Expert, students weigh in on biking in Houston
Whether to save commuting time, get more exercise, or be more environmentally friendly, many UH students and Houston residents are turning to biking as a more regular form of transportation.
There are a number of considerations to take into account when deciding to bring a bike to school, including safety, accessibility and bike resources around campus and in the city. Transportation expert from Houston Public Media, Gail Delaughter comments on the overall accessibility of Houston for bikers.
“What we’re seeing now in Houston is a shift in focus; people want to walk, people who use mobility devices want to get around safer and people really want to bike,” Delaughter said. “But the challenge is a lot of these streets don’t feel safe to the lesser or inexperienced cyclist. Although we’re seeing a lot of bike projects in recent years, there’s not one large, overarching project that will make Houston a completely bike-friendly city.”
According to these criteria, Houston earned a bronze medal in 2019, just below the national average of silver.
“The complaint we hear from many cyclists is the lack of connectivity,” Delaughter said. “You look around Houston and you see these giant wide streets with 3-4 lanes of traffic going in the same direction, and this is all primarily built for cars. The roads are not built for pedestrians, people with disabilities or cyclists.”
According to Delaughter, there have been some recent efforts, particularly around the Shepherd and Durham intersection to address the lack of separated bicycle networks. However, many of these projects come from local entities and are confined to a certain area.
“(At Shepherd and Durham), they plan to take away a car lane, add bike amenities, make the sidewalk wider and make it a more friendly area for all users, not just drivers. The physical barrier between bikers and drivers makes bikers feel much safer,” Delaughter said.
Although a number of measures are still needed to make Houston a bike-friendly area for all cyclists, many students experience few issues biking around campus and consider it a convenient alternative to walking.
Exercise science sophomore Hasan Nooruddin describes his experience as an on-campus biker.
“Biking is really convenient,” Noorudin said. “I am able to get around campus quickly, whether it’s to the library, the student center, or the rec center. The sidewalks are big enough so that I have no problem getting around other students.”
UH also provides a number of on-campus and near campus resources for students who experience problems with their bike, including five bicycle maintenance stations located at different residence halls.
However, on campus safety still remains an issue for some student bikers. Nooruddin explains his experience with on-campus security after his bike was stolen from Cambridge Oaks.
“I filed a police report with the on-campus department and they still have no information regarding my bike, so honestly, UH security needs to be increased,” said Noorudin. “I have, however, used the bike repair shop and they were very helpful.”
Nooruddin advises students to bring multiple sturdy locks as a safety precaution, but still recommends biking around campus because it saves much time and energy.