For several decades now, Houston, Texas has been seen as a city whose streets are ruled exclusively by the automobile. One visit to the city lets you know that most cars drive the streets as fast as possible with little regard to anyone else that may be using the street. Because of this, Houston streets are very dangerous for cyclists, pedestrians, disabled citizens or anyone else who need to use them.
But today, the Houston City Council took a critical step to change our auto-only mentality. By a unanimous vote, Council approved Houston’s Safe Passing Ordinance. Effective immediately, non-commercial drivers in Houston must maintain at least 3 feet of space between them and all “vulnerable users”… cyclists, pedestrians, disabled citizens, equestrians, and anyone else using the road outside of an automobile. For larger trucks and commercial vehicles, they have to maintain 6 feet of separation.
From the City’s Official Press Release…
“As a city, we need to protect everyone and anyone who uses our roads,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “This ordinance will make our city even more attractive to those who want to enjoy traveling in forms other than by car.”
In addition to requiring safe passing and trailing distances from vulnerable road users, this ordinance prohibits any motor vehicle occupant from throwing or projecting any object or substance at or against them.
“BikeHouston is pleased to see this ordinance pass and proud of the Mayor’s continued efforts on helping Houston become a more bicycle-friendly city,” says Kathryn Baumeister, Chair of BikeHouston. “Houston is a city of cars, but also has a big population of people who rely on cycling for transportation and recreation. We feel it is important for cyclists and drivers of automobiles to respect one another on the road. This ordinance will help provide a measure of safety for the vulnerable road users.”
Jenifer Rene Pool, a candidate for Houston City Council and major advocate for the improvement Houston’s infrastructure, also had this comment via Twitter…
“I’m pleased to see that City Council has taken initiative to protect cyclists and joggers on the streets of Houston. Good work.”
Good work indeed, and some would say it was long overdue. Houston was the “last hold-out”, but now all of the major cities in Texas have Safe Passage laws in effect. As more motorists are educated about the new law, it will definitely stand to make our streets safer, but there is still much work to be done on the streets themselves. With so many of the city’s roads in poor condition, it’s still difficult to make them truly safe for all. Hopefully the next steps will be to repair the roads and work on Complete Streets initiatives, but in itself, Safe Passage is welcomed news for Houston.
Off the Kuff has some background on this issue.
Share the road Houston… It’s the law now.