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.

 

It's that time of the year, where you will either a) be traveling, or b) too comfy and warm to get out of bed! And don't worry even while you are traveling to your favorite mother-in-law's house, I got you covered. We've all had those moments, even the biggest fit junkies, where you wake up and think…. maybe I could work out from my bed? Well below are some of the top exercises you can do, all without having to leave your bed!

1)The Pilates clam

In the video, first you will notice a pillow in between my arm and head. Place a pillow or towel here in order to keep the spine in line from head to end of tail bone. Remember this is a beginner exercise, but you can always advance it and lift the feet in the air, in the same position. Repeat 3 sets of 15 each.

2) Straight- leg lifts

Laying on your left side, place your right hand on your hip, while your arm is bent and helping to support your head. Lift the right leg up to about a 45-degree angle. Repeat 15 times with 3 sets and you will feel your glutes start to burn. Flip over to your right side and repeat on left leg.

3) Prone Cuban Press

This isn't as much of an exercise, but it is very beneficial to your arm flexibility and strength. This is similar to a prone Cuban press, except without weight. Lie on your belly extend your arms straight out. Try to pass through your arms right underneath your shoulders, while bending your arms and reaching through towards the toes. Using the same motion come back up through, back to the top. This is harder than it looks and will really test your flexibility. Repeat these 15 times.

4) V-ups (jackknife sit-ups)

Technically, you can do any form of sit-ups here. However, I like to choose V-ups, especially if you have a bony spine, the bed helps tremendously with the comfort of your spine. While lying on your back, extend your arms over your head and legs straight out. All in one movement raise your upper half of your body reaching towards the ceiling. At the same time your legs will come up to try meet your fingertips. Remember your hands are reaching towards the ceiling and toes are trying to reach those hands. Try not to let your feet meet your hands, before your hands get to the top point of the exercise. Repeat 12 times for 3 sets.

5) Marching hip raises

Start in the same half bridge position, except this time you are going to lift 1 leg up in a 45-degree angle, and hold for :1 second. Alternate each leg, 10 times. Reminder you are alternating legs while you are still holding this bridge position.

6) Bird dogs

Start in a table top, hands, knees, and shins resting on the bed. In one motion reach out your right arm along while straightening out your left leg, hold for 1 second. Then alternate your arms and legs. The unevenness of the bed will really give you a test of your balance. Repeat 10 times each and 3 sets.

7) Half-bridge

While lying on your back on the bed, with your knees bent, tuck-in your chin tucked into your chest. As your booty lifts off the bed, dig your heels into the bed, squeezing your glutes. For an added benefit, fold a pillow and place within your knees and squeeze for :5 at a time. This will help you tone the inner part of your thighs. Repeat these 15 times, for 3 sets.

8) Single leg half-bridge

While lying on your back, bend one leg, while the other is in the air at a 45-degree angle. Arms are to each side, palms down. With 1 leg lifted, you will lift your gluteus maximus in the air, pushing through your hips to the ceiling, hold for 1 second and release. Repeat on same leg 10 times, then alternate to other leg.

9) Booty sculpting hip rotations

These are small movements, but you will definitely feel it in your booty. Lie on your belly, bend your arms, and use your hands for support of your head. Straighten one leg, while bending the other leg (foot resting behind opposite knee). This movement can be slow and at your pace. With only lifting your bent knee up from the bed be sure to keep the rest of the movement pressed against the bed. Again, this is a small movement, only lifting a few inches. This movement targets a complex group of muscles that include gluteus medius/maximus, piriformis, and quadratus femoris.

10) Toe Taps

Lie on your back towards the edge of the bed, make sure you have a neutral spine the whole time. Bring your legs into a table top position (bending at a 45-degree angle). On the exhale lower on leg towards the ground. Only go as low as you can while maintaining a neutral spine. This will also make sure your abs are pulled in and working. Alternate legs throughout the exercise and do 10 reps on each leg.

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