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.

 

Learning the basics

Stretching and prep for newbie boxers

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

So, I've been going to my boxing classes for about a month now. The challenge is amazing, but I feel like if I actually knew what I was doing, my workout would be that much better. After class, I see the owner, Elm, and decide to ask his opinion.

"You know what you need is some sessions with a personal trainer. I'll set you up with one of best trainers. Can you come in on Tuesday at 2 p.m.?"

"I'll be there with bells on!" On Tuesday, I showed up ready to go. My new trainer comes through the door. He introduces himself as D'Marcus. He is a lean, but very muscular young man.

"So, you want to learn how to box? The first thing I'm going to teach you is how to breathe and how to stretch." D'Marcus demonstrates how to breathe.

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How to Breathe

No matter if you are lifting weights, running, or boxing, breathing is most important to not only have a great workout, but to get the results that you want. Breathing should be done to keep your head in the game.

D'Marcus instructs me on the proper way to breathe. Puff out your chest like a peacock. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. This should be a slow, deep, and from the diaphragm. Do 10 breaths.


Spinal Rolls youtu.be

Spinal Rolls

The first stretch is spinal rolls. He is really speaking my language. Spinal Rolls ease the tension in your lower back. Lift and raise the chest. Lean slightly back while tucking the chest in. Roll your arms and squeeze your abs while creating a circular motion. These are great for people who sit in their car for a long commute or at a desk. Of course, remember to breathe from your diaphragm. Repeat for 10.


Torso Rolls youtu.be

Torso Rolls

Next are torso Rolls. Torso Rolls open up your chest so that you get more oxygen. These are also great to relieve stress in the upper and lower back muscles. To do these, lean back and roll to the right side. When you ge to the front of the body, tuck your chest in as you complete the roll. Remember to breathe and repeat for 10. Do rolls for the left and right side.

Leg Rolls youtu.be

Leg Rolls

I'm sure you have experienced a heaviness in you legs. Leg rolls are great to alleviate this heaviness as it helps loosen up the hips. Start with breathing from your diaphragm. Raise the chest. As you tuck your chest in and sit back on your hips. As you sit back on your hips, bend your knees. As you straighten your legs, push your hips forward. Repeat for 10 sets.

These stretches are not only good to do before a workout, but when you get up, and whenever you feel tight. I'll let you in on a secret. When I was done with my lesson, I literally felt high as a kite. It's nice to know, I can get high at anytime during the day. Just joking.

If you are interested in taking a class or personal training with D'Marcus at Title Boxing Club contact Jovan at info@tourismgymhtx.com

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