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News / Blog Advocacy News
Advocacy News

Please Submit Comments: TxDOT Hosts Long-Range Plan Meetings

Thursday, 12 June 2014 11:15

bikes on trailPlease attend or submit comments to the latest round of TxDOT's process for the Texas Transportation Plan 2040, which is still in development.

TxDOT is hosting public meetings around the state during the summer months "to solicit input to guide the development of the TTP 2040 – the state’s multimodal, long-range transportation plan. The TTP 2040 will serve as TxDOT’s blueprint to guide collaborative planning efforts with our stakeholders in order to address the state’s transportation needs and accomplish the goals in TxDOT’s Strategic Plan." See the full list of meetings here.

When you submit feedback to TxDOT, please keep the following in mind:

  • Ask that TxDOT adopt an agency-wide, district-wide, and area-wide Complete Streets policy with guidance, procedures, and review included.
  • Remind TxDOT that a Complete Streets policy is in accordance with their first priority: safety for all road users.
  • Point out that the review process for Complete Streets is more economical in the long run, saving TxDOT the time and other resources required to add bicycle or pedestrian accommodations later in the project.
  • Express your support for trails projects in your community: The current federal transportation bill allows TxDOT to move trails money away to non-bike/ped uses much more easily than before, and we want them to keep trails funding for trail building.

 

TTP 2040 Meeting Map

Thank you for participating in this process. Let's make sure TxDOT remembers people who bike and walk in their transportation planning.

 

Update: Bob Brewer shared this interactive TTP 2040 meeting map with us, which has pins for meeting locations and times, beginning with meetings the week of June 24 (so earlier meetings are not included on the map). Find a meeting near you!

 

 

 

Houston Takes the Next Step Towards a Bicycle Network

Thursday, 05 June 2014 12:01

Centrepoint EnergyAt the end of the 2013 legislative session, we celebrated that Gov. Perry signed H.B. 200 into law, which clarified utility companies' liability when recreational trails pass through their right-of-way. Getting this bill passed took a few sessions and a lot of hard work from Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston) and Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), but was a necessary step toward getting a connected bicycle network in Houston. BikeTexas was eager to work with elected officials to pass this bill during the last session and we're delighted to see that hard work paying off now.

This week, Houston took the next step forward. According to the Houston Chronicle (and with confirmation from reporter Mike Morris on Twitter), CenterPoint Energy and Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced the bike trails in utility right-of-way will go ahead, with CenterPoint contributing $1.5 million in starter funds. We're excited for the utility company to partner with the city this way to make Houston a great place to ride a bike.

 

   

TPWD Announces New Rec Trails Projects

Thursday, 05 June 2014 10:50

Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has recently announced $5.25 million in federal grants will be used for 38 recreational trail projects (chosen from the 82 proposals submitted) across the state.

Riding a trailBikeTexas is proud to have been part of this process. In a collaborative effort with national bike and trail organizations and bike organizations from other states, BikeTexas worked with members of our congressional delegation to keep Rec Trails funding in the federal transportation bill in 2012. BikeTexas then worked with leaders at TxDOT and TPWD to save Rec Trails funding from being transferred to other uses. As a result of our work to preserve Rec Trails, funds were available for this round of grants.

Funding from Rec Trails must be divided between motorized and non-motorized trail projects. The new non-motorized trail projects will be around the state. For more details about these projects, see TPWD’s press release here.

 

Breckenridge in Stephens County

Bridgeport in Wise County

Brownwood in Brown County

The Caddo Trail Riders Association in Fannin County

Canton in Van Zandt County

Canyon in Randall County

The East Texas Arboretum in Henderson County

The Galveson Island Nature Tourism Council in Galveston County

The Greenbelt Alliance of Denton County

The Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition in Harris County

Hico in Hamilton County

The Hill Country Conservancy in Travis County

Horeshoe Bay in Burnet County

Kilgore in Gregg County

Lasara Independent School District in Willacy County

Levelland in Hockley County

Little Elm in Denton County

The Mission Bend Greenbelt Association in Fort Bend County

The National Park Service in Moore County

Olney in Young County

Port Isabel in Cameron County

Raymondville in Willacy County

Rockport in Aransas County

Rusk in Cherokee County

San Bonito in Cameron County

San Diego ISD in Duval County

Surfside Beach in Brazoria County

Texas A&M University-Texarkana in Bowie County

The Friends of Trinity Strand in Dallas County

Tyler in Smith County

   

San Antonio City Council Votes to Remove Bike Lanes on S. Flores

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 12:17

Like many of you, we watched the San Antonio City Council's decision to remove S. Flores bike lanes with disbelief and disappointment. Despite hearing from many people who ride bikes, including one gentleman who indicated he and his wife began riding for their health after the S. Flores lanes were installed, the city council voted 10-1 remove the bike lanes at a cost to the city of up to $700,000. Council member Shirley Gonzales (District 5) was the lone vote in favor of keeping the bike lanes. (Watch the video of the council meeting here; the bike lanes item begins at 2:27:38).

Image from The Rivard Report.

This decision is a major step backward for a city that claims to be committed to building a bike network. Council Member Shirley Gonzales gave an impassioned speech (watch here beginning at 3:26:36) reminding her fellow members that San Antonio is committed to a healthy and safe future for all, and that removing bike lanes is not in accordance with that goal. For much of this process, Gonzales stayed out of the debate because it was not her district, but the most recent plan (the one the City voted for) included the portion of the lanes in Gonzales's District 5. Once again, the City ran roughshod over the public process by not giving District 5 residents any input.

Mayor Julián Castro was forceful in saying that San Antonio has a policy to install bike lanes anytime there's a resurfacing project, per the Complete Streets ordinance and the bike plan. He said we cannot set a precedent of asking people whether they want bike lanes, because we are committed to building a complete bike network. He added that many of the crashes that residents opposing the bike lanes described seemed to be the fault of drivers, not the bike lanes. 

However, in the end he voted for removing the lanes, citing, as many council members did, the Harlandale Superintendent's unsubstantiated claims that the bike lanes made traffic less safe around the schools in the area. 

City engineers showed concrete evidence that traffic volumes are the same as before, with faster or the same travel times at the speed limit. The only traffic delays averaged only 9 to 25 seconds behind VIA buses, something that they could have mitigated by reducing a few seldom-used bus stops along the corridor. Crashes have gone down on S. Flores by 4% since the bike lanes went in. 

The Mayor and city council chose to ignore these facts and instead follow the unproved claims by those in the district who have been inconvenienced. Please be sure to contact the mayor and your city council member to let them know you are disappointed in their decision. If you live in District 5, please thank Council Member Gonzales for standing with people who ride bikes and want to see a healthier, safer San Antonio.

Mayor Julian Castro: mayorjuliancastro@sanantonio.gov, 210.207.7060

District 1: Diego Bernal http://www.sanantonio.gov/council/d1/emailform.aspx, 210.207.7279

District 2: Ivy Taylor district2@sanantonio.gov, 210.207.7278

District 3: Rebecca Viagran district3@sanantonio.gov, 210.207.7064

District 4: Rey Saldaña district4@sanantonio.gov, 210.207.7281

District 5: Shirley Gonzales http://www.sanantonio.gov/Council/d5/SuggestionBox.aspx, 210.207.7043

District 6: Ray Lopez  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 210.207.7065

District 7: Cris Medina district7@sanantonio.gov, 210.207.7044

District 8: Ron Nirenberg district8@sanantonio.gov, 210.207.7086

District 9: Joe Krier  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 210.207.7325

District 10: Mike Gallagher district10@sanantonio.gov, 210.207.7276

 

For more coverage of this story, see The Rivard Report's coverage here, the San Antonio Express News city council meeting article here (paywalled), and the San Antonio Express News editorial here. You can also see coverage of the protest ride on Wednesday, June 4, here and video coverage of the ride is here.

   

Texas Falls in Bicycle Friendly State Ranking

After two successive years of amazing gains in the Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, Texas is back where we were three years ago. We've fallen from #22 in 2013 to #33 in 2014.

While we're disappointed by this, we aren't entirely surprised. After all, we knew we had a tough year last year with a struggle in the legislature followed by the toll road bike ban. Texas has fallen in ranking because it is relatively worse at the state level in comparison to other states than it was last year. Our worst scores seem to be in infrastructure, funding, policies and legislation.

Significant bike/ped progress in Texas has taken place at the local level as cities have passed ordinances and bonds to improve policies and infrastructure (sometimes while fighting with TxDOT to do so) or to fill a safety legislation gap from the legislature/governor. This local progress is not reflected in the state ranking.

Policies:

Cycletrack-1391The current engineering design manual does not include the best practices for protected bike/ped facilities as identified in the NACTO manual. The safest facilities CANNOT be included "on system" because TxDOT has not updated its design manual to include them, even if the affected cities request them.

TxDOT has resisted including bicycle and pedestrian facilities "on system." Other states routinely include bike/ped facilities. TxDOT banned bikes from its rural toll road shoulders and pressured the Tyler RMA to follow suit.

Texas has not been as effective as other states in utilizing abandoned rail right of way by rail banking with Rails to Trails.

The state Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) scoring is weighted to favor items like railroad grade separations instead of bike/ped improvements, even though 16% of annual fatalities are bike/ped.

Of all the state DOTs that have a Complete Streets policy, Texas's is the weakest.

TxDOT leaves it up to contractors or Area Engineers to choose the aggregate size in seal coats with no consideration of safety for bicycle riders because of a very weak seal coat policy, despite their reassurances to people who ride bikes.

TxDOT has never produced a state bike map or responded to the 2005 Texas Bicycle Tourism Trails legislation.


Legislation:

Robin House TransportationThe Texas legislature has not passed Complete Streets legislation, and the combined Safe Passing and Vulnerable Road User legislation was vetoed after the legislature passed it in 2009.


Funding:

TxDOT has never used any state transportation funds for stand alone bike/ped facilities, as far as we know. Texas Parks and Wildlife have a very effective small trail program that could be expanded.

TxDOT has effectively canceled the statewide Safe Routes to School and the Trail grant funding program (previously named Transportation Enhancements) by recently transferring the federal TAP funds elsewhere instead of developing rules for using those funds and putting out a call for projects. If this is not reversed, Texas is likely to fall even more in state ranking next year. In making this decision, TxDOT has not followed the spirit of the 2001 Matthew Brown Act, the first Safe Routes to School legislation in the country. Where Texas was once a leader, we are now being left behind.

In the last decade, TxDOT either spent the Transportation Enhancements (trail) program funds on highway rest stops or wiped out most of the funding in response to federal rescissions instead of spreading the cuts out more evenly among all programs as other states did.

Other states utilize CMAQ funding to build bicycle facilities. TxDOT recently prevented the City of El Paso, UT El Paso, and Fort Bliss from using CMAQ funds for an El Paso Bike Share program even though FHWA approved the funds and local leaders voted to use the CMAQ funds on no less than four occasions.

++++++++++++++++

Texas did OK in education and enforcement.

Girls walking to schoolTexas initially was ahead of the nation on Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure (based on funding by the US Department of Education and Traffic Safety 402 administered by TxDOT). In partnership with TxDOT, BkeTexas has reached over two million children with five hours of bike/ped traffic safety education since 1998. In spite of the success, TxDOT has never increased the amount of funds to grow the program to reach more Texas children.

Unfortunately, Texas began to fall behind when TxDOT held back two years of funding for a statewide SRTS grants in 2007. The rules were then changed in 2008 by TxDOT staff (with no stakeholder input) so a statewide SRTS outreach program could no longer be implemented.

Most recently, TxDOT canceled the SRTS program and transferred the MAP 21 TAP money elsewhere. With these cuts, Texas is likely to fall in education and encouragement in future years.

Enforcement scored OK. Local law enforcement agencies have worked to learn from each other and BikeTexas about enforcing existing local safe passing ordinances and other laws.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Helpful information about the state ranking report by the League of American Bicyclists:


· In addition to the state ranking (1-50), the League of American Bicyclists published the total number of points a state earned out of 100 both this year and in 2013. This allows us to see if our state made progress compared to itself as well as to the other states. Because of overall improvement, it turns out a state needed to earn about 3 more points than last year just to maintain its 2013 rank. See the full list of state rankings here. 

· What makes a state a Bicycle Friendly State? Read more here.

· Like last year, we can see Texas's report card.  New this year are descriptions of the “top signs” of success. 

· And, again, we can also see on handy color-coded maps how Texas did in each of the five categories (Legislation & Enforcement, Policies & Programs, Infrastructure and Funding, Education & Enforcement, Evaluation & Planning). 

Here is the general link to the program and the 2014 Bicycle Friendly State report.

   

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