There is a subtle shift in where riding bikes is popular in the United States. Specifically, Houston cycling is taking off more than most people realize. In a city known for big oil, you’d be surprised how bike-friendly Houston has become. We’ve put together an “H-Town For Bikes” summary that goes over how to get around this town on two wheels.
THE HOUSTON CYCLING ANGLE
For nearly a decade, New York was the hallmark of big-city cycling infrastructure in the US. Specifically, NYC created over 400 miles of bike lanes and its Citibike bikeshare program. Three years later, Chicago took the top spot on Bicycling’s list of the 50 Most Bike Friendly Cities in America.
However, one of the nation’s largest cities (Houston) was absent. At the time, infrastructure investments in Houston cycling hadn’t occurred since the early 1990s. Furthermore, Houston’s transportation “highlights” had only been automobile-related. For example, Houston is known for having the widest highway in the US. For reference, that is more urban sprawl than Los Angeles. In total, Houston residents average 51.6 hours lost in traffic per commuter per year.
That said, things have been changing quickly (for the better!).
Take a Ride Around the Next American Cycling Powerhouse:
PLANNING AND PATROLS
Recently, the Houston City Council voted to approve the city to add hundreds of miles of new bike-friendly infrastruture improvements. Over the next 10 years, Houston cycling will align with all standards established by the League of American Bicyclists. Furthermore, Governing Magazine celebrated the city’s surprising push towards urban revival.
Plus, Houston police are enforcing the city’s safe passage ordinance. For example, the department unveiled C3FT radar to ticket drivers who do not provide space to cyclists.
BAYOU GREENWAYS 2020
When looking at all things Houston cycling, the Bayou Greenways 2020 initiative is making the biggest impact.
First, most people don’t know that Houston has a vast network of slow-moving creeks called bayous. Most importantly, these waterways have been primarily used as drainage ditches. As a result, recreational potential in these areas was an afterthought (until now).
“Bayou Greenways 2020 is one of the most ambitious and bold parks projects in the country,” says Houston Parks Board CEO Beth White. “Through this public-private partnership with Houston Parks and Recreation Department, we are creating a network of connected parks and trails along nine Houston Bayous.”
Once completed, Bayou Greenways will transform more than 3,000 acres of land along the bayous into greenways. That’s roughly 3.5x the size of New York’s Central Park – with many of them passing directly through downtown Houston. As a result, these greenspaces will connect parks, communities and people in a whole new way.
Furthermore, these parks will yield 80 miles of bike-friendly trails. In total, cyclists will have access to 150+ miles of car-free waterside riding. Plus, the way in which this project is being funded is worth celebrating as well. Specifically, Houston residents passed a measure that accounts for $100 million to fund the Bayou Greenways. Plus, fundraising by the Houston Parks Board have raised an additional $120 million to complete the project. As a result, this is one of the largest private-public partnerships in the city’s history.
In summary, the investments in Houston cycling are creating a unique urban evolution of its own. Converting this huge metropolis into a bike-friendly community is a massive win for new urban planning. Simply put, Houston is proving that two-wheeled infrastructure contributes to positive change.