On “bold things” for mobility

I have three things to say about this.

Mayor John Whitmire

Mayor John Whitmire started a noontime discussion about transportation in the region by saying he was “fired up” about the opportunity to improve the city’s mobility and infrastructure.


2. “I am going to do bold things for infrastructure… We are going to spend money.”

Whitmire was, after all, in a crowd of people in the business of making transportation projects happen. He joked that the TAG event counted as a one-on-one, since so many people present had been looking for some time with him.

That spending, Whitmire said, will come from multiple sources. Relying on his decades in the Texas Legislature, he said he is talking to state highway officials about more partnerships. He also is working with county officials for ways they can help city streets or split costs for street projects.

“We have got to find resources, and we are going to,” he said.

3. “I am sensitive to bike riders, I am… (But) we are not going to sacrifice our general mobility for recreation.”

Whitmire’s mandate for road projects in his administration has been clear: No reduction in lanes, lane width or adding of sidewalks wider than six feet.

He and others have said it is a matter of equity, noting that the Heights or Montrose should not have 10-foot sidewalks or bike trails when communities such as Alief and Denver Harbor have no sidewalks at all.

Repeatedly, he’s alluded to bicycling being a fringe activity or hobby as opposed to a means for mobility. For critics, that ignores thousands – albeit a small minority compared to drivers – who ride to work or school and are looking for safe options. And that does not include the ones who might ride for a quick trip to the store, if they felt safe.

“Since he first made this claim in March, Mayor Whitmire has heard from hundreds of Houstonians who depend on bikes for daily transportation,” said Joe Cutrufo, executive director of the advocacy group BikeHouston. “The city has a moral obligation to build streets that are safe for everybody, regardless of how they get around, and regardless of how this mayor feels about them.”

1. Not everyone drives everywhere. Some people can’t afford to buy a car, or live in a household that can’t afford to buy a car for everyone that might need one. Some people choose to live where they can get around without a car. Some people – I am in this group – prefer to walk or bike to places in their neighborhood whenever possible.

2. If you do drive everywhere, it’s actually in your interest to accommodate those who prefer an alternative to driving, because now they’re not competing with you for road space or parking spots. It’s a win-win when the people who live near to a popular destination can get there by not driving. If you have to drive there, you really should want to encourage that.

3. I really don’t think it’s going to be easy to get Harris County on board with this “roads and drivers above all else” strategy.

There are more things I could say, but I’ll leave it at that. As with other items on the Mayor’s agenda, we’re waiting on the details of his plans.

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11 Responses to On “bold things” for mobility

  1. Well, funding is limited. It does make sense to spend money on building sidewalks in communities where none currently exist before adding more recreational paths. My neighborhood doesn’t have any sidewalks, so people either have to walk in the road or in the drainage ditch. Not only is that unsafe, it is fundamentally unfair. Folks in my relatively poor neighborhood pay taxes, too.

  2. Full disclosure, I live in unincorporated Harris County, so Mayor Whitmire’s plan won’t help me. I have to rely on Commissioners Court to make any improvements in my neighborhood.

  3. J says:

    Makes me pretty mad that Whitmire alludes to bike riding as fringe recreation so he doesn’t have to include bikes in his transportation plans. The point that every bike rider is one less car is a good one that needs to be made loudly. When I am gliding through neighborhoods on my ebike past walkers and those with strollers I get smiles, we are all glad that I am not in a big vehicle spewing hazardous fumes. Electric bikes are becoming more and more popular as people discover how nice they are to ride and how easy they do errands, and they are definitely the future.

    It is very clear that Whitmire promised some Republican donor that he was going to squelch any and all plans to improve the roads for bicyclists. His excuses are just lies and smoke.

  4. J says:

    At the moment I am charging a battery for a grocery trip to Buffalo Heights, one less car trip through Montrose and up and down Waugh Drive.

  5. Meme says:

    Greg, you chose to buy in a neighborhood without sidewalks. Bob Lanier built sidewalks-to-schools in those neighborhoods in Houston.

    Old neighborhoods with trees have destroyed many of the sidewalks built in the neighborhood; it is safer to walk on the street or run, in the case of the guy who is a mini-trump and is governor of this state.

    I grew up in a neighborhood without sidewalks and never saw anyone walking in the drainage ditch.

    When I worked downtown, I used the park and ride and walked about a half-mile to the job site.

    Electric bikes will change how many people get around; I see that in my neighborhood.

  6. Meme, the folks that live in Alief, Denver Harbor, etc. also moved into those neighborhoods with no sidewalks. As the city and county spend taxpayer money, should those neighborhoods never be improved? Rich neighborhoods have sidewalks, street lights, walking and bike trials, etc., while most poor areas don’t. How is that equitable? I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 26 years without those amenities. As the county spends taxpayer dollars, I’d love to see them add some sidewalks and street lights out here.

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    J, I like vintage steel bikes,not e bikes, but I agree, you can speed around on a bike faster than cars can get around in many parts of town. And you can interact with the people and nature.

  8. Jonathan Freeman says:

    Meme, if you’re arguing he should’ve chosen a neighborhood with more amenities, why wouldn’t that argument also apply to bike trails and extended sidewalks built for bikes? I’m not taking sides but believe most people on this website want progress wherever they live.

    The road projects the mayor is speaking of require large sums of money no matter how they are built. Under the current state leadership, I don’t suspect funds are set aside for bike improvements. At the same time, I’m led to believe under the current administration in the White House, most transportation projects inside cities require some bike or pedestrian component. If this is the case, the Mayor should discover it when searching for those resources and plan accordingly rather than discard bike riders altogether just because most of them are recreational. Greg can go petition the county for sidewalks since he doesn’t live here but I don’t suspect the mayor is going to build them unless he absolutely has to as a condition of funding.

  9. J says:

    In fact, some rich neighborhoods shun sidewalks since sidewalks allow the hoi polloi to access their exclusive property. There are lots of poor neighborhoods with sidewalks, and wealthy ones without. The argument Whitmire is presenting is just a diversion. His “bold” vision is just an old vision, he is showing his GOPer pals that he is really one of them, not some kind of bike-hugger.

    The City Council needs to pass an ordinance eliminating the Prop A committee, with the stipulation that it is not reviewable by the Prop A committee, so they can curb this awful Mayor.

  10. Meme says:

    I grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Corpus Christi. I walked with my dad as he collected signatures to have sidewalks installed. The residents were responsible for the largest part of the cost. They have sidewalks.

    Don’t tell me about poor people, if they want sidewalks they will find a way.


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