A fatal crash [in late July] cemented what cycling advocates had been warning about for months – Houston is going backwards when it comes to erasing roadway deaths of bicycle riders.
“With few exceptions, trying to share the road on Houston’s streets is like swimming with sharks,” BikeHouston Executive Director Joe Cutrufo said, in an email. “There’s no protection, there’s no goodwill, there’s no accountability.”
The death is the 12th roadway fatality in Houston involving a cyclist. With five months of the year to go, that is already more than the number of cyclist deaths last year and more than every year of the past decade except 2019 – when deaths in the city spiked to 16.
Cyclists for months have been sounding the alarm, saying too many places in the city remain a danger zone for riders. Drivers too often are aggressive, inattentive and encouraged by highway and road designs to mash the accelerator, they said.
Between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2022, Houston logged eight cyclist fatalities. Based on that rate, 2023 is on on pace for 19 deaths across Houston, as the city, county, state and nation makes a priority of reducing roadway deaths.
“We’re on pace to double last year’s death toll,” Cutrufo said. “What is the next mayor going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?”
Houston approved a “Vision Zero” pledge aimed at eliminating roadway deaths, developing an action plan in late 2020. Officials have touted new projects to make roads safer for all users with expanded sidewalks and bike lanes.
Though the projects have at times been controversial, with drivers complaining about losing lanes to protected bike paths, Cutrufo said the projects are working as planned despite the uptick in deaths.
“We’re not seeing drivers killing bicyclists in the places where we’ve built safe streets with separated bikeways, so we really need to see the next mayor double down on multi-modal streets that accommodate all Houstonians, not just cars and trucks,” Cutrufo said.
I’ve ridden quite a bit on the new West 11th bike lane. It’s opened up a lot more of the area to me, just because now I feel safer travelling it by bike. And just as a reminder to you, the driver, when I bike to these destinations – almost always places to eat – I’m not taking up a parking place. You’re welcome.