A group of Rice University students is working with various community groups and Metropolitan Transit Authority officials to better integrate cycling and public transit, as the city’s bike-sharing system prepares for another expansion.
Make no mistake: Biking and transit will continue to be specks in the rear-view mirror of the automobile when it comes to traveling in Houston. The city historically lacks widespread interest in either, and the road network has to work first and foremost for cars and trucks.
Even some of the city’s attributes, like flat land, can pose challenges. So do differences in how people bike. While some riders look at cycling as a choice, strapping their expensive bike on the back of their car and driving it wherever they want, in some Houston communities bikes are a means of day-to-day transportation.
“There is no real single solution to all the challenges,” said Austin Jarvis, a Rice architecture student and frequent cyclist.
Jarvis and fellow students Skye Kelty, Laura Lopez and Maria Luisa Rangel are trying to solve a handful of problems, working with other student groups in some cases.
The quartet has already conducted surveys of bus riders in hopes of identifying unmet needs.
In addition, engineering students over the next year will work to design a rack for the front of buses that can hold three bicycles rather than two.
Better real-time transit data, via smartphones for example, could alert cyclists if the bus they’re planning to catch is running late, Lopez said.
Signs along the trails alerting riders to nearby stops, or just the best routes around town, could also help. Even along the new city bike trails, signs often are more useful to pedestrians than to cyclists, who have to slow down to read them.
Designing them more like city street signs, which can be read from a moving car, is just one small step, Lopez said.
These are all good ideas, and as you know I support better integration of the bike and bus networks. It’s true that these solutions are fairly small-bore, but they’re also pretty cheap, and they help populations that are underserved and in parts of town that don’t have many alternatives for increasing capacity. We need more like this.