"[A] driver refused to pass in spite of sufficient space and honked, yelled and argued that I should get on the sidewalk and stay off the road. Even though I told her it was illegal to be on the sidewalk, she was too angry to reason with."
If this scenario sounds familiar, you may be one of the thousands of Houstonian cyclists who take to the city's streets each day—and who often take their life into their own hands. The quote above was one of hundreds collected during a recent survey by Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Learning from Close Calls: A Glimpse Into Near-Miss Experiences spoke with cyclists across the city who reported on their own close calls, in which cars have come dangerously close to creating yet another ghost bike. The white-painted installations haunt roadsides across Houston, each decorated with plastic flowers and hand-written signs to mourn the deceased cyclist who was killed in that spot.
Three years ago, the Houston Chronicle investigated dozens of those deaths in an in-depth feature, "Dying to Ride." At the time, 23 cyclists had been killed by Houston drivers in the prior five years. The number has continued to increase since then, with six cyclists killed in Houston in the first five months of 2017 alone.
Tomorrow evening, May 17, cyclists will don all-white outfits to match those ghost bikes, taking part in a slow, silent ride of honor to remember those killed or injured while raising awareness for those cyclists who still struggle to share the roadway with vehicles often manned by distracted or aggressive drivers. The Houston portion of the 15th annual Worldwide Ride of Silence is being organized by BikeHouston along with assistance from the Houston Police Department and Kim Ogg, the newly installed Harris County District Attorney.
"More than 30,000 Americans die on our roadways every year, more than most other developed countries," writes BikeHouston communications manager Ivan Fuentes. "BikeHouston is working with city officials and other partners to build a future where Houstonians have safe transportation options and streets that are built for all users."
Cyclists are invited to meet at City Hall at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow to register for the ride. Kim Ogg will speak on bike safety issues at 6:45 p.m. and the ride itself will roll out at 7 p.m., escorted by HPD's own cycling division and patrol cars sporting "safe passing" wraps. Helmets and lights are both required for the 10-mile ride, which is open to all ages and experience levels. White clothing is optional but encouraged.