WHEEL SCARY

Ken Hoffman's near-death horror stories reveal the dangers of cycling in Houston

It's a dangerous road for Houston bikers. Photo courtesy of Houston Heights Association

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

As CultureMap reported, Houston is the sixth-most-dangerous city for bicycle riding, according to a ranking of 790 cities by Your Local Security, a blog that covers safety issues operated by the ADT home security company. Frankly, I'm shocked by Houston finishing so high on the danger list.

I thought we'd be higher.

The survey was based on factors such as bicycle laws, infrastructure, percentage of people who commute to work on bicycles, and fatal crashes. I know that Houston has ambitious plans to improve things for bicycle riders. In 2017, City Council passed an imaginative Houston Bike Plan, a call for a "highly accessible, citywide network of comfortable bike facilities," and strategies to convince Houstonians to get on their bicycles more often. I get all that.

But until then ... it's war between car drivers and bicycle riders. And guess who wins that? As Sgt. Esterhaus used to warn cops on Hill Street Blues, "Hey, let's be careful out there." I'm talking to bike riders.

Before we build new bikes lanes, how about filling 10,000 potholes along Bissonnet, and sweeping the bikes lanes we have now? I'm sort of a bicyclist, but not a Spandex-wearing rider who pedals 75 miles on Saturday mornings for fun. (Fun?) Once a year, I ride the weekend BP MS 150 to Austin, but that has me limping to Massage Envy on Monday asking, "How much to do just my butt?"

Mostly, I ride to the supermarket, once in a while to "work," to my neighborhood tennis courts, around my spring/summer home in West U, places like that. I like to consider that exercise, but it's really not.

Bike lane horrors
Problem is, the bike lanes along Westpark and West Alabama are garbage dumps — broken beer bottle depositories and gravel quarries. They're dangerous. One skid on the gravel and you're tumbling into oncoming cars. Better to take your chances riding on the sidewalk, which doesn't endear you to pedestrians.

The cities that beat Houston for danger are: Los Angeles and New York City — of course, slam dunk. Next was a part of Brooklyn, followed by Webster, Iowa, and two cities in North Dakota. The North Dakota cities shouldn't even count because how can you ride a bike in snow 11 months a year?

Dear drivers: Why the bike hate?
I don't understand the hatred that some drivers have for bicyclists. I've been honked at, yelled at, thrown things at. For what? There's room for both drivers and pedalers on Houston streets. Once time, true story, while getting a medical checkup, my doctor went off on bike riders who run red lights. I know, he had a point, but let's get back to my heart rate, okay, Dr. DeFelice?

A brush with death
Want to hear about the two times I almost killed myself on a bicycle? (Well, one time; the other time wasn't my fault.)

Friday night in October 2013: After I participated in the Critical Mass bike ride around downtown for a column about the controversial, often wild 'n' wooly gathering, I hit a pothole, or something, on Weslayan Street, between Westheimer and Richmond.

Continue reading on CultureMap.

Photo by Jacob Power

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

My dog, Sally, is never going to a public dog park again. I've always had my concerns about dog parks, like aggressive dogs, potential bacteria and disease, and unsupervised activity.

But, I thought, I've heard good things about Officer Lucy Dog Park in Bellaire. Let's see if Sally has fun there. I adopted Sally last New Year's Eve. She's grown into the sweetest, gentlest, most adorable dog I've ever owned.

She's also grown into one of the biggest dogs I've ever owned. It didn't say that on the card on her cage at the shelter.
Here's what happened: I brought Sally to the dog park around 8 am last Thursday. There was a guy in there with three dogs. I asked him, "Are your dogs safe?" He said, "Yeah."As we walked along the fence toward the entrance, I noticed one of his dogs defecating. The guy made no effort to pick it up. I told him, "Hey…"

He said, "I got it, worry about your own dog." He looked annoyed that I called him out about his dog pooping.

Attack at the park

That was a bad sign and I should have turned around right there. The moment we entered the gate, his three dogs attacked Sally. It happened in an instant and it was a frightening, horrible scene. They had Sally pinned down. They were snarling and one was going after her neck. Sally was screaming, a sound I had never heard her make.

This was for real. It wasn't playing, dogs sniffing each other out. These dogs were hurting my amazing dog. I'll never forget the awful sound of growling and barking and crying.

Ken to the rescue

I jumped in the middle and kicked the dog going for Sally's neck as hard as I could. I yelled "Get off!" and "Do something" to the other dog's owner. He just stood there.

I grabbed Sally and slammed the gate behind. The other dogs were hurling themselves at the fence, still trying to get at Sally. The moment we were safe, here's my admission, I went into a rage hollering at the other dogs' owner. He never said sorry, just that, "...two of my dogs are in heat."

That took a terrible situation to 11. I unleashed a torrent of profanity. The guy didn't back off. He told me to F-off, and how about this, "I was here first. If you don't like it, don't bring your dog in here."

That made me 1,000 times angrier. There is a list of rules on the gate at Officer Lucy Dog Park. No vicious dogs, no dogs in heat, on and on. The problem — and this was my original concern about public dog parks — you can have all the rules you want, but if you don't enforce the rules, you have no rules.

I was furious. You never know how you're going to react in a situation, but if his dogs had killed Sally, I would have spent last Thursday night in jail. People dump on me all day long — get in line — but it you can't hurt my dog.

Continue on CultureMap to read what happened when Ken Hoffman called the police.


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