Good afternoon, Mayor and Councilmembers. My name is Oni Blair, and I am the executive director of LINK Houston. LINK Houston advocates for a robust and equitable transportation network so that all people can reach opportunity. A robust and equitable transportation network means safe bicycle and accessible pedestrian infrastructure so that people who must (and those who want to) bike or walk to reach their destination — work, school, a doctor’s appointment, or connect with public transit — can safely do so without fear of serious injury or death.
LINK Houston stands here today with our partners Bike Houston, the Citizens Transportation Coalition, Rice students, and others to make clear that the current state of our streets is unsafe. As the Mayor said today at the State of Houston event, we need multi-modal transportation. We agree; we need multi-modal transportation with safe streets. LINK Houston is calling on City Council to act now to make our streets safe for all users.
In April alone, four people were killed on bicycles in Houston. Four.
You are aware of Sudipta Roy, who was riding her bicycle after lunch with her husband when she was struck and killed by a commercial vehicle at Sunset and Main. This intersection near Rice University is no stranger to preventable deaths. Last year, Dr. Marjorie Corcoran died in the same area after being struck by a METRO train.
On April 25, a day after Roy’s bicycle fatality, another cyclist was struck and seriously injured while biking on Griggs and Telephone Road. The cyclist was in his mid-sixties and died yesterday.
Early on April 13, a bicyclist was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Chinatown heading eastbound at Town Park near Westline.
On April 11 another bicyclist was killed in a crash near Gulf Freeway and the Beltway.
This is nothing to say of the other bicyclists or pedestrians, who also share the road and who have been hit since the beginning of the year, such as Victoria Castaneda. Victoria Castaneda, a mother of four, was hit and killed by a vehicle as she was crossing on Fondren in Southwest Houston. Ms. Castaneda’s father was also as a pedestrian killed in a hit-and-run three years ago. The list goes on and on.
I urge City Council — in addition to expressing your concerns, condolences and acknowledgement that there is a problem — to act now.
Houston has a Vulnerable Road User ordinance passed in 2013 that is meant to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. I urge you to ensure that law enforcement understands this ordinance and enforces it. Too often do authorities blame the victim, a practice that is amplified by the media without understanding existing regulations.
I also call on you to implement road design changes to make our streets safer for all road users, especially the most vulnerable ones. We have smart planners and engineers; we need to prioritize the funding to implement their designs and changes to improve intersections. A Complete Streets Executive Order still stands. Crosswalks, street lighting, better and accessible sidewalks, and implementing the already approved bike plan contribute to safer streets for everyone. And we need safer streets across Houston, on Sunset and Main, as well on Hillcroft, Fulton, and Griggs Rd.
Mayor Turner, we applaud your commitment for a paradigm shift in transportation and to implementing the Bike Plan. And we applaud other city officials who are working hard to make Houston a multi-modal city. Councilmember Robinson for his leadership on sidewalk funding and bike plans; Councilmember Cisneros for the White Oak-Buffalo Bayou connection and using her own budget for sidewalks and bike paths; Councilmember Davis for funding sidewalks, and Councilmember Edwards for her leadership with HGAC on transportation policy issues. We know projects take time. City Council must act now and make the necessary design changes to provide safer and accessible bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. We have zero tolerance for deaths in every other measure. Lives are at stake, and we’ve already lost too many neighbors in preventable ways.