As part of the increased efforts by Mayor Parker to make Houston a more bicycle-friendly city, the city recently completed the conversion of one lane of Lamar Street downtown to a two-way cycling route. This route connects the Buffalo Bayou trails west of downtown to Discovery Green. The lane stands out with its bright green paint and speed bumps separating it from the car-friendly lanes.
Despite the bright paint color and numerous signs designating it a bicycle-only lane, many downtown drivers are treating it as a parking lane. As a result of these cars blocking the bike-path, cyclists are forced to take alternate, and oftentimes more dangerous, routes.
There is an additional risk to cyclists since drivers are not used to having cyclists traveling eastbound down Lamar. This creates danger for cyclists when drivers turn across the lanes. The city installed special traffic lights for the cyclists that give them a 10-second head start before the cars start moving. This will hopefully alleviate the problem of drivers not seeing the cyclists crossing the roadway.
Downtown commuters complain that the new bike lane takes up precious real estate in the area. During the day, they say that the bike lane has gotten rid of prime parking spots downtown. During rush hour, they complain that bike lane causes traffic to be even more congested than it already was. A city representative countered these complaints by pointing out that the lane was only used for traffic for about 3 hours a day during rush hour and this was a practical sacrifice from the city’s point of view.
While this new lane is a great step forward to making Houston a more bike-friendly city, hopefully it is just the first step to improving the safety of bicyclists. Officials hinted at plans to expand this bike path system throughout downtown.