Mayor Whitmire considers removal of 11th Street Bikeway project after cyclists concerned over safety

Courtney Carpenter Image
Friday, March 15, 2024
11th Street project reevaluation: Mayor John Whitmire urges Houston Public Works to assess redesign for safety concerns
"Cars don't treat it as a lane of traffic," a Houston cyclist told ABC13 after his unsafe riding experience in the 11th Street bike lanes. Despite the project's award win from the American Public Works Association, Mayor John Whitmire is reevaluating the redesign.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Recently added bike lanes in the Heights may not be there for long. Millions of your tax dollars were spent to put them in, and now Mayor John Whitmire is considering taking them out.

Just like when this project was first discussed, not everyone is on the same page about the review of the project.

It was in 2022 when Mayor Sylvester Turner decided to move forward with putting in bike lanes and removing a lane each way for car traffic along 11th Street in the Heights.

Despite the redesign recently winning an award from the American Public Works Association, the city confirms Mayor Whitmire has asked Public Works to "evaluate the effectiveness, impact, and identify lessons learned on the 11th Street project."

Jeff Armstrong, owner of Doug's Barbershop on 11th Street, says even though the construction out his front door was tough when they were putting the bike lanes in, he would go through it again to get rid of them.

"The amount of traffic that backs up at Heights Boulevard and Yale is just insane. I don't think they ever thought about the traffic implications when they put these things in," Armstrong said.

He went on to say he was surprised if he sees as many as six to 10 cyclists using the lanes throughout the day.

"It seemed like whoever wanted them in was going to get them regardless of what the people said because a lot of people came out and said that they didn't want it, but they didn't listen, and they just went ahead and did it anyway," Armstrong said.

Leighton Mitchell, a Houston cyclist, says he does not feel particularly safe riding in the 11th Street bike lanes.

"I will say that having ridden on this road, cars aren't used to looking when they are turning left. I have been almost hit by cars while being in the bike lane because drivers just aren't used to having another lane of traffic there. Cars don't treat it as a lane of traffic," Mitchell said.

He says he wishes the design of the lanes on 11th Street was better, with more signage and signaling. Overall, the idea of taking out what is already here doesn't sit well with him.

"It seems like maybe this is a move in a direction of being less friendly to cyclists. I think that would be counterproductive," Mitchell said.

Already, Mayor Whitmire had barriers removed on Houston Avenue just north of downtown that were placed there to help with pedestrian safety. He says in part that it was impacting firefighters' ability to turn, so he had the barriers removed, to the tune of around $730,000 taxpayer dollars.

So, if changes were to come to 11th Street, that would be the second project torn out at the taxpayer's expense since Whitmire took office.

ABC13 asked the mayor's office on Friday, and they wouldn't say how much possible changes to 11th Street would cost taxpayers or what other projects they are evaluating.

So far, no decisions have been made about this. The city says the evaluation process for 11th Street is ongoing.

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