In Houston, spring and cycling go together like beer and crawfish — and spring cycling in Houston means the BP MS-150. The thing is, riding a bike in H-Town, like almost everything else, is a trade-off. Sure it’s great cardio, but it involves fighting traffic. And fighting traffic is basically a blood sport in this city.
For anyone trying to get their miles in before heading to Austin, riding the Bayou City can be a dicey proposition. Cars, dogs and potholes make coming back from a bike ride a minor victory. The problems of getting around the sprawl are only compounded by the patchwork nature of municipal bike ordinances.
While most cities that border Houston have a fairly lax attitude towards bikes, there are a few that regulate where and how cyclists can use their streets. Two of the cities, Bunker Hill Village and Hunters Creek Village, have an almost mythical status with Westside cyclists. The legend that’s sprung up is that it’s illegal to ride a bike in either city.
“It’s not illegal to ride a bike in Hunters Creek,” Tom Fullen, the village’s city administrator, said. “We just require cyclists to use bike paths because riding on Memorial or Voss is dangerous.”
Now riding a bike on two-lane, asphalt roads may sound suicidal — but some hardcore cyclists believe that peddling down Memorial or Voss isn’t any riskier than cruising through Bellville or Cat Spring.
“MS-150 training rides are on two-lane roads in the country, in the dark, without police escort and no one gets killed,” Sarah Cooke, a dedicated Houston cyclist, said. She added that the Texas Transportation Code “gives cyclists the same rights as cars.”
It may be true that Texas law gives cyclists the same freedoms as other vehicles, but cities can still regulate where cyclists can ride, Jessica Wiggins, advocacy director for Bike Houston, said.
“The authority to restrict bicycles on roadways typically falls to the city engineer and cities can prohibit cyclists from using a road for as long as they want,” Wiggins said. “I’m not a lawyer, but I’m sure Hunters Creek’s ordinance is perfectly legal.”
The legality of the Hunters Creek Village ordinance — as well as the Bunker Hill Village ordinance — was proven in court, according to Karen Glynn, Bunker Hill Village’s city administrator.
“The judge ruled that the ordinance was legal because it’s a public safety issue,” Glynn said. “Our ordinance is the same as Hunters Creek, and was written by the same law firm.”
Both Fullen and Glynn said that neither of their respective cities are anti-cycling, just pro safety. Fullen went on to add that he’s a cyclist and that Hunters Creek Village enjoys working with the Houston cycling community.
“If someone wanted to do an organized ride through our city we’d love it,” Fullen said. “Just call us beforehand so we can work something out.”