Houston council member returns saying bike lanes are bad for drivers

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Houston council member Edward Pollard returned this week to controversial comments that drew criticism from transport safety advocates across the city of Bayou – but insisted his criticism of bike lanes were still relevant today.

Pollard, who represents District J on the southwest side of Houston, made the comments during the council’s public comment session on Dec. 7. two Midtown residents complained about the design of the new two-way bike lanes along Austin Street. One of those residents, an ExxonMobil boss who spoke via Zoom from the driver’s seat of his car, said the Department of Public Works designed cycle lanes are too wide and confuse drivers in the area. the otherwise one-way street.

“We are seeing skid marks on the concrete barriers because people are trying to find and navigate their way … off the bike path,” said speaker Cathy Sotelo. “We have seen delivery trucks having no way to park.”

Sotelo and her neighbor Cynthia Acevas-Lewis also claimed that Houston firefighters at nearby Station 7 told them the bike path made emergency calls on Austin Street difficult. During the public comment period, Mayor Sylvester Turner rebuffed the accusation and read an email from a Station 7 captain stating that no firefighter had filed a complaint.

A new bike path along Austin Street provides a protected lane for cyclists.

Jay R. Jordan / Chron staff

Pollard responded to the pair by suggesting that the council should talk about the mastery of the Public Works Department, which is responsible for the design and implementation of Houston’s planned network of cycle paths across the Houston bike map.

“This is a bigger issue that we need to discuss within Public Works and how we design these bike lanes,” Pollard said. “I have similar problems in District J. These bike lanes are really wide and drivers can confuse whether they can use them or not.”

The Pollard neighborhood is home to a major overhaul of Hillcroft Avenue, which will add a separate cycle path and elevated bus stops to make the heavily crossed corridor between Boulevard Bellaire and US 59 more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Speaking to Dug Begley of the Houston Chronicle in April, Pollard expressed his support for the project. It’s unclear which bike path Pollard was referring to in his Dec. 7 comments. Contacted by staff on Monday, Pollard declined a telephone interview.

Houston council member Edward Pollard, who represents District J, took office in January 2020. Since then, three people on bicycles have died in car crashes in his district.

Houston council member Edward Pollard, who represents District J, took office in January 2020. Since then, three people on bicycles have died in car crashes in his district.

Jill Karnicki, Staff Photographer / Houston Chronicle

The Houston Bike Plan, adopted by city council in 2017, was approved before Pollard took office in January 2020. The plan includes 1,800 miles of new, very comfortable bike paths and hopes to reduce the number of fatal collisions and increase traffic throughout the year. the city.

After targeting the designs of the Public Works Department, Pollard then broadened his critique to the idea of ​​cycle paths in general.


“I think we put a lot of emphasis on cyclists, sometimes to the detriment of those who ride in vehicles,” Pollard said at the Dec. 7 meeting. “I know we have a city that has a lot of dynamics and a lot of different modes of transportation, but it looks like some of the new construction when it comes to bike lanes and the type of lanes that we are building those lanes are getting dangerous. thinks we just need to keep looking at it and make sure we’re making the right decisions when it comes to building new roads. “

Since Pollard took office in January 2020, three people on bicycles have died in crashes in District J, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation. Two other collisions involving cyclists resulted in serious injuries, 31 collisions resulted in minor injuries, and one resulted in no injuries. In Houston, 43 cyclists were killed during the same period. The 22 cyclists killed so far in 2021 outnumber the 21 cyclists killed in 2020 and 20 killed in 2019.

BikeHouston advocates, who promote cycling safety and awareness, opposed Pollard’s latest comments.

Several others crowded in to criticize the board member, including LINKHouston and Houston Airline Alliance.


While Pollard declined an interview, his communications director sent a statement from the council member saying advocates took his comments out of context. The full exchange can be seen on Houston TV website.

“I concurred with the testimony by adding comments on the number of accidents that have occurred in District J due to some of the same issues with the newly constructed cycle lanes that the cyclist identified,” Pollard said in the statement. “… On second thought, I agree that my word choice could have been better at clearing up any misinterpretation.” My intention was to advocate for the safe construction of bicycle lanes to ensure that everyone can safely share the road. “




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