The Houston Chronicle reports on a recent initiative formally unveiled by Mayor Parker, the “complete streets” program. Launched by the Mayor’s executive order, the program will help to ensure more sidewalks and bike programs for Houston’s roadways.
The program will be a watershed moment in the transition of Houston’s transportation policy, putting a renewed focus on both pedestrians and cyclists after years of sole focus on drivers. Some examples of this change that the Chronicle article mentions are “wider sidewalks, shadier streets and bicycle lanes.” Beyond this, however, it appears that the Mayor has yet to unveil the exact details of the plan, which the Chronicle notes “doesn’t directly affect the rules planners and engineers use.”
Mayor Parker, when announcing this initiative, noted that she wished for many of the streets affected by the program to emulate Bagby Street in Midtown, which has recently undergone a rather comprehensive metamorphosis. The new Bagby Street, which is complete with bike lanes and a huge sidewalk that includes ubiquitous trees, benches and bike racks, recently won an award from the Greenroads project for being the “greenest” road in all of Texas.
While I find this initiative somewhat admirable, I object on two points. First, so as long as the City only has a limited amount of resources for transportation issues, pedestrian and cyclist enablers should be put on the back burner. It is far more important to both repair the potholes and to expand our lackluster public transportation network. While it is certainly possible, given what transportation needs are actually the City’s responsibility, that we have the money for the aforementioned, then this program is a good idea.
However, my other (and possibly more important) objection is that it is being done through Executive Order. While I do not doubt that Mayor Parker has the authority to do this, I believe it sets a bad precedent to not proceed with, if not a City Council consensus, at least majority support.