Lawmakers today filed a bill they hope will help drivers, cyclists and pedestrians safely share the roads.
State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, and Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, filed so-called “Complete Streets” legislation, which would require the Texas Department of Transportation to “recognize that bicycle, pedestrian, and transit modes are integral elements of the transportation system,” and develop safer streets for people to walk, bike or drive.
"If more Texans have the option to use alternative forms of transportation, we could be healthier and safer, our streets could be less congested and cleaner, and our local and regional economies would benefit from increased activity," Ellis said in a statement.
Making safe routes for children to walk or bike to school could help reduce childhood obesity, say Marcia G. Ory and Deanna Hoelscher, leaders of the Texas Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy Evaluation. Only 13 percent of children walked or biked to school in 2009, compared to 42 percent who did 40 years ago. Their research found students were more likely to walk or bike to school if streets were designed to protect them and parents were confident in their safety.
“We were in an area doing these environmental audits, and the next week an eighth-grader had an accident, a critical injury in the street,” said Ory. “That’s because there’s a crosswalk, but the cars don’t stop and she got hit.”
Designating distinct spaces for cyclists, pedestrians and cars creates safe environments for everyone on the road, says Gil Peñalosa, an expert on urban transportation and executive director of 8-80 Cities.
For most people, Peñalosa says, the decision about whether to bike depends on how safe they feel.
“Cycling is not just something men 20 to 50 in spandex will do,” said Peñalosa.