In its second event in the ULI Building Healthy Places breakfast series, Beth White, president, and CEO of Houston Parks Board moderated the discussion on the future of bicycle infrastructure planning in the Greater Houston Area. The standing room only event hosted an audience comprised of service providers, management district members, and developers as the panel of experts discussed bicycle advocacy, public sector, private sector, public safety, urban planning, economic development and Houston connectivity all play a part in making multi-modality happen. Additionally, the conversation turned to the recently-passed Bike Plan.
Offering perspectives were: Tom Bacon, founding partner of Lionstone Investments; Anita Hollmann, ped-bike coordinator at the City of Houston; John Long, executive director of BikeHouston; and Clark Martinson, executive director of the Energy Corridor District.
- Complete streets are necessary to create a network for the average rider. While the City of Houston has identified “last mile” connections in the Bike Plan Map and network, Anita Hollmann stated that partners are needed to create them and hopes the map will serve as a tool to spark future conversations and more robust partnerships between city and developers.
- “Last mile” connections are an issue with multi-modality that are coming up now. Tom Bacon pointed out that although Houston streets are not currently filled with people on bikes, once built or complete, bike lanes and trails will indeed fill up. Connecting these to homes, apartment buildings, the workplace, entertainment centers, or hotels, as Clark Martinson and his team are doing in the Energy Corridor under I-10, is something that will be led by the community and private sector with the support of the public sector.
- Developments that facilitate pedestrian and bicycle access make them more desirable and profitable. Tom suggested that management districts and developers, who fund these projects, often look to these groups for feedback especially since Millennials and even older generations demand bike and pedestrian-friendly amenities.
- Community involvement is essential to create a “Two-Wheel Society.” John Long maintained that complete streets, not just bike riders, are essential for this paradigm shift. Neighborhood associations and non-profits like BikeHouston are a great way to become an active voice for advocating complete streets.
- A “cultural shift” must happen among Houstonians. The Greater Houston Region is seeing a culture shift regarding bikes, the movement of people and the need for a diverse network of transportation options which are sometimes available but not well-known to commuters. Resources like the Houston Parks Board’s coming soon interactive map and events like the City of Houston’s Bike Month and Bike to Work Day hope to bridge those gaps.
- Multi-modality is a goal for both the private and public sector. All the panelists agreed that although it seems like car will always be king, Houston is on its way to becoming a more bike-friendly city. Non-profits, developers, local governments, developers, and also TXDOT are working together to bring multi-modal options to Houstonians. Examples of this include the Houston Parks Board and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department’s Bayou Greenways 2020 and the Energy Corridor District’s involvement in leading the creation of the West Houston Trails Master Plan.
ULI Houston hosted a members-only breakfast last fall where transportation expert and ULI member Ed McMahon presented his Active Transportation and Real Estate report. This event highlighted many of the arguments made and numbers to support the positive economic impact of bike-friendly development. To get the most up-to-date information on ULI Houston events, visit houston.uli.org.
May is National Bike Month so get involved and start pedaling!