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Introducing Vision Zero Houston

Have you heard about Vision Zero?
Vision Zero is the elimination of all traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The first initiative of its kind took place in Sweden in 1994. After implementing the initiative, the number of traffic-related deaths has gone down considerably while traffic volume has continued to increase. The crucial point of Sweden’s Vision Zero Initiative is summarized on their website: “Transport systems traditionally place responsibility for safety on road users. The Vision Zero Initiative puts this responsibility on system design.” Thus, Houston’s most dangerous roads, intersections, and bike lanes must be fixed before our Vision Zero can be achieved.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 180 fatal car crashes and road traffic accidents in 2013, and 188 fatalities. In 2014, those numbers rose to 214 fatal car crashes and 227 fatalities. With Vision Zero, we want to bring these numbers down to 0.

In March of 2014, Mayor Annise Parker dedicated $50,000 towards the Houston Bike Plan, which had its own Goal Zero specifically to eliminate bicycle fatalities in Houston. While this is a great effort towards safety on the roads, more must be done to include not just bicycles, but cars and other vehicles as well.

We need to follow in the foot steps of cities like New York, San Diego, and San Antonio to adopt an Action Plan that will bring Houston’s Vision Zero to life. We want to build a network of support to bring about this initiative, so join us in establishing Vision Zero in Houston.

SIGN THE PETITION

For more information and opportunities, visit the Vision Zero Houston section of our site.

Pedestrian Pete walks the Museum Park Neighborhood

Pedestrian Pete is the alter ego of founder and director of BetterHouston and former Houston City Council Member, Peter Brown.

Pedestrian Pete walks the city of Houston looking for missed opportunities and great examples of walkable urbanism, and then reports back on what he discovers.

He is doing a series of three videos during Houston Complete Streets Week to discuss Complete Streets and explore the situation in the Museum Park Super Neighborhood.

City of Houston proposes Safe Passing Ordinance

The City of Houston Public Safety Committee discussed a proposed Safe Passing Ordinance (pdf) on April 10, 2013, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Houston is the only large Texas city without a Safe Passing Ordinance, according to the City of Houston presentation (pdf) by City Attorney David M. Feldman.

A Safe Passing Ordinance “requires motor vehicles to maintain a safe distance for passing or trailing vulnerable road users: 3 feet required while passing; 6 feet required while trailing [and to] vacate the lane in which the vulnerable road user is located if the highway has two or more marked lanes running in the same direction and such action can be taken safely,” according to the presentation.

The Houston Chronicle asked in a blog post if the City should pass the ordinance leading to a lengthy debate in the comments.

The City of Houston is asking people to comment on the proposed Safe Passing Ordinance online.

The Houston Coalition for Complete Streets has called for passage of a Safe Passing Ordinance by the City of Houston as part of our 15 point plan to begin making Houston streets safe for all users.

Fox 26 news covered the proposed ordinance for Houston Bike to Work Day:
Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Bayou Bikers – Complete Streets, Light Rail Transit, and Bayou Greenways Ride

Bayou Bikers - April 7, 2013 - the Route

Bayou Bikers – April 7, 2013 – the Route.    Click for larger pdf.

Jay Blazek Crossley, Houston Tomorrow, Apr 7, 2013
I woke up this morning at 6am to make it to the Bayou Bikers ride hosted by Michael Skelly, member of the Houston Parks Board. It was an exhilarating ride on my Houston Bcycle, and amazingly informative.  We had the privilege of being led around and educated by Metro Board Member Christof Spieler on a tour of how our expanding light rail system integrates with the expanding Bayou Greenways hike / bike system as well as how neighborhoods and business districts could become more accessible to all users.

We hope to replicate this ride during Houston Complete Streets Week (and again and again). Stay tuned for locations and times for meeting on your bike (or Bcycle).

We started off the ride at Market Square Park downtown with intros and a brief introduction from State Senator Rodney Ellis (on his birthday!)

We started off the ride at Market Square Park downtown with intros from various representatives from park, transit, complete streets, and citizen interests, including an update on Complete Streets in Texas from State Senator Rodney Ellis (on his birthday). Happy Birthday Senator Ellis!

Cruising down the MKT Heights Bike Trail
Cruising down the MKT Heights Bike Trail
The group is talking here about 200 feet from the MKT trail but separated by a grassy hill, barriers, and a lack of the connection to this Near Northside neighborhood.

The group is talking here about 200 feet above the MKT trail but separated by a grassy hill, barriers, and a glaringly lacking connection to this Near Northside neighborhood. The Houston Parks Board is working on this and other missing connections and work on this one should be under way this year. That will let Near North Side residents bypass barriers like freeways and railroad lines get to jobs, education, and retail by bike.

Discussing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure connections to light rail stations while on the under construction North Side Light Rail Line that will open for revenue service next January.
Discussing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure connections to light rail stations while on the under construction North Side Light Rail Line that will open for revenue service next January. Christof noted that no one should stand or bike on light rail lines when not instructed by Metro staff or board who know that a train is not coming along. The new bayou trails tie into the light rail lines at multiple points. That lets bike riders use light rail to get into congested areas that aren’t as bike friendly, and it extends the reach of transit.
CrossingQuitmanRail_VideoClip

Click image or here for a Quicktime movie. Where Everett crosses Boundary and the new light rail line, the built design does not allow pedestrians and bicyclist to cross the street. Older traffic and transit engineering standards often neglect pedestrians, bicycles, and neighborhood access, and agencies like the City of Houston Public Works Department and Metro are having to adapt to create complete streets. METRO and the city are now working on a solution for this particular problem, but better standards would prevent these issues in the first place.

This light rail stop on Fulton near Quitman has a well executed and safe pedestrian crossing at one end. It's a rarity to find this type of crossing in Houston and this is a sign of new thinking in public agencies. Nearby, in another sign of new thinking, the city recently installed new sidewalks to connect residents to light rail. (Perhaps a first with a button powered ped cross walk with warning lights? - Jay)

This light rail stop on Fulton near Quitman has a well executed and safe pedestrian crossing at one end. It’s a rarity to find this type of crossing in Houston, and this is a sign of new thinking in public agencies. Nearby, in another sign of new thinking, the city recently installed new sidewalks to connect residents to light rail. (Perhaps a first button powered ped cross walk with warning lights? – Jay)

Pedestrian connections to the new elevated N. Main Street Light Rail stop, with accessible elevators in the works.

The bikers look at pedestrian connections to the new elevated Burnett Transit Center / Casa de Amigos light rail station. The steel frame will hold elevators.

Looking back toward the neighborhood from the new N. Main elevated Light Rail Station, showing that this neighborhood has a great accessible street grid, but also noting that this area is ripe for development, so that local government, nonprofit, and neighborhood policy should focus on making these connections and improvements in the best way for the neighborhood, health of the residents, and access to transit oriented development for all Houstonians.

Looking back from the new N. Main elevated Light Rail Station, showing that this neighborhood has a great accessible street grid, but also noting that this area is ripe for development. Local government, nonprofit, and neighborhood policy should focus on making these connections and improvements in the best ways for the neighborhood, health of the residents, and access to transit oriented development for all Houstonians.

 

View of the under construction Navigation Boulevard promenade, a new way to do walkable urban infrastructure in Houston.
View of the under construction Navigation Boulevard promenade, a partnership of the neighborhood, the Greater East End Management District, and the City of Houston to add kiosks and market stalls in the street to create a more active neighborhood.
Where the East End and Southeast Light Rail Lines diverge just past the Dynamo Stadium. Both are expected to be in service next summer (2014).

Where the East End and Southeast Light Rail Lines diverge just past the Dynamo Stadium. Both lines should be in service next summer or fall (2014).

This is where the Columbia Tap Rails to Trails ends. It shouldn't. Christof suggests a separated two way bike lane along this street and winding its way to Discovery Green and the Convention Center, noting that this street has very little traffic at all times.

This is where the Columbia Tap Rails to Trails ends. It shouldn’t. Christof suggests a separated two-way bike lane along this street and winding its way to Discovery Green and the Convention Center, noting that this street has very little traffic at all times.

The end of the ride. Click to watch the movie.

The end of the ride. Click photo or here to watch the movie.

New bike rides in the making

Hey everybody,

We’re working to add several fun bike rides to the week, including perhaps a rerun of the Bayou Bikers Complete Streets, Light Rail Stations, and Bayou Greenways Ride that happened Sunday, April 7.

Stay tuned for more info.

 – Jay

Bayou Bikers Ride - April 7, 2013 - East of Downtown, just on the north side of Buffalo Bayou where the trail ceases to exist.

Bayou Bikers Ride – April 7, 2013 – East of Downtown, just on the north side of Buffalo Bayou where the trail ends

Our request to the City of Houston

The Houston Coalition for Complete Streets submitted a packet of information to Mayor Annise Parker and all members of the Houston City Council expressing the request of citizens through the petition and how the Coalition believes the City could best proceed on implementing reasonable and efficient short terms solutions while beginning work on transformative changes that may take five to ten years.

The Path to Complete Streets (pdf)
Our one-pager describing the argument for Complete Streets for Houston and our 15 recommendations for making the streets safer for all users this year.

Toward Complete Streets for Houston (pdf)
Report describing 15 recommendations that the City of Houston could implement this year and including a narrative discussion of a complete Complete Streets strategy for the City.

Comments added to the petition for Complete Streets for Houston (pdf)
As of mid June 2012, 1355 people have signed the petition.  Many have commented.  We compiled the comments and sent them to our elected representatives at the City of Houston unedited except for several minor mistakes that we felt were typing errors, perhaps on a phone.

Statement of City of Houston PWE to City Council
May 8, 2012
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Gary Norman with City of Houston Department of Public Works and Engineering (PWE) prepared the following statement for Houston City Council Members for a public comment “pop off” session where many representatives of the Houston Coalition for Complete Streets spoke about the benefits of Complete Streets:

“The Public Works & Engineering Department supports the use of roadway design criteria which considers the needs of all classes of users – pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Further, while the City’s design manual currently contains standards which accommodate this broad range of roadway users, the Department is working to add language to encourage the use of context-sensitive design principles.”

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Why we need Complete Streets

People 65 and older make up around 14 percent of Texas drivers. But of course, as baby boomers hit retirement age, their share of the road is growing fast: In a little over 10 years, they’re expected to make up 20 percent.

That matters. Earlier this week, TRIP, a transportation-industry research group, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials released a sobering study. Senior drivers, it turns out, account for only 8 percent of the miles driven in the United States but are involved in 17 percent of the fatal accidents.

To make driving safer for seniors, TRIP recommends various changes, including brighter lighting, added left-turn lanes, longer freeway merge and exit lanes, fatter highway dividing stripes and simpler signs. Those upgrades, we think, are a good idea. They’d make driving safer for all drivers. But basically, they’re a Band-Aid for a much larger problem.

According to the AARP, seniors outlive their ability to drive by an average of six to 10 years. Brighter lights, simpler signs and such might add a couple of months to the period that seniors can drive safely – but not much more, we’re afraid. And the urge to continue driving, long after you’re no longer safe, will remain.

In a car-centric city like Houston, giving up driving too often means resigning yourself to staying home. It becomes difficult to buy groceries, go to doctor’s appointments and see friends. Maybe you have to leave your home in the neighborhood you love. Life shrinks abruptly.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. What if you were able to go to interesting places without getting in a car?

For this reason, across the country, the AARP is urging cities and states to build “Complete Streets” – streets designed not just for drivers but also for pedestrians, bikers, transit riders, restaurateurs and shop owners. Instead of just making it easier to drive on our streets, the organization suggests making them safer, more satisfying places to be, whether you’re driving or not.

Complete Streets have narrow traffic lanes, wide sidewalks and easy crossings. Often, they include bike lanes, landscaping and street parking. With all those visual cues, cars naturally move more slowly. The slower traffic helps small businesses thrive, and those businesses make the place lively. You wouldn’t set up a sidewalk cafe on a freeway. But on a Complete Street, it feels natural.

A Complete Street becomes the center of its neighborhood, a destination not just for seniors but for people of all ages. It’s where adults bump into each other and where kids too young to drive can taste a little freedom.

And those young, well-educated people whom Houston employers are always striving to attract are particularly fond of such places. (See, for example, South Congress in Austin.)

Right now is the time to demand Complete Streets in neighborhoods all across town. Houston’s development, parking and infrastructure-design codes are all being updated now; MetroRail is about to radically expand; and the city is planning a wave of Rebuild Houston-related street renovation.

Complete Streets would go a long way toward helping seniors’ isolation. And they’d make life better for the rest of us, too.

Full Story: Why we need Complete Streets
Source: Houston Chronicle, February 24, 2012

Partner Commitment Form

Benefits for partners:

  • Opportunity to work closely with and learn from experienced community partners.
  • Use of the Complete the Streets logo and communications materials in promoting the campaign, calls to action, and events.
  • Participation in earned media that ties partner organizations’ work to an important initiative.
  • Invitation to participate in the Houston Coalition for Complete Streets steering committee and working groups to direct communications, outreach, and policy strategies.

If your organization, business, public entity, or civic group would like to become a partner in the Houston Coalition for Complete Streets, please download the .doc or .pdf form and send it back to us.