Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eldridge Parkway and bicycles: the end-game is here


Concerned? Write to Pamela Rocchi <> at Precinct Four.

Eldridge Parkway is an important bicycle commuter link between the TxDOT FM-529 bike lanes, the Clay Road bikeway, and the Energy Corridor District. This connection will cease to exist, however, should Harris County Precinct Four carry out plans to eliminate road shoulders used by bicyclists and convert the roadway to curb-and-gutter drainage without installing bike lanes or a wide outside lane. Precinct Four has been aware of the importance of these shoulders to bicycle commuters for years, but appeals to save them have fallen on deaf ears. They claim that cycling on the road is too dangerous, and they are too busy trying to accomodate cars. The former is simply not true. The latter indicates a worldview where users are divided and pitted against each other based on their needs. Other agencies throughout the Nation and even some in Texas somehow manage to plan and build "Complete Streets" for all users. Why not Harris County?

The main point, however, is not what happens to this particular stretch of roadway. The main point is that Eldridge Parkway is symptomatic of a failure of Harris County and most other H-GAC member governments to plan for all residents. Our local counties and cities fail to plan for bike commuters, pedestrians, transit users, children, the disabled, and the elderly. The notion of a Complete Street seems utterly foreign to our elected officials and their engineers. Fewer people can afford to drive these days, school districts are cutting bus service, and unincorporated areas are beyond the reach of METRO. What do County Commissioners and Mayors expect people to do? Stay home and not go to work or school?

The Houston-Galveston area is running, not walking, into an energy brick wall. Oil reservoirs worldwide are maturing, major producing basins are in decline. Contrary to popular belief, Texas does not even produce enough energy any longer to meet its own internal needs; we and California and Oklahoma used to power the entire world, but in 1991 Texas became a net energy importing state. What will the price of gasoline be in five years? It's impossible to predict, but I can say one thing with certainty... we will be wistfully thinking back to the "good ol' days" when gasoline was "only $4 per gallon".

H-GAC and all member governments, Harris County included, must implement plans for building a diverse, energy-efficient, carbon-limiting transportation system featuring Complete Streets for all residents. Energy will be more expensive in the future, and both Presidential candidates, McCain and Obama, intend to limit our carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Unfortunately, we needed to make these investments starting twenty-five years ago. At least we should stop digging the hole we are stuck in and making it deeper.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Your help needed on Grand Parkway: we want bicycle accommodations


BikeHouston and Sustainable Living, a new environmental organization based in Cypress, are in the process of engaging the Harris County Toll Road Authority concerning possible bicycle facilities along the Grand Parkway Segment E and other corridors. Segment E is planned to run from I-10 to US290 approximately along the Katy-Hockley Road alignment, which is prime NW Harris County cycling territory.

Currently, nothing in the way of bicycle facilities is planned for Grand Parkway. It would go in very much like the existing Beltway 8 Tollway if nothing changes, with nothing in the design to help cyclists or pedestrians.

I am asking you to do four things soon:

1. Ssign this online petition right now

2. Before September 15, send a postal letter to the Harris County Toll Road Authority. Boilerplate text provided below, but please do customize the letter with your own language, anecdotes, or statement about how you would use the proposed facility (or how the lack of such a facility would detract from your life)

3. Contact me privately if you want to help by attending a meeting in the near future

4. Forward this to every cyclist you know who rides out in the area of the Grand Parkway Segment E, which is West and Northwest Harris County

Thank you.

Peter Wang, LCI

------------- copy text below here ---------------------

Mr. Peter Key
Deputy Director
Harris County Toll Road Authority
330 Meadowfern Drive
Houston, TX 77067

Dear Mr. Key:

I am a bicyclist and a pedestrian, and I am in favor of improving bicycle & pedestrian access along the future Grand Parkway segments, specifically:

1. Pedestrian crosswalks and signals at every signalized intersection along the access roads

2. Removal of barriers - Full ADA compliance for all paths. Every bridge that goes in as part of the access roads also has an ADA-compliant path alongside traffic lanes, so that bridges do not become barriers

3. Wide, bi-directional, paved multi-use paths (8 ft wide) for pedestrians, future transit users, runners, children, the elderly, beginner bicyclists, roller-bladers, and wheelchair users, on both sides of the Grand Parkway access road

4. Designated bike lanes, shoulders, or wide outside lanes greater than 14 feet wide on the Grand Parkway access road, which will improve safety and efficiency for future bus operations along the corridor, and for experienced bicyclists and large group bicycle rides (after all, the Grand Parkway will cut through prime pre-MS150 training territory)

Please help make the Grand Parkway a "Complete Street" for all users. Thank you.


Your name and signature
Your Texas County of Residence
(I am / I am not) a Harris County Tollroad system user

------------- copy text above here ---------------------

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Third Annual Bike Barn Copperfield Bicycle Education Weekend

Date: Sept. 13, 10 am. Sept. 14, 8 am - 2008
Instructor: Peter Wang. LCI
Location: 7083 Hwy. 6 North, Houston, TX 77095
Fee: $60.00

Description: The Third Annual Bike Barn Copperfield Bicycle Education Weekend is a fast-paced, 9-hour immersion course giving adult and teen (14+) cyclists the confidence they need to ride safely and legally on the road or on area trails. The course covers bike fit, the various kinds of bikes, bicycle safety checks, fixing a flat, traffic law and tactics, on-bike skills and crash avoidance techniques and includes a student manual. The course culminates in a group ride on area roads. Recommended for anyone who desires a comprehensive introduction to on-road cycling. Peter Wang is a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor.

To register for this course, contact:

Peter Wang, LCI
Phone: (281) 630-8255
Contact Email:

Signup required in advance? Yes
Special signup instructions: Advance registration required, $15
non-refundable deposit required in advance. Contact the instructor
Peter Wang in order to register for the course. Do not contact the
bike store.

Equipment required: Pencil or pen. Lunch or lunch money. Bike, helmet,
water on Sunday only

No time for a safety class? Study this video

No bike rack? No problem!

Get a long cable and a padlock, and you will be able to lock-up in the worst suburban car-oriented, sprawling mall landscape. A family of five or five friends can go out to dinner and lock-up, by threading the bikes like beads on a string. Note: this is a medium-security scheme, and only as good as the weakest link. For an all-day lock-up, you still need to u-lock your bike to an anchored heavy steel object.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It finally happened; unable to board bus due to full bike rack

#82 westbound at Briarpark, 5:15 am 8/12/08

The bike rack on the bus was completely full. I was unable to board. I had to keep pedaling, fortunately, it was cooler yesterday.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Commuter-Utiltiy Cyclists Manifesto: Or Why I think Grant Peterson of Rivendell Cycles might be right.

When I was younger cycling was a way of getting from point A to point B. I didn't worry about my shorts being made of some "miracle" fabric or my bike being the lightest and made of thre most state-of-the-art materials available. I basically, "run what I brung" and was happy with what I had. I only started to buy into the whole "unobtainanum" craze when I saw a Peugeot triathlon and saw how light it was compared to my bike at the time. This was also the era of Greg LeMond and all the tremendous excitement of the first American to win the pre-eminent road race, an event that basically changed the direction of the American bicycle industry. Instead of round-the-block bikes marketed for family cycling the majority of sales were directed towards road racing and mountain bike racing.

In this change a third segment was forgotten. The market of the people who were just trying to get from point A to point B. If these people were personified to specific vehicles in the context of the automobile industry they would be the station wagon, pickup truck, SUV and sedan drivers. or rather the core group of all the automobile drivers out there. The bicycling industry in contrast over the years has been marketing to two basic specialty groups. Road racers and mountain bike racers or more specifically people who bought into the fantasy that they too could be Greg LeMond. The American bicycle industry has pretty much been building bikes if put into an automobile context are Indy cars, Baja racers, Porches, Corvettes. Bikes useful for high-performance applications, but only marginally useful for day-to-day applications.

Although I don't blame Greg Peterson for setting up an exclusive boutique type of company (if I could be so fortunate to do so I would) but I do believe that he along with the folks at Surly are on the right track for the right type of designs for everyday riding. These designs are what the industry really needs to start pushing to create a larger more practical "middle-class" of cycling. People who are using bicycles to go from point A to point B on a regular basis and not "weekend warriors" which are the sort of rider that have been marketed to for the past 20 years.

The bike industry needs to refocus on making good practical bikes and de-emphasize the "racing fantasy" Not get rid of it completely for there will always be those who like to race, are good at it, and need to be marketed to, but the general public needs to know that bikes can be transportation and the "spandex diaper" is not mandatory.

What do I see as being a good practical bike? By far the best of the best I have seen for what would work in the Houston environment is the Surly Big Dummy (configured with wide range MTB gearing or an internally geared hub) as it would work favorably as a commuter bike and also have enough cargo capacity for a large load of groceries and carry it fast enough in traffic so that you're not
as much of a liability compared to trying to do the same thing on a an adult trike like a Schwinn Town & Country. The next best would be a touring bike may be one specifically designed as one or adapted from a rigid MTB or a 700C hybrid like a Specialized Sirrus with very large rear Panniers . I would also go to say that something like Harris Cyclery's San Joes8 is also among the contenders. one of the things I like about the San Jose8 is the ability to change gears in a hurry at a stop light without having to turn the crank's. I feel that such a design would work very well in stop and go traffic like the upper parts of Elgin or going down West Alabama.