May 17, 2013 -- Bikes are on the move in Houston. B-Cycle rentals are through the roof, with about 1,300 boardings per week and growing. Gov. Rick Perry just signed a bill that will help open Houston's utility easements to hike and bike trails, potentially adding more than 100 miles of north-south routes to connect with east-west bayou greenways. And City Hall recently approved a safe pass ordinance that standardizes rules for how drivers should treat cyclists in the street, which is often the best and most terrifying way to get around on two wheels.
While not every Houstonian may be an avid cyclist, everyone should appreciate the benefits of additional bikes - reduced traffic, less pollution and an economic boost for local businesses. According to a study from the New York City Department of Transportation, businesses near bike lanes saw sales grow distinctly quicker than other businesses in the city. And while Houstonians may note that it is easier to go on a shopping spree when you can pile shopping bags in the back of your car, a study from Portland State University found that people who cycle may not spend as much in one trip, but will revisit locations and spend more overall.
Thanks to federal grants and support from the private sector, Houston may soon see some bicycle lanes downtown, likely along McKinney St., Walker St. and Lamar St., connecting Discovery Green with Buffalo Bayou Park. Those downtown bike lanes can't come soon enough. Life in that neighborhood is often dominated by the tunnel system. Bike lanes can help boost street-level commerce and play a key role in bridging the gap from streets to tunnels.
Riding a bike isn't merely about exercise. It is a legitimate way to get around our city. With a steady rise in ridership, it is about time we started to give bike lanes their appropriate proportion of the respect - and funding.
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