One of the things Houston has been doing in an effort to comply with the Federal Clean Air Act has been to install bike lanes on various city streets. This has had the unfortunate effect of increasing traffic congestion on some of these streets.
I certainly favor all reasonable ideas to make Houston more accessible to non-drivers. Encouraging bike riding, even in our frequently sweltering climate, is a good idea and worth the trouble. However, I have a lot of sympathy for the people who do drive on this stretch of West Alabama. Any time you reduce a street from two lanes each way to one lane each way, you’re going to cause bottlenecks. Houston’s notoriously out-of-sync traffic lights, with their annoyingly long red cycles, make this problem even worse. Throw in a bus route and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Part of the problem is that the city, which is a bit more than halfway through completion of its planned master bikeway program, has done a poor job of publicizing these alternatives. Thus, drivers who sit steaming through three or four red lights at a given intersection wonder why they suffer but see so few bicycles actually use those lanes. I’ve certainly cursed the bike lanes a few times myself, and I seldom drive this part of West Alabama, partly because of the squeeze on auto lanes.
I’d like to see this succeed, if only for the selfish reason that more bikes means less traffic to bother me while I drive. There are of course many more pieces to this puzzle – rail, sidewalks, city centers – but each piece is important and deserves to be treated properly.