Invest in making city more bike friendly

By the Advocate Editorial Board
March 7, 2017 at 5 p.m.
Updated March 7, 2017 at 8:15 a.m.

The city is making progress when it comes to making the area safer for pedestrians, but we still have a long way to go.

Newer streets north of the Victoria Mall will be constructed with a multipurpose path. The deluxe sidewalk and space adjacent to the roadway will give pedestrians a safe way to travel the streets alongside Ethel Lee Tracy Park.

This is an investment into our city and should be applauded.

But what can we do about our existing roadways?

Surely, more can be done to make the heart of the city a more attractive place to ride a bike.

The expansion of University of Houston-Victoria is sure to bring more students into the city and will be constructed so that students will have a safe way to cross five lanes of traffic on Ben Wilson Street. The street will be made with pedestrian-friendly walkways and medians from Airline Road to Red River Street.

And here lies our biggest opportunity. It's been said before, but we must urge city officials to take a good, hard look at Red River Street and how it can be updated with bike lanes.

Two weeks ago, Derrick Neal, the director of the Victoria Public Health Department, addressed City Council calling for safer bike-friendly roadways.

He called Red River a natural corridor from the university to Riverside Park.

"We need to really have a concerted effort," he told the council. "If we can't reconstruct the road, maybe we could put some stripes down."

We know it takes more than a bucket of paint along that roadway, but we can no longer ignore these opportunities to improve the health of the city.

Neal represented members of the county's Active Living Plan, which recently created the website FitVic.org. This group is working diligently to make positive changes in Victoria, especially when those small actions mean the health and wellness of residents will see huge improvements.

He asked the council to consider making changes to our infrastructure as a way to make a true cultural change.

The American Journal of Public Health recently published a study that showed in Boston, cyclist use increased and safety improved with the expansion of the city's bicycle infrastructure.

According to the authors, the reliance on personal automobiles as the main form of transportation has repercussions not only for the infrastructure of a city, owing to vehicular congestion, but also for the health of its citizens, as a result of increased air pollution and reduced physical activity.

For many years, Boston was known as one of the nation's worst cities in which to bike. In 2007, the city initiated a program that increased bicyclist mileage from less than a third of a mile to 92.2 miles within seven years.

We are not anywhere near the size of Boston, but that doesn't mean we can't take on such a project.

Neal, who is also a bicyclist, seems pretty confident that we could make the city more pedestrian-friendly.

"If they can accomplish that in Houston, we can accomplish that in Victoria, which is a much friendlier biking community," he said.

We have to agree and hope others will keep this conversation going.

Talk to City Council and advocate for making Victoria a safer place for everyone on the road.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.


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