It was Friday, June 8, 2001 and the Bikeway team and I were working late. It was 8:30pm and we were a long way from completing our response to Houston City Council. The one-week turn-around to provide a status of the Houston Bikeway Plan would take all weekend if we were to have it ready in time to meet the agenda deadline that Monday. As the new kid on the team, my mission was to complete the plan. I hadn’t been there three months so this was a great time to dive in and get to know what would be a 5+ year relationship with my baby. I was calling it a day leaving my two team members to wrap up for the evening. We vowed to get back again next morning. We just didn’t know that nature had other plans.
I was riding the bus to work these days so family had come to pick me up and drag me away to dinner. I figured I had them patiently waiting long enough. We stopped somewhere on Alabama. Still churning data in my head I asked we sit on the patio to distract me and enjoy the company of my family. A little summer rain never hurt. When I realized the rain wasn’t going to leave us alone as it was coming down pretty hard and almost sideways splashing at our legs beneath the cover, we finished dinner inside.
Needless to say, it kept raining hard all night and into the morning. Tropical Storm Allison covered much of the Bayou City and it became a test of public service to get the city back together. That weekend, the Bikeway team worked from home. Luckily dry, we focused on recapping the first ten years of the plan. By Monday, we were ready to report the status of the $100M 350-mile Houston Bikeway Network. Allison gave us proof that AASHTO design guidelines were indeed a just investment as submerged bikeway infrastructure stood up to the test with no major maintenance required but principally the removal of debris. In fact, the unsubmerged bikeway bridge on 11th Street and White Oak Bayou was a standing landmark at the peak of the storm.
As last week’s summer storm reminded me of Allison when I went to dinner at 8:30pm with my family once again, and I began to recognize the pattern of muffled rain on a flooded street at 1:00am, I find it fitting to see that the new Houston Bike Plan is also underway.
Having secured funding for what became the 15-year Plan and completed design of the pending trail projects, I reestablished relationships to smooth the transition to construction by the State, and together, both teams began a series of much awaited groundbreakings. I left the Team in 2007 with the hope that the next Houston Bikeway Plan would create connections between the various bikeway systems in the region (including the Brays Bayou and Buffalo Bayou Loop) so that Houstonians and visitors could seemlessly travel on designated on-street bikeways and off-street trails in a safe, maintained, and enjoyable greenway system.
Now is the time to make sure this can happen. Learn about the new bike plan for Houston and contribute your thoughts and ideas. Your contribution as a citizen of Houston is vital at this point so take this opportunity and ride with it! With your help, Houston Is On A Roll!
P.S. I never tire of thanking the Houston Team because there were many, many people who contributed to the successes and milestones we achieved. From our office, our floor, every City department to the citizenry’s active advocates at all levels, agencies, sponsors and volunteers. All tirelessly working to generate synergy and make Houston a bike friendly city because we all realized that safe and maintained bikeways were something we all wanted.