Do I really need to worry about West 11th Street?

I dunno, man.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire is reevaluating several street infrastructure projects for effectiveness, including the completed 11th Street redesign despite the controversy surrounding the recent removal of pedestrian and cyclist upgrades on Houston Avenue.

Whitmire, who took office in January, has made it a priority to review city projects that the previous city administration made. His office confirmed to Houston Public Media that the overhaul includes the contentious redesign of a 1.5-mile stretch of 11th Street in The Heights. The $2.4 million project was completed in 2023, following more than four years of community engagement, and now Whitmire will decide if it should be torn up or changed.

“The mayor has been very open about his concerns with the 11th Street project. What started out as a request for a safe crossing at Nicholson and 11th Street ended up a bike lane project that makes it difficult for emergency apparatus to maneuver and has negatively impacted a business. He is reviewing this along with other projects,” said spokesperson Mary Benton.

The project involved the addition of bike lanes and safe crosswalks at various intersections, particularly at Nicholson, where the Heights hike and bike trail intersects with 11th. While cycling and pedestrian advocates welcomed the changes as they provided additional safety measures for a busy neighborhood street, the project faced some opposition from several businesses, who expressed concern about how it would impact their establishments.

The overhaul of all these infrastructure projects has some public safety advocates worried, especially as word that a temporary pause was put on all projects that include narrowing or removing vehicle lanes or adding bike lanes was confirmed by Houston Public Works in a report by the Houston Chronicle.

Joe Cutrufo, executive director at BikeHouston, whose advocacy helped get this project in place, told Adam Zuvanich of Houston Public Media that he’s concerned about the fate of 11th Street.

“If the mayor were to undo this project and revert 11th Street back to how it used to be,” Cutrufo said, “I don’t think you’d see the city winning any awards for that.”

There’s been a number of stories speculating about this, and there’s definitely some alarm in the bicycle-pedestrian community. I’m not dismissive of any of it, but I’m also not sure how much of this is normal review of a predecessor’s project list (with perhaps a few dollops of old-guy grumpiness) and how much of it is a serious threat. The Houston avenue debacle was caused in part by complaints from the police and fire departments; there are no such issues here that I’m aware of. Removing the modifications to West 11th would mean tearing up a much longer stretch of road to undo a much more expensive renovation that has been physically in place a lot longer and which had been in discussion and planning a lot longer than that. I just have a hard time wrapping my mind around the possibility that the Mayor would take such a big action based on a handful of malcontents.

But maybe I’m wrong and I’m not taking this seriously enough. I think the backlash here would be a lot bigger than the one that Houston Avenue caused, but we’ll see. I hope I’ve got the right take on this.

UPDATE: On the subject of Houston Avenue and the reasons for the dismantling of its median, late in the day yesterday we got this.

The city’s planning department has declined to release records related to the controversial installation and subsequent removal of a concrete median on Houston Avenue, citing concerns about terrorism and the candor of its employees.

The city’s legal department has cited those two exemptions in the Texas Public Information Act in a letter asking the Texas attorney general’s office to withhold some of the records requested by the Houston Landing.


Mayor Whitmire’s 2023 campaign included messaging around transparency, and wanting to be more open with the public.

Houston Landing contacted the mayor’s office last week, seeking additional comment on the rationale for requesting some of the information to be withheld.

Mary Benton, the mayor’s director of communications, said Whitmire likely would not comment about an ongoing Texas Public Information Act process, but that the mayor had been adamant about processing public records requests quickly. Benton also said she would forward the Landing’s request to City Attorney Arturo Michel, who had not responded as of Monday afternoon.

“This strikes me just on a very surface level as a governmental body that seems to be reaching for any possible exemption to avoid disclosing this information,” [James Hemphill, an Austin lawyer on the executive committee of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas] said. “I don’t know that that’s what’s going on, I don’t know enough about the situation. This does appear to be a pretty elaborate invocation of some exceptions.”

Well OK then.

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6 Responses to Do I really need to worry about West 11th Street?

  1. C.L. says:

    As a frequent traveler down West 11th and fellow Heights resident for decades, if there’s a business on 11th I want/need to patronize, there are (always) ways to get there. Yeah, Bakery Donuts (tbh, not sure how they stayed in business pre-traffic diet to begin with) and Daddy’s Chicken Shack (11th and Shepherd) is a trick, but it’s possible.

    Anything to keep folks from driving 50mph down 11th, I say.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    The city already (pre-Whitmire) tore up the curbs on Heights Blvd around the corner from 11th because cars kept hitting them.

  3. Meme says:

    I would say it is time to worry: It costs $750,000 to install, $1.5 million to remove, and $200,000 to restore vehicle lanes. These numbers are estimates based on what happened on Houston Avenue. Maybe four-year terms were too long.

  4. J says:

    The issue seems to be how bike lanes are managed at intersections. I myself feel a little unsafe in a right-hand bike lane at an intersection when the bike lane green light and the traffic green light are simultaneous, since there are cars trying to turn right (into me) while looking left. I would rather be (and usually am) in the main lane at intersections. The bike lane barriers at intersections could be removed without doing away with the entire bike lane.

    I don’t trust Whitmire at all. His campaign optics were all about pleasing Republican business owners.

  5. D.R. says:

    Don’t stop at 11th.
    Turn Allen Parkway back to the freeway it used to be. It limits mobility sitting at red lights especially for Whitmire’s beloved first responders and emergency vee-hickles

  6. C.L. says:

    I’m with D.R. If doing 60+mph on Allen Parkway was good enough for John O’Quinn, it should be good enough for the rest of us plebians.

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