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.

 

H-Town Run Tourist

10 Reasons why we love Buffalo Bayou Park

Author's Own

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Aside from our hospitality and our restaurant scene, I truly believe that Houston's parks are the city's pride and joy. Let' say it together with pride, "HOUSTON PARKS ARE BADASS!" One park that stands out is Buffalo Bayou Park. It is that 160 acres of green space between Shepherd Dr. and the Mosbacher Bridge. It is An amazing networkof hike and bike trails and the best natural tourism of Houston. So many reasons to love Buffalo Bayou Park. Here are mine!

Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

1. It is a great place to train.

I have used Buffalo Bayou Park to train for all of my marathons. It is a great connector to other parts of the city like Downtown, the Heights and Montrose. It keeps your run interesting with hills, flowers, and wildlife. It is also a great place to add mileage to your runs.

2. So Many Awesome Events.

Buffalo Bayou is home to some of Houston's best events. These are held at resident venues such as the Bud Lite Amphitheater, Eleanor Tinsley Park, and the Water Works at Buffalo Bayou. Enjoy weekly 45 minute session of Sunrise Yoga at the Water Works. All ages and fitness levels welcome. Mark your calendar for the upcoming Houston Margarita Festival, the Houston Press Tacolandia, and Octoberfest Houston 2019.

3. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities.

It takes a lot of donations to make a place like Buffalo Bayou Park possible. $58 million in fact. Not all of us have that kind of cash lying around, but we still have two valuable resources to offer: time and energy. Buffalo Bayou Park has plenty of ways to put your good time and energy to. You can volunteer to restore and protect the lovely trails of Buffalo Bayou. You can do this by weeding and picking up debris. Every third Saturday is designated as Volunteer Day where groups and individuals are welcome to join.

Violet Coneflower

Arthor's own

4. Houston's best place for natural views, wildlife, and foliage.

One of my favorite things about running and walking in Houston, is taking pictures of trees, flowers, and natural settings. There are plenty of opportunities to do so in Buffalo Bayou Park. You have your pick: Live oak trees, wildflowers, jumping fish, even the occasional alligator. Nothing compares to the bat colony on Waugh Bridge. Whenever you are running and you smell this overwhelming stench, don't look at your running partner, its actually 250,000 Mexican bats that live under Waugh Bridge. You can see these bats emerge most nights at dusk to feast on the many bite size insects that drive us crazy.

the Kitchen at Dunlavy

Arthor's own

5. Home to the Kitchen at Dunlavy

Look past the Lost Lake and you will find a fantastical tree house restaurant called the Dunlavy. The restaurant, brought to you by Clark Cooper Concepts, serves breakfast and lunch everyday. It was voted "One of the World's Most Romantic Restaurants by CNN. To Houstonians, its the best place for weddings and Super Bowl Parties. During the day, it is counter restaurant service for breakfast and lunch. It is a go to for smoothies, breakfast bowls, croquet madame, cheese and charcuterie boards, and of course, the Dunlavy burger. But on the weekends, get there quick, because it fills up fast and you will be out there with the lily pads.

Beautiful downtown view

Arthor's own

6. The Best Downtown Views

My tourists really love taking pictures of the Downtown Skyline. Buffalo Bayou Park is home to some of my favorite views. For the best views, stop at Sabine Promenade and smaller bridges towards downtown. When you are about to walk into Downtown, don't forget to take in the amazing view from Mosbacher Bridge.

Police Officer's Memorial

Arthor's own

7. Let's honor our Fallen at the Police Officer's Memorial.

The Police Officer's Memorial. If you are traveling into Downtown from Memorial Drive, chances are you have passed this amazing structure. This memorial serves as a public recognition of sacrifices that have been made by police officers to carry out their duties. This is especially for the officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial, including the names of over 100 fallen police officers, is made of pink granite in the shape of a Greek Cross with a pyramid for the center. You can honor these officers on the annual wreath laying ceremony.


inside the Cistern

​Katy’s Horner/Slight Clutter Photography 

8. Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

This structure, the size of one and a half football fields, lay dormant as one of Houston's best kept secrets. That was until 2015 after the reopening of Buffalo Bayou Park. The Cistern, built in 1926, was used as the city's water reservoir for drinking water storage and fire suppression. Due to a leak, it was decommissioned in 2007. Today, you can enjoy tours and photography sessions inside. It has been home to art exhibits as well like Chromointerference by Carlos Cruz Diez.

The Seven Wonders

Arthor's own

9. Oh! the Spectacular Artwork of Buffalo Bayou.

I hope you have enjoyed all of my pictures of the art in Buffalo Bayou. Here are some of my favorites that you need to look out for.

Gus S. Wortham Fountain. Also nicknamed Dandelion near Waugh Bridge. At night, this fountain lights up with alluring colors like pink, purple, and blue. It doesn't take much to see why it is called the Dandelion.

Seven Wonders. This exhibition by Mel Chin, used the art from grade school students to depict the seven pillars of Houston civilization. Agriculture. Energy. Manufacturing. Medicine. Philantropy. Technology. and Transportation.

Tolerance. This is a seven piece constellation at Montrose and Memorial. It stands for equality of all religions and nationalities of the seven continents.

The Big Bubble. This installation by Dean Ruck is a big bubble that occurs in Buffalo Bayou that is activated by a "secret button." I would say that you have to be in the know, but it has been turned off since Hurricane Harvey. Maybe one day.

10. It is resilient!

Houston was so proud at the unveiling of the park aafter its $58 million renovation. Then came Hurricane Harvey. We all saw the pictures online and on social media. They were horrible. Just like I would expect from Houstonians, we all came together and after 2300 volunteers donated 7000 man hours, 60 million pounds of sediment, 500 trail lights, 5 dump trucks full of trash and debris were removed or repaired. Over 400 native trees and 1100 flowers were planted to restore the park.

You can definitely see why we all love Buffalo Bayou Park. I can't help but think this every time I run, walk, host, or drive anywhere in or around our pride and joy!

If you want more information or have questions about Buffalo Bayou Park, email info@buffalobayou.org. BBP Instagram handle is @buffalobayou.

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