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.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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