One of the challenges facing commuting cyclists is in using their bikes in conjunction with public transit. If METRO could find a way to better assist cyclists, we would all collect multiple dividends in the form of reduced congestion and pollution, and improved public health and energy efficiency. In a hot, sprawled-out city, bikes can help people roll a mile or two to a transit line, completely replacing a car trip.
During the Mayor Bill White / METRO CEO Frank Wilson era, METRO installed bike racks on its buses, and the usage of these racks has grown at a phenomenal rate. METRO failed, however, to extend rush hour access to the light rail train, despite exemplary equipment and policies that have been successfully deployed in other American cities. Now is the time for cyclists to ask for full, unencumbered access to the light rail train.
I emailed the four major Houston mayoral candidates and asked each of them whether they would influence METRO to install bike hangers in the light rail vehicles and allow bicycles in the vehicles during rush hours. Here's what they had to say, in order of their reply:
Annise Parker's answer -
"The answer to your question is 'yes.' We must have a multi-modal transportation system in Houston, including bicycles and bike lanes."
Roy Morales called me personally on the phone, which I appreciated, and said that he wants to chose a new METRO CEO who will be sensitive to the needs of cyclists.
Peter Brown sent me the following email -
"My comprehensive transportation blueprint, which you can view on my website, calls for making Houston a more bike-friendly city, along with expanding access to livable, walkable neighborhoods and effective, efficient mass transit. And it’s important that all these different transportation options function effectively together. My blueprint specifically calls for “a transit system that facilitates biking,” a commitment to find ways to make METRO more accessible for bicyclists. Peak-period access and bike hangers are two options that I would definitely take a close look at, as long as we can make sure that they are feasible and safe for commuters. But a bike friendly Houston doesn’t end there. I think it’s also important that we continue to expand our network of dedicated bike lanes, trails, and other routes. And we need to make sure our law enforcement officers are trained to acknowledge the rights of bicyclists, and protect them on the road. I’m committed to expanding transportation choices, and that includes promoting bicycling as one of those choices."
Finally, Gene Locke had this to say:
“I believe we can work towards finding a way remove the peak hour ban on bicycles access to the light rail. We need to take a serious look at the feasibility of putting bike racks on light rail cars. We will balance the desire to carry bikes on light rail cars with the safety needs of a high used line such as the red line.”
Cyclists should celebrate the fact that this issue has risen to the attention of the next Mayor of Houston, whoever he or she may be. Clearly, our work is cut out for us. We need to:
1. Vote on November 3. Early Voting starts October 19.
2. Ask the Mayor-elect to appoint a CEO to METRO who has a solid track record in their previous employment of creating and managing transit systems that fully accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians
3. Show up at the METRO Board and Houston City Council meetings, and Harris County Commissioners Court to continually ask for bike access to the trains