On Thursday, June 13, the City of Houston Planning Department held a public meeting to present the (nearly) final design choices for the new Patterson Bikeway. The route is designed to provide a link between the White Oak Bayou Trail near the Heights and Buffalo Bayou Park, and will run mostly on Patterson Street.
The route presents some real challenges on what infrastructure to choose, mostly due to the varying widths of the 3 streets that comprise the route.
The purple lines on the map above were always going to be a “community bikeway” due to the width of the road. An 18′ or 20′ wide road only allows for two driving lanes with no additional room for protected bike infrastructure.
Only the roads designated by blue lanes were wide enough to potentially construct buffered bike lanes and a study was done into both the traffic and generate community feedback on what their desires were.
The only section of road that is 40′ wide is from Washington to the railroad crossing, with the remaining portion being 36′ wide which does not allow the retention of any street parking with buffered bike lanes (so option 2 listed above would be off the table for that portion).
The city sent out a survey and received 448 respondents to find their preference on which bike infrastructure to implement, and the results were very mixed.
Not exactly decisive as you can see. The one-sided bike lane was added to the survey likely because that is the only format that retains any street parking in a 36′ road width.
While the neighborhood bikeway did receive the most preference, when you add the buffered bike lane and one-side bike lane numbers together, more than half of local residents and residents at large were in favor of some form of protected bike infrastructure.
The infrastructure that the City of Houston Planning Department chose is undesirable for this amount of road usage, but they do have a plan to try to calm traffic in the area: close the median at Washington and create a pedestrian refuge.
Crossing Washington Avenue is harrowing for pedestrians and cyclists, especially at busy times of the day. Patterson receives lots of non-local traffic because it is one of a few roads that crosses I-10 and the railroad tracks, so it’s used as a cut through to get to I-10 or to go to Walmart “the back way”. The median block will attempt to cull the cut-through traffic.
To be clear, nearby intersections will still be unblocked, so local residents will have zero problems getting around, but the most direct route will be inhibited.
I personally think that a HAWK signal, like the one recently installed at Shepherd @ 10th street in the Heights would be appropriate here as well, but there likely isn’t the budget at $100,000+ for an installation.
The city is still considering a buffered bike lane for the southernmost portion of the bikeway between Feagan and Buffalo Bayou by Cleveland Park.
Even if this is the only segment with a buffered bike lane, the benefits are still great with many local residents being able to bike to their local park and connect to Buffalo Bayou Park.
The CoH deciding against protected bike infrastructure is certainly a disappointment as it appears the scales are tipped towards building the protected lanes, but it’s likely that the reduction of free street parking that local residents enjoy was unacceptable. A representative of one of the townhome community HOAs declared at the November meeting that “we drive big trucks and they don’t fit in our garages” so they have to park them on the street. That about sums that up.
Final design will happen this fall and construction will take place in 2020. This project is a CoH Capital Improvement Project and funds are coming from the roughly $1 million annual bike improvements budget.