Houston Installs Its First Bike Box
Houston has been in a rush to install upgrades for all the visitors expected at this weekend’s Super Bowl, but they may get to enjoy something Houston has been building up to for a long time that is finally on the ground. Houston has installed its second green bike lane, and its first bike box on Holman Street in Midtown, as captured by James Llamas.
Bike boxes make navigating intersections safer and easier for people riding bikes by positioning cyclists ahead of drivers at the stop bar, ensuring that drivers see them . Bike boxes are also the subject of one of my favorite Streetfilms of all times, mostly because Clarence makes everyone yell “bike box!” over and over again.
Bike boxes are very rare in Texas, with a few in Austin, including two that were the subject of a study by the Center for Transportation Research. According to NACTO, “the results of the study showed a decrease in avoidance maneuvers, an increase in the percentage of cyclists that departed the intersection before a motorist, and an increase in the number of bicyclists that used the bicycle lane to approach the intersection.”
Houston has avoided using bike boxes until now. The Houston Coalition for Complete Streets and Houston Tomorrow have been advocating for many years to add them to the toolbox of designing safe streets. The gradual conversion to the Complete Streets philosophy, the development of the yet-to-be-passed Houston Bike Plan, and the leadership at the Public Works and Planning Departments have allowed the space to properly evaluate the potential benefits of using this design treatment.
James Llamas, with Houston’s Traffic Engineers Inc (TEI), explains how this particular project came together:
This bike lane is part of a Midtown Redevelopment Authority project to reconstruct the back-of-curb and rehab the roadway along Holman between Smith and Chenevert. The rest of the street is a signed bike route but this block between Smith and Louisiana is one-way eastbound for vehicles and a two-way bike route. Previously bikes used either the sidewalk or the hatched-off part of the roadway to travel west so a two-way bike lane is a major improvement. The sneaky connection through the sound wall to Hawthorne street is a critical bike link between Midtown and Montrose because it’s the only non-thoroughfare crossing of Spur 527. Hawthorne is a comfortable neighborhood street that serves as a parallel bike route to Westheimer.
The lead design firm is IDS Engineering Group and Walter P Moore and Design Workshop were also involved. TEI had a small role.
Hopefully this is the first of many.