Houston Gets New Rules For Sharing Roads with Runners And Bikers

Tomorrow morning Houston council members will consider an ordinance to protect pedestrians and cyclists on Houston streets. The Safe Passage Ordinance would require drivers to give wide berth to people walking or riding in the right of way.

Houston has 300 miles of bike lanes and trails, but 16,000 miles of street lanes. Given those numbers, it's not hard to figure out that cars, bikes and pedestrians will often share the road.

Houston Councilmember Ed Gonzalez, who has urged his colleagues to vote for the safe passage ordinance, says he's taken to biking city streets lately just to see what it's like for people who choose alternate transportation. He's concerned about the level of aggression he sees from drivers.

"We have individuals that choose to ride a bike in our city and we're going to see a growing number of that. We now have a bike-sharing program and we're enhancing our hike and bike trails. So we need to be mindful of this paradigm shift in our city and send a message that this is important and we need to make sure that we're paying attention, just be a little patient out there while you're driving."

The new ordinance will require drivers to either trail behind vulnerable users at a distance of six feet or pass them at a distance of three feet.

A vulnerable user is anyone who shares the right of way, including runners, cyclists, the disabled and even construction or utility workers.

"You also can't overtake and make a quick turn in front of a vulnerable user, and also not throw any type of objects or substances. Believe it or not, that does happen."

Anyone caught violating the safe passage rules could be ticketed with a Class C misdemeanor and fined up to $500.

Austin, Dallas-Ft.Worth and San Antonio all have safe passage laws and 39 states have them as well. The Texas Legislature passed a statewide version in 2009, but it was vetoed by the governor.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...