From the Mayor’s office:
Mayor Annise Parker today announced the City and BikeHouston are joining forces to launch a major bike safety campaign to enforce and educate motorists and cyclists about the existing Safe Passing Ordinance, as well as create a Bicycle Master Plan for the City.
“As the name of this program implies, the goal is to end cycling fatalities,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “Whether on a bike or behind the wheel, we have to abide by the rules of the road and learn how to share the road safely. Unfortunately, a spate of recent bicycle fatalities on Houston streets indicates there is much work to be done in this area. As a first step, I am dedicating $50,000 toward the cost of a Bicycle Master Plan that will guide our future decisions regarding placement of dedicated on-street bike lanes and infrastructure.”
City initiatives such as Houston Bike Share and trail expansions have encouraged more cycling. Those numbers are expected to increase as Bayou Greenways 2020 projects are built and the City implements its new Complete Streets approach and Sunday Streets HTx.
“BikeHouston believes today’s steps will help make our city a safer place to cycle and an even better place to live, work and raise a family,” said Michael Payne, Executive Director of BikeHouston. “By investing in safe bikeways and setting specific targets to increase cycling, our city’s leader’s will become our country’s leaders in dealing with the challenge of creating healthy, economically sustainable communities which attract the best companies and employees.”
As part of the enforcement component of the campaign, the Houston Police Department has instructed officers to ticket drivers who violate the City’s new Safe Passing Ordinance and cyclists that disregard their responsibilities to obey traffic laws. The stepped up enforcement includes undercover sting operations along roadways popular for cycling. The Safe Passing Ordinance mandates at least three feet of distance when passing and at least a six foot buffer when behind a bicyclist or other vulnerable road user. HPD has produced a PSA to help educate the public about the ordinance. The PSA will be available to disperse through television, radio, internet, YouTube, and social media sites.
“I want to ensure everyone feels safe on Houston’s street,” said Mayor Parker. “By working together we can become one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the nation.”
The Mayor’s Office will work closely with HPD, the Planning Department, Public Works and Engineering, the Municipal Courts and BikeHouston on the campaign.
Basically, the city is adopting BikeHouston’s Goal Zero Fatalities plan, at least in part; BikeHouston calls for a ban on using cellphones while driving, and I rather doubt that’s in the works. Be that as it may, the Chron adds some details.
City leaders and bicycle safety advocates announced a plan Tuesday aimed at eliminating cyclist deaths in collisions with cars.
The announcement, which follows two recent cyclist deaths, includes the development of a Bicycle Master Plan, a public awareness campaign about a recent city ordinance intended to protect cyclists and stepped-up enforcement against drivers and cyclists who flaunt the law.
Mayor Annise Parker said the city would dedicate $50,000 to the bike plan, which will guide future bike lane locations as well as infrastructure to accommodate cyclists, such as barriers separating cars from bikes, connections between roads and trails or more off-street bike trails.
As for enforcement, Houston Police Department has conducted seven stings, mostly around downtown, along Washington Avenue and in Midtown, said HPD spokesman Kese Smith, and will expand to other areas. The stings generated three citations and a warning to motorists for violating the city’s safe passing ordinance.
That law, adopted last May, mandates a buffer of at least three feet when passing and of six feet when following a cyclist or other “vulnerable” road user such as a construction worker. Six months after the ordinance’s passage, the city had cited no violators.
HPD Capt. Larry Satterwhite, whose team conducted the stings, said the ordinance is difficult to enforce.
“It is very difficult to identify this violation without a complaint. Judging what’s three feet and what’s not is very difficult to do,” Satterwhite said. “My officers are communicating back to me that for the most part, motorists are giving wide berth. We’re happy to report that.”
Enforcement definitely needs to be on the menu. BikeHouston’s plan calls for traffic cops riding bikes to be out there looking for safe passing and other offenders as they would for speeders, which I think is a sensible idea. I’m glad to hear that people generally seem to be obeying the law, but there’s nothing like the threat of a ticket to really get compliance. Beyond that, citing and where needed prosecuting at fault drivers in bike/vehicle collisions would go a long way, too. This is a good start, and I look forward to seeing the city’s bike master plan, but it is just a start. Let’s build on it from here.