Taryn Roberts once broke down in tears as she walked along the Heights Boulevard plaza with her son, a newborn at the time. She said they were crossing a side street when the driver of an SUV – who had stopped in the median and turned left onto the neighborhood thoroughfare – failed to see them and almost collided with them.
So when Roberts and his family returned to the plaza on Sunday, with 2-year-old Gio in a stroller, they were pleasantly surprised to see a series of orange cones and freshly painted lines at the intersection of Heights Boulevard and West. 8th Street. . Representatives from several departments in the City of Houston and the Houston Heights Association had staged an example of a potential redevelopment of an intersection that provided wider, more clearly defined spaces for pedestrians and cyclists and, perhaps more. Importantly, it encouraged motorists to slow down and pay more attention to those around them.
“It’s awesome,” said Roberts. “So many people are walking here, and (vehicles) are flying around here and they can’t even see.”
The overhaul of the contextual intersection, when the three-hour event was billed, was also a welcome sight for the family of David Loya, the 23-year-old Heights resident who was killed at the intersection exactly two years old. earlier while riding a bike. along Heights Boulevard and collided with a school bus crossing 8th Street. Members of Loya’s family came to see the temporary facility and visit the white ghost bike that was set up at the intersection, with some of his relatives saying the street needs to be made safer.
This is the goal of the Houston Heights Association (HHA), which has brought together representatives from Houston Public Works, the City Planning and Development Department, Transportation and Drainage Operations, and the member’s office. Houston City Council Abbie Kamin and nonprofit BikeHouston to host Sunday’s event. . HHA Executive Director Emily Guyre said she wanted to “honor David and his family” while presenting the neighborhood and its busiest thoroughfare to some potential changes.
“Heights Boulevard was one of the first streets (in Houston) to have a bike lane, and it obviously needs to be updated,” Guyre said. “Our traffic is really high. We have people of all ages riding the boulevard and we want to make sure everyone stays safe. “
Guyre said the HHA’s long-term vision is to upgrade Heights Boulevard from Interstate 10 to West 20th Street with some of the same features that were on display on Sunday, such as wider spaces for pedestrians and cyclists near outside the road as well as cycle paths. which were clearly marked with thick green lines. She said Harris County Ward 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority agreed with the idea, but that she had no source of funding and that So no plan was in place and no improvement was imminent.
Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock, who cycled to and from Sunday’s event, said the idea was in line with the city’s Vision Zero initiative to end the deaths and serious injuries on the roads by 2030. She said one of the goals of Sunday’s popup was to solicit input from the community and see if such a traffic reconfiguration would be supported by the neighborhood before that a project is not continued.
Pedestrians passing by were asked to write sticky notes on a notice board set up at the intersection, with some approving the changes and others suggesting more signage and traffic lights and better lighting at night.
“What we have noticed is that people on bicycles and with their strollers and on foot very much appreciate the attention given to them and the vehicles slow down,” Haddock said. “We have very good interactions between people on bikes and people in their cars and people on their feet.”
Ian Hlavacek, a city manager engineer who painted the cycle path green on the east side of the intersection, said the temporary installation represented “low-cost techniques” that would improve safety without significantly impacting traffic. circulation. Vehicles traveling both north and south on Heights Boulevard still had one lane of their own and could still turn left or right on cross streets.
Hlavacek said the augmented intersection “just feels safe”. Roberts and Loya’s relatives had a similar impression, with Loya’s cousin Jesse Montemayor saying he was happy community actors were taking note of the dangerous conditions that led to the death of his loved one and pledging to improve them. .
“I feel like we have all the good players at the table,” Guyre said. “Everyone has a common goal of increasing the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. We would also like to see traffic slow down.