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.

 

Courtney Bell photos

If you're already bored of being at home, and your couch is sunken in from binge watching all the shows you had on your must watchlist… then we're in the same boat. I know exercising isn't always the most fun thing to do, but when you are sick of being cooped up inside, we've got to get creative on how to get up and get our bodies moving. So here is a strength and conditioning workout that you can try, tips, pictures and modifications included, and no equipment needed.

Me personally, when I'm working out, I'm not a huge fan of timed interval workouts, (the 45 seconds of work, 10 second rest ones). I'm more a fan of at your own pace/goal achieved workouts, where you write it out, it's usually in a certain number of rounds or blocks, get to it, knock it out and then it's over.

Today's workout is going to consist of a quick warm up, 1 circuit round with an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) to finish.

(See photos below for instructions).

Warm up:

Windmill Twist (10 each side)

Inchworms (10) *Challenge- add push up once you are fully extended in plank

Bicycles (20 each leg) *Tip- try and get your shoulder to your knee, not your elbow. Keep your elbow back.

Round 1:

-3 rounds

Pushup series (5 each side) *Modify: Drop to knees when doing push-ups

Double Lunges (10 each side) *Tip: make sure to push off when lunging back from your forward lunge. Challenge- If you have weights, grab and hold at your sides or at chest.

Wipers (10 each side) *Modify: bend knees when dropping to each side. Challenge- Add hip thrust in the middle between each drop.

Squat + Rotation (10 each side) *Tip: Make sure body weight stays in your heels when squatting & you use your hamstrings to bring you up from the squat, NOT your knees! Challenge- If you have any weights or heavy objects, grab and hold in the center of your chest while you squat and rotate.

AMRAP for 15 min:

Shoulder Taps (10 each side) *Modify: Drop to knees when doing shoulder taps. Make sure hips stay squared to the floor, try not to turn them.

Skaters (10 each side) *Modify: step instead of hop, reach out instead of down to your toe.

Half Burpees (10) *Modify: Step instead of jump. Tip- stay in a squat when you come up from plank, no jump like a full burpee.

Full Body Sit Ups (10) *Modify: Crunch up to the ceiling instead of reaching your toes. Challenge- Grab a weight or heavy object, hold at chest and press up with hands after full sit body up.


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