Monday, May 27, 2013

Bill allowing use of utility rights-of-way for hike and bike use signed into law

The Chronicle follows up on a subject I've previously written about:
Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed a bill (described in this recent story) that could allow for more than 100 miles of idle land under power transmission lines in Harris County to be developed into hike and bike trails.

Bike advocates cheer this progress, which they say could provide a perfect complement to the city’s ongoing Bayou Greenway Initiative (a plan that includes $100 million in bonds approved by voters last fall and $100 million in grants and private donations). The city’s bayous run generally east and west, while many utility corridors run north and south.
Why this is a good thing: According to data compiled by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, in 2012 there were 1,263 crashes involving pedestrians and 674 crashes involving bicycles within the eight-county region. These crashes resulted in 106 pedestrian fatalities, and another 13 cyclists were killed; needless to say, when it's car vs person or car vs bicycle, the car is likely to win. The vast majority of these accidents (83%) and deaths (76%) occurred in Harris County. (These are, incidentally, huge increases over the number of bike/ped fatalities and crashes in 2011, but that's a topic for a different day. These are also crashes reported by law enforcement only; the actual number of incidents involving cars and either pedestrians or bicyclists is likely much higher.)

Obviously better enforcement and education would help to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities involving pedestrians and cyclists; this is something that the City of Houston's new safe passing ordinance is designed to address. But getting at least some of the pedestrians and cyclists off the roads and away from cars would also cut down on the carnage. That's what the expansion of hike and bike trails via the Bayou Greenway Initiative and this bill allowing CenterPoint rights-of-way to be used as trails is intended to accomplish.

Hopefully, with this barrier finally resolved, we can start seeing some new trails get built very soon.

Kuff has more.

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