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.

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