Houston has become increasingly dangerous for cyclists. According to the Houston Chronicle, at least 23 cyclists have been killed in the past 5 years by motorists. This number does not include the scores who have been injured by automobiles.
On March 13, 2014, 45-year-old cyclist, Kevin Munson, was killed in a hit-and-run accident in League City, Texas. Munson was struck while riding his bicycle around 2:30 a.m. Though no charges have yet been filed, a female driver seen repairing damages to her vehicle close to the scene of the accident has been contacted.
And according to a recent report from KHOU, a group of riders were traveling from downtown Houston to Galveston in efforts to train for the MS 150. Things took a turn for the worse as 23-year-old Greg Chapa was riding on a narrow strip of shoulder on the right side of the lane in La Marque, Texas. A vehicle hit him from behind sending him airborne. The collision caused Chapa to break his leg and several vertebrae, suffer a brain hemorrhage, and lose teeth.
Cyclists attribute auto-cyclists collisions to the lack of safe paths and lanes for the increasing number of Houstonians who are riding the bikes and to drivers who often travel too close to cyclers at high rates of speed. Local ordinances, for example, mandate that drivers stay at least three feet away from cyclists and pedestrians and that cyclists stay off of sidewalks.
Houston Mayor Anise Parker’s partial response is building off-street bicycle paths along the city’s bayous in efforts to create safer routes for cyclers. This helps increase the safety of recreational cycling, but it does not fully address the problems that led to the two incidents mentioned above.
The Houston Chronicle recently reported that automobile-involved cyclist accidents have resulted in no citations for motorists under the ordinance aimed at protecting cyclers. Moreover, many motorists do not know, for example, that they are required by law to stay three feet away from cyclists. Programs aimed at educating motorists and cyclists alike will be instrumental in reducing the level of accidents involving cyclists in the future.
Cyclists and automobiles have no choice but to share the road. When done correctly, it can be safe. When done incorrectly, it can be deadly. The responsibility lies with all involved.