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News / Blog Advocacy News
Advocacy News

TTC Ignores Cyclist Safety, Issues Toll Road Ban

Cyclists confer in the hallway after the TTC decisionYesterday, the Texas Transportation Commission listened to testimony from Texas cyclists asking the commission not to ban cyclists from toll roads. The Commission chose to ignore the testimony—that there is often no alternative route, that toll road shoulders can be the safest place for bicycles to be in an area, that cyclists need access to their destinations just like everyone else—and voted 5-0 to ban bicycles from all TxDOT-controlled toll roads.

BikeTexas is disappointed and frustrated by this decision. We feel that the commission has arrived at this decision without any real study or planning. They did not consult stakeholders, engineers, or the available science before shutting down the conversation. We worry about the larger issue at stake: that TxDOT would make these kinds of decisions that affect thousands of Texans without any kind of process.

We believe it sets a dangerous precedent for the state’s transportation department to be run this way. Texas has a reputation for being a welcoming, inviting state to live and do business in. Many of today’s Texas business owners want to hire creative class workers, and those workers seek a quality of life that includes bikeability.

The Commission insists that this decision was made out of concern for cyclists’ safety. However, it does not seem to be truly a safety issue when a law is applied to one road and not another. Different rules on different roads breeds confusion for road users, and ultimately, disrespect for the laws that seem to be arbitrary. In addition, TxDOT’s own Toll Operations Division admits that there have been zero cyclist fatalities on toll roads, so no safety issue appears to exist.

Commissioner Jeff Austin commended the cyclists present for having passion for our issue. However, yesterday the commission were the ones ruled by emotion while the cyclists testifying presented facts and experience. Unfortunately, those facts were overruled by the TTC’s feeling that this must be dangerous. Ignoring the evidence, the TTC issued a blanket ban from all main lanes and shoulders of TxDOT-controlled toll roads.

The Commission was quick to assure us that this ban only affects five roads: Loop 1, SH 45 and 45 SE, SH 130 segments 4 and 5; all in Central Texas; SH 99 in Chambers County; and SH 255 in Laredo. But all Texas communities value having the freedom to participate in decisions that affect them rather than TxDOT dictating what they should do with no allowances for differences in regions, communities and roadways.

BikeTexas is committed to safety and access for all Texas cyclists. We will continue to work and fight to ensure we have our rights to all Texas roads. This defeat will not deter us from our mission.


TxDOT Proposes Banning Cyclists from Toll Roads

The May 30 Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) meeting included an agenda item regarding the possibility of banning cyclists from all TxDOT-controlled toll roads in Texas. BikeTexas heard about this agenda item at the last minute and was able to go to the meeting to testify against banning cyclists from toll roads. Watch the testimony here; click on Item 11 to skip straight to the discussion of toll roads. The BikeTexas testimony begins at 18:30 in the Item 11 video.

Cyclists and motorist share a highway in Texas.

Right now, most of the roads that would be affected by such a ban are in Central Texas. However, it would set a dangerous precedent for future TxDOT toll road expansion and give more teeth to local RMAs who might want to ban cyclists from their own toll roads if this ban were to go ahead.

The TTC suggests that banning cyclists from toll roads is for their own safety, but no studies exist to show that banning cyclists increases anyone's safety. TxDOT's own long-range plan and long-range rural plan both include cyclist accommodation, thanks to the efforts of BikeTexas and cyclists like you. This action to ban cyclists from roads without first providing alternative accommodation goes against TxDOT's own plans and policies.

We've worked hard to make sure bicycling is considered for Texas roads along with all other transportation modes. We will not let this ban go into effect without a clear plan for cyclist accommodation. After some discussion, the TTC pulled the agenda item for further study.

We will remain vigilant on this issue and keep working to make sure that cyclists across Texas will always have our rights to the public roads guaranteed by state law. However, BikeTexas can only speak on behalf of Texas cyclists with the support of the thousands of cyclists across the state who are BikeTexas members. Please add your name to this powerful bike lobby today; join BikeTexas now!


On the Lege: Sine Die

Participants in the Fifth BikeTexas Sine Die Bike Ride.The regular legislative session came to an end on Monday, May 27, 2013. The traditional BikeTexas Sine Die (Last Day) Bipartisan Bike Ride drew the largest legislative crowd yet: about 40 guests.

Eight legislators from across the political spectrum plus their staffs and family members joined BikeTexas staff on a four-mile loop down the Rio Grande Street cycletrack to the UT campus, back through the Capitol, and another four-mile loop to the Pfluger Bike/Ped Bridge on Lady Bird Lake before returning via Sixth Street and Congress Avenue. Joining us on this ride were Legislative Hosts Senator Rodney Ellis (District 13) and Representative Linda Harper-Brown (District 105); Senators José Rodríguez (District 29), and Larry Taylor (District 11); and Representatives Rafael Anchia (District 103), Trent Ashby (District 57), Joe Deshotel (District 22), Jodie Laubenberg (District 89), and Drew Springer (District 68).

BikeTexas will continue building relationships with legislators both on and off the bike, presenting walking and biking as mainstream activities that need specific statewide support. Additionally, BikeTexas will continue to work with local bike/ped advocates toward successes like the adoption of the Safe Passing ordinance in Houston last month.

Your support and response to contact legislators is very much appreciated and remains very important for the future. Before the next legislative session, BikeTexas staff will spend some time identifying constituent supporters in a broad range of legislative districts, as key committee positions are often held by legislative members from areas of Texas not well represented by bicycle and pedestrian advocates. You may have a cousin or a good buddy in another part of the state who could become an effective constituent for biking and walking; take them out for a bike ride next time you see them!

See more pictures from the Sine Die ride here.


On the Lege: HB 200 Signed Into Law

A Centerpoint Energy power corridor ripe for trails near Memorial Park in Houston.Building recreational trails along Harris County electrical power line easements became easier on May 16 as Governor Perry signed into law HB 200 by Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston). The bill, applying only to Harris County, better clarifies liabilities for utility companies so that they are more comfortable permitting trails in their easements. This bill will provide connectivity between the north-south utility corridors and the predominantly east-west bayou trail system, creating a more comprehensive grid of trails in Harris County.

Rep. Murphy had plenty of bipartisan company on the bill with fellow authors Reps. Senfronia Thompson, Wayne Smith, Garnet Coleman and Sarah Davis and co-authors Reps. Alma Allen, Carol Alvarado, Dwayne Bohac, Bill Callegari, John Davis, Gary Elkins, Jessica Farrar, Allen Fletcher, Patricia Harless, Dan Huberty, Eddie Lucio III, Boris Miles, Mary Ann Perez, Ron Reynolds, Debbie Riddle, Hubert Vo, Armando Walle, and Gene Wu. Is your representative on this list? Take a moment to send a thank-you email!

Other legislators expressed interest in the bill and future sessions will probably see measures introduced to expand to other parts of the state. A companion bill, Senate Bill 633 by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), was filed but not needed because of the momentum of HB 200 through the legislative process. HB 200 passed 144-0 in the House and 31-0 in the Senate.


On the Lege: Update, May 13

Texas Capitol at NightThe Safe Passing bill, HB 2225, failed to make it to the House floor before the midnight deadline on Thursday, May 9, for introducing bills originating in the House.

There was hope that Safe Passing would be heard on the floor when HB 2225 was voted out of Calendars committee on May 7, but the agenda was so backed up going into Thursday morning that lawmakers were still finishing up the Tuesday list. In each session, many bills are left behind at this deadline, and this session is no exception; we were certainly not the only ones disappointed on Friday morning. Complete Streets, HB 1102, was never voted out of the Transportation Committee and so it is also eliminated from consideration.

The Senate version of both bills, SB 1515 (Safe Passing) and SB 565 (Complete Streets), never had a hearing in the Transportation Committee, and are likewise now eliminated from proceeding. 

While chances are very low, BikeTexas staff will look for opportunities for Safe Passing to become an amendment on another bill. BikeTexas will continue to work at the Capitol for HB 63, Ban on Texting While Driving. Many thanks to all of you who answered the BikeTexas Action Alerts and contacted your representatives. Your efforts have gone a long way toward reminding your elected officials that their constituents care about Texas being a great state to bike and walk. Thank you for your support! Keep an eye out for any more updates in these last couple of weeks of the session.


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