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.

The right shoes are a big deal for runners. Courtesy photo

I bought my first pair of running shoes in 2007. I decided that I was running the Houston Marathon. I had no idea what I was doing, so I found a running group to train with (Kenyan Way, because I wanted to be as fast as the Kenyans). The next thing I needed was shoes. So, I went to Lady Foot Locker.

Until then, I bought my shoes at Payless or Wal-Mart, so I was really excited to buy real running shoes. I looked at all the shoes lined on the walls. The smell of leather, rubber, cloth, and whatever else shoes are made of filled my nose. A gentleman came by and asked if I needed help.

At this, I proudly announce:

“I need a pair of running shoes because I am running the Houston Marathon this year!"

He immediately recommends the $200 pair of shoes on the top shelf. I was thinking more like $70. After bargaining and pleading, I walked out of Lady Foot Locker with a brand new pair of Nike Shocks and $160 less in my bank account.

.The next morning, I meet the group for hill running at Allen Parkway. I was so excited. My first time in the runner community and.....

Everyone I met kept looking down at my shoes. Turns out Nike Shocks were the worst shoes to run in because of their heavy soles. That's what I get for going to Lady Foot Locker.

The problem is there are too many shoes and way too many opinions. Who is right and who wants a fat commission on their check? After twelve years and many pairs of running shoes later, I've gotten the whole thing down. So, I made a guide for you first-timers.

1. Buy your shoes at a specialty running store.

(I recommend Fleet Feet). The staff is usually made up of marathon runners who make it their personal business to keep up with running technology. You can also find out about running events.

2. Find the Right Salesperson.

This person should be friendly and patient. They would start by asking about your goals and they should find out about prior running experience that you may have. They would then start the gait assessment.

3. Gait Assessment.

This procedure separates Fleet Feet from Academy and Lady Foot Locker. This assessment is done in two ways:

Manually. The salesperson records you running on a treadmill to see exactly how you run. They are looking at how your foot strikes the ground and how much your ankles move while you run.

FitID. This is new, cutting edge technology. You stand on what looks like a scale. Sensors literally take the topography of your foot. You can tell how high your arches are and which way your foot tends to pronate.(that's the inward or outward roll of your foot when you run or walk. This dictates the type of shoe you need).

4. Choosing your shoe.

There are two things to consider: your shoe type, and shoe style.

Type. There are three types of shoes based on the support you need. Neutral. Stability. Motion Control. This is the whole point of the assessment. Neutral shoes are for people who don't pronate. Stability shoes are for people who do. Motion controlled shoes are for people whose feet are all over the place and need stability.

Style. There should be a vast variety of the lastest shoes. Choose from brands like Nike, ASICS, Saucony, Brooks, Mizuno, Adidas, On, and more. Back in 2007, running seemed like a sport that only middle-aged men in those crazy shorts (you know the ones) participated in. Now younger people have taken up the sport, so running shoe brands have really stepped up their shoe game. Instead of crazy neon orange and greens, you can find knit shoes in the sexy colors like grey, black, navy blue, and pinks. So take your pick. I use a nuetral shoe with good cushioning. Currently, I'm giving the Brooks Ghost a try.

5. Size.

What is your shoe size? If you are a 7 1/2, you would answer 7 1/2, right? Wrong. Your running shoe size needs to be an entire size larger than your regular shoe size. So, if you wear a 7 1/2, then your running shoe size is an 8 1/2. While you run, your foot repeatedly jabs the toe box of the shoe. This extra space reduces unnecessary injuries like your toenails turning black and falling off.

6. Price.

A good running shoe should cost between $120 and $150. If you are squeamish about the price, I assure you, it is totally worth it. Just ask Fred Faour. He bets on his Brooks every single time because his injuries decreased and his times improved once he started wearing them. It's that serious.

7. Final Test.

Try them on and run around. This will let you know if the shoe is right for you. If not, choose another. This is where the salesperson exercises patience.

8. Accessories.

Good accessories will make your running experience go from good to exceptional. Good socks ( about $13) that are dry-wicking, padded, have a high thread count and stay in place are a must. Lock Laces ($8) that never come undone are well worth it.

9. Walkers.

Where are my walkers? Don't feel left out. Running shoes are walking shoes! So, this article applies to you too.

So, what's the whole point to this article?

Don't go to Wal-Mart. Don't go cheap. Do go to a place like Fleet Feet or another specialty store and get treated like a professional runner. Or don't cross the finish line.

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