Looking to Houston — Yes, Houston — as a Model for Better Street Design

City leaders in Houston have proposed road diets throughout the central city. Photo: Wikipedia
Houston leaders have proposed putting the city’s wide-open streets on a diet. Photo: Wikipedia

The Houston Chronicle called it a “departure from what many consider the Houston model.” City leaders in this Texas metropolis want to scale back the space for cars in the central city to make room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

Patrick Kennedy at Network blog Walkable Dallas Fort Worth says it couldn’t be farther from what is happening where he lives in Dallas:

Houston is going to begin ‘dieting’ streets in their urban core in order to, and unabashedly mind you, make driving less convenient and other forms of movement safer and more convenient.

Houston’s wide, dangerous roads make it the seventh most-dangerous large city for pedestrians, according to last week’s Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America. Kennedy says Houston isn’t the only Sun Belt city with those problems, but it may be the first one to fix them:

Sun Belt cities are all the same because they have the same genetic formula. Rather than being defined by people and geography, they’re all defined by cars. That is because we’ve allowed traffic formulae to be the prime directive that governs uber alles.

The city is the platform for progress and expression, yet we’ve built anti-city. Houston, at least, seems serious about the 21st century.

The list of amendments to the city’s transportation plan still needs approval from the City Council. A vote is expected in September, according to the Chronicle.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Beyond DC says the city’s “most useless park” is a “parking lot in disguise.” Kevin Klinkenberg argues that part of the financial problem with bike-share is that it’s too cheap. And BikeWalkLee explains how one Florida city is trying to overcome the state’s status as most dangerous for walking.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Light Rail Expansion Signals an Urbanizing Houston

|
“Change comes hard, but things do change” — those were the words of a Houston reporter almost 20 years ago, commenting on the stranglehold sprawl-oriented real estate interests had on the city. Brian Wallstin of the Houston Press was referring to the highway-based model of growth that has come to characterize the region, a topic […]

What Will It Take for Houston to Eliminate Traffic Deaths?

|
In 2014, 227 people were killed in traffic collisions in Houston. Per capita, that means the city’s streets are more than three times as deadly as New York City’s. Despite the toll, there’s a culture of acceptance surrounding traffic violence in Houston. Now a group of local advocates are trying to change that. Houston Tomorrow, a local think tank devoted […]

Houstonians See Folly of Debt-Financed Sprawl, Even If Leaders Don’t

|
Voters in Montgomery County, Texas, rejected a road-building bond referendum. Despite local support for transit, county leaders plan to give the referendum another try. The Houston Chronicle reports that opposition to a $350 million bond measure, all of it for road construction, was led by residents of one affluent enclave who don’t want a traffic-inducing parkway extension. But there’s […]

Houston’s Plan to Make “Bicycle Interstates” Out of Its Utility Network

|
This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh. Long lanes of grass alongside power lines are almost as ubiquitous in Houston as highways. There are roughly 500 miles of high-voltage utility rights-of-way criss-crossing the city, and they’re mostly just dead spaces, forming weedy barriers between neighborhoods. […]