Main Street as Pedestrian and Bike Corridor

The Vulnerable Road Users Ordinance that was passed by Houston’s City Council requires motorists to give 3 feet of space when passing a vulnerable road user (cyclists, pedestrians, etc.)  This ordinance makes it impossible for a motorist to legally pass a cyclist on Main Street in Downtown or Midtown, as demonstrated in these pictures.

3ft1

3ft2

What if we were to close Main Street to motor vehicle traffic and make it an exclusively pedestrian and bicycle corridor?

It seems to me that it would enhance cyclist and pedestrian safety, encourage the type of walkable retail and bars/restaurants that Downtown needs, decrease motorist frustration at being stuck behind a bicycle, and enhance motorist and transit safety by eliminating the motorist [illegal] left turns that still hit the Metro rail cars sporadically.

Already, driving Downtown on Main Street is not ideal for a motorist. The ban on left turns and the pedestrian zone that cuts off Main Street at Main Street Square make it not very useful to a motorist for traveling through Downtown. If you add in now being stuck behind cyclists as well, it just seems to make more sense to re-route that traffic to Fannin or Travis, where there are plenty of lanes for cars to travel.

With all of the new businesses coming in on the North side of Downtown (Goro & Gun, Pastry War, Batanga, Bad News Bar, OKRA, Clutch City Squire, El Gran Malo, etc.), having an even safer pedestrian environment for customers to move about promotes greater economic activity. This also ties in nicely with the city’s new BCycle rental bike program. Tourists or Houstonians visiting Downtown and renting a BCycle could be directed to our fantastic Main Street bike lane to check out the rest of Downtown or as a way to get to points in Midtown.

If I count right, about 20 parking spaces would be lost along Main Street. The enhanced pedestrian, transit, and bicycle experience should easily make up for any small inconvenience this might cause. Main Street Square could be reconfigured to allow for a bike lane to pass through the current pedestrian environment.

I live and work downtown and think it would really improve quality of life.  I think this could get us a lot of positive national attention to take the move of closing Main Street to motor vehicle traffic and embracing other modes of transportation. What do you think?

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14 Responses to Main Street as Pedestrian and Bike Corridor

  1. melissa says:

    I’d be totally cool with this if cross traffic were still allowed. (Since making motorists leave downtown just to get to the other side of Main would be ridic) You’re right, it’s already a bit of a pain for motorists, since it’s so narrow and you are forced to go straight for so much of it. Where would you start the “no motor vehicles” section? (Remember Main isn’t just in downtown)

    • kylejack says:

      Yeah, allow motorists to pass through on the cross streets similar to how the area around Main Street Square area is right now. I think it would still make it pretty convenient for pedestrians, because they just have to check for bikes and trains rather than cars as well when crossing Main Street. An environment similar to how it currently is in front of Bombay Pizza and the Reliant Plaza could be created, and then just add in a bike path with signs and lights (maybe even paint it green to help pedestrians notice it, like some cities are doing now http://www.nycbikemaps.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/green-bikelane.jpg).

  2. Chris Valdez says:

    Fully support this–meaning, I don’t see any immediate issues this would create. I avoid Main St in my car as it is. I could see issues for busses maaaybe, but honestly the Bombay Pizza area is a great example of where it works. North and South borders would also be good questions to sort out.

  3. Julie says:

    Great idea Kyle. What would it take to submit it to the decision makers of city improvements?

  4. Adam Socki says:

    This is a really great idea. We should start organizing now to get this a reality. This would be one of the best corridors to have a pedestrian/cycling only corridor probably in the whole metro region.

    I’ll start a Facebook Group. 😛

  5. Guest says:

    A) Its obvious you are trying to kiss OKRA’s you know what b) We need more roads open, not less c) Nobody is forced to drive/bike on Main St d) We don’t need any more national attention e) The b-cycle is a novelty program

    I also think its unfair for you to capitalize on people’s emtions after the extremely trafic incident which a few days back.

    • kylejack says:

      Guest,
      I don’t know what OKRA would think of this proposal. As to the timing, please note above that this was posted May 30th, months before the incident on 7/22.

  6. Phillip says:

    Church Street in Burlington, Vermont is an example of this pulled off amazingly well. It isn’t nearly the “down town” that Houston has, but the pedestrian walkway through shops and restaurants with patio seating that stretch into what otherwise would be traffic lanes are generally well-traveled. And while their inclement weather is inverse to our own in Houston, it is similar in duration.

  7. Law says:

    Downtown Denver CO has this; it’s called 16th Street Mall. Traffic is only allowed to pedestrians, bikes, and some transit busses that shuttle people up and down the street. Don’t let the name mislead you, however. It’s not just a strip mall of boutiques. It’s hotels, business buildings, retail stores, corner stores, vendors, entertainment, restaurants, and highrises/apartments. If I remember correctly, motor vehicles are allowed to cross the streets, too. They just can’t drive down it, much like what you’re proposing. It could work and be great for Downtown Houston if we had more activities on that street for patrons… and it is developing to that point. One will eventually demand and draw the other. The stores need to open up first to warrant a need to accomodate for the foot traffic… or the street being exclusive to foot traffic only will let business owners see an opportunity to bring something to the strip. Main St really is becoming pointless and a hassle to drive a car on. To anyone who thinks this doesn’t work or wouldn’t be beneficial to the Downtown area, you should take a stroll down 16th street mall (not that it’s that easy to just hop on a plane just to visit a street but you get what I’m saying.)

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  10. richard tomlinson says:

    I think it is a great idea that could be done almost immediately.
    Almost everyone I know already avoids Main St. in their cars as it is anyway.
    It would almost be silly not to do this. There is no down side to it.
    Houston has enough bicycle traffic to not only support this, but to show that it is way past due, that Houston has been in need of something like this for quite some time.

  11. Kate says:

    I think this sounds like a great idea! I would love to see Houston’s downtown (and other parts of Houston as well!) encourage pedestrian and bike traffic. Spaces like that encourage more interaction and involvement in the public space instead of everyone being confined to ther cars than walking a short distance to a business. Foot traffic makes for a livly scene and is a positive for businesses, 6th street in Austin seems to do well.

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