you finish strong.

Nut Butter

Nut butters, like peanut, almonds, and cashews are great to eat before and after your run. Nut butters are full of fat and protein making you feel fuller longer. What's cool about that is you can eat less and you won't run the risk of cramping and sluggishness that comes with eating too much. Pair it with Ezekiel Toast (bread made with all the ingredients found at Ezekiel 4:9) to have a light meal made from complete plant protein. And its quick and easy to make. Just add honey to taste.

Protein Shakes

Protein shakes are great to consume before your workout, whether it is running, cross fit, or lifting weights. They are full of protein like the name suggests. If you are on a specific diet, they work well into your daily calories and nutrients. They come in amazing flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough and salted caramel. Chose a plant based protein powder over whey for running. It sustains you without weighing you down and is easy on the stomach. I recommend AdvoGreens Salted Caramel by Advocare.

Eggs

One of the best things ever created was the egg. Eggs are an inexpensive solution to many dietary problems for runners especially. Forget about them being a complete protein, but a little goes a long way. One egg over Ezekiel toast before a run will last until the end. After a run, you can enjoy an omelette to not only fight hunger, but inflammation. Also, eggs are full of Vitamin K which promotes bone health. Let's just say, the egg is awesome!

Some foods are great for runners to add to their overall diet.


Sweet potato

Runners need their carbs. You can't just eat Doritos and think that's going to cut it. Instead try adding sweet potato to your diet. Sweet potatoes are good carbs meaning they don't cause your sugar to spike which is great for runners because you can last a lot longer on the track. They are also full of antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, and iron. You can eat them stuffed, in a hash, or baked them as fries with salt and vinegar drizzled on top.

Yogurt

Yogurt is also great for runners as it helps boost your immune system by its many strains of probiotics. Nothing can ruin a training schedule than getting sick over and over again. Yogurt is another great source of protein as well as calcium. It is a very diverse food. You can enjoy it off the spoon, as kefir, or as a smoothie with your favorite fruit. I'm thinking a berry, banana blast with pineapple (pineapple is great for preventing injuries).

Avocado

I can't have enough reasons to eat avocado. Avocados are a runner's best friend. Avocados have as much as 60% more potassium than bananas. Because of their high fat and fiber content, they keep you feeling full for longer. They possess Omega 3 Fatty Acids and other anti-inflammatory properties. This reduces muscle and joint soreness and assists in recovery between workouts. Although amazing by themselves, avocados are great on sandwiches, with eggs, and just about anything.

Legumes

Like eggs, legumes are an inexpensive solution to many dietary problems for runners. They are a complete protein-carbohydrate combination that will give you sustained energy and helps repair your muscles. They are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and will fit into a vegan, vegetarian, and a meat eaters diet. Think lentil stew or a bowl of chili to satiate your hunger after a long run. I would wait to enjoy after the run. They could cause gas.

So next time you go to the grocery store, be sure to include these items on your list. Better yet, pick out a couple of recipes to try out.

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