Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Uneasy Rider: Bicyclist Safety in Houston

posted by Free Press Houston @ 8:47 AM


By Shiraz Ahmed
Artwork by Michael C. Rodriguez

When I was a boy of eight, I jumped in the cage and joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship. At the age of 12, my parents had to call security because they discovered I had climbed into a pit with eight live tigers; by the time the guards got there only I was alive. I frequently enjoy the company of El Salvadorian MS-13. You could say I'm a bit of a thrill-seeker so much so that the lure of escaping Death's cold, bony hands gives me a rush drugs can't mimic. But recently I undertook a challenge that I'm afraid might be too much for even me to handle: I threw down for a bicycle and took it for a spin in our fair town. I've never really appreciated the value of life until I was run off the road by the SUV on my tail.
It's no secret that Houston is notorious for being a dangerous place for any vehicle not running on diesel. While cycling has been viewed by those whose eyes are hooked on their speedometers as a mere past time or pleasure, growing numbers of commuters and day-to-day cyclists have said "no!" to the gas pump and flooded the narrow bike lanes painted on the sides of streets. Now 1,200 cyclists commute to the Texas Medical Center everyday. Between 1998 and 2000, over a fourth of Texas's bicycle crashes occurred in and around Houston. Growing numbers of riders on two-wheels indicates a need for the right infrastructure to support them and the right legislation to protect them.

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