Velo Paso and Bike Texas working to make El Paso more Bicycle-Friendly

By Leslie Luciano and Sarah Rich / Guest columnist [as printed in the April 6, 2014 El Paso Times]

Bicycle-friendly cities attract millennials

Texas is growing, but unfortunately so are our obesity and diabetes rates, as well as the cost to build and maintain our roads and highways.

The good news is young people who are drawn to Texas cities by our dynamic economy want access to parks, restaurants, museums, shopping, and recreation without having to sit in their cars on a freeway to get to those destinations.

The solution to this problem is becoming increasingly clear and simple. Make our cities more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, with dedicated infrastructure, pleasant public spaces, and denser downtowns and neighborhoods.

And Texas cities are responding in a big way.

In Fort Worth, $1.26 million in local bond money has been allocated to bicycle infrastructure.

In Dallas, a $51 million five-acre pedestrian walkway spans over a busy freeway, providing a safe, comfortable connection and revitalizing neighborhoods once impossible to reach by foot.

In Houston, Mayor Annise Park announced the Goal Zero Fatalities Bike Safety Campaign, which includes $50,000 for a Bicycle Master Plan. The City of Houston has also approved an expansive trails plan for the Houston region that builds on an approved $100M bond fund with another $100M to be raised by the Houston Parks Board, a non-profit that supports the development of Houston parks.

In Brownsville, the city has received positive press for adding bike trails, adopting a bicycle master plan, and hiring a full-time bicycle coordinator to oversee the city’s bike-related efforts. Brownsville sees bike infrastructure as integral to its quest to lower its 50 percent obesity rate and its 30 percent diabetes rate.

El Paso’s recent decisions to maintain funding for bike lanes, raise the standards for bike facilities, and create a Bicycle Advisory Committee put the city in step with other major cities in Texas and around the country.

After decades of car-centered development, there is a real shift toward making our cities people-friendly again.

Millennials, the generation between 17 and 35 years old, “own fewer cars and drive less than their predecessors,” according to an article published by National Association of Realtors. “(Millennials) would rather walk, bike, car-share, and use public transportation — and want to live where that’s all easy.”

Cities all over Texas and the United States are making changes to attract and retain millenials. Making these changes allows a city to compete in the search for talent and tourists.

More and more, these are the amenities that millennials expect to find in an American city.

Austin has certainly benefited from the investments it has made to provide a high quality of life to its residents: tech companies like Google, Facebook, Silicon Labs, and HomeAway, to name a few, are opening offices there, in large part because their employees want to live in a city with bike infrastructure and other mobility options.

This influx of tech companies has been great for Austin’s economy and its vitality.

The ingredients for a people-friendly city are not unique to these cities either. Some cities benefit from a top-down approach, while others are decidedly more grassroots.

The most successful cities, however, rely on a combination of political leadership, community support, high-impact projects, sensible connectivity and dedicated funding.

With Mayor Oscar Leeser’s leadership, the City Council’s vision, and the participation of El Pasoans from every walk of life, we expect El Paso to be the next great people-friendly city in Texas.

Leslie Luciano works on policy issues at the local, state and national level for Bike Texas, the state’s premiere bicycle advocacy organization. She has served on the Bicycle Advisory Committee and sits on the Bike Share Governing and City Advisory Boards in Austin. Sarah Rich is an attorney at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and a co-founder and board member of Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition in El Paso.


Why Do TxDOT and El Paso DOT Build Killer Streets Instead of Complete Streets?

Press Statement

For Immediate Release

Contact: Victor Cordero, 915-472-0985

March 30, 2014

Why Do TxDOT and El Paso DOT Build Killer Streets Instead of Complete Streets?

City hits a dozen pedestrian fatalities in first 3 months of 2014; Advocates seek solution, demand Complete Streets

El Paso, TX – El Paso may be the Safest City in the U.S., but that distinction won’t protect pedestrians trying to cross the street. A 51-year-old man was fatally hit by a car in the Lower Valley on Friday night, bringing the death toll in the first three months of 2014 to 12, nearly one pedestrian fatality per week.

El Paso led the state in pedestrian fatalities in 2007, according to the El Paso Times. Traffic Fatality Statistics, available on the El Paso Police Department’s website, show that there were 79 pedestrian deaths between 2009 and June 2013.

“Our streets are killing us. We need to prioritize the lives of people over cars,” said Scott White, Policy Director of Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition.

Last August, Velo Paso issued a statement following the tragic deaths of Jose Cordova, a 9-year-old boy who was killed while riding his bicycle, and two pedestrians who were fatally struck by motor vehicles within 90 minutes of each other on opposite sides of the city. The advocacy group urged the city to implement Complete Streets, a policy referenced in the Comprehensive City Plan, which was approved by the El Paso City Council in March 2012.

The Comprehensive Plan devotes entire chapters to “Community Concerns” and “Strategies for Addressing Community Concerns,” in which practical solutions to safer pedestrian access throughout the city are organized and described in great detail. Hazardous streets like Mesa are dissected, diagrammed and analyzed, then given specific guidelines on how to enhance safety and ease of access.

In Community Concerns, the Comprehensive Plan states that “most of El Paso’s major arterials are designed only for high-speed vehicular traffic. Walking, bicycling, or using transit are often unsafe or even impossible […]” Input gathered from public meetings conducted during Comprehensive Plan information sessions showed that community members emphasized the need for “neighborhoods, place-making, safety, personal mobility, and the potential for streets to add value to their surroundings rather than as a means to more quickly get somewhere else.”

Mesa, a TxDOT road and the site of several tragic pedestrian deaths, is described as “unfortunately [having] been [designed] with a focus solely on facilitating automobile travel […] While the posted speed limit is 35 mph, the majority of cars currently travel down Mesa Street at speeds between 40 and 50 mph – well above the safe range for pedestrian activity.”

The plan offers a step-by-step solution that involves narrowing car lanes, “widening sidewalks, and encouraging street-oriented buildings [that] will, over time, improve the behavior of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

“We know there’s a plan to incrementally improve dangerous streets in El Paso,” said Victor Cordero of Velo Paso. “We need City Council and TxDOT to make Complete Streets their top priority and move forward on it as soon as possible. Lives are at stake.”

###

BACKGROUND

About Velo Paso: Velo Paso is a group of avid cyclists and engaged citizens from across the Paso del Norte region who want to improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians in our community. For more information, please visit www.velopaso.org, www.facebook.com/velopaso, and www.twitter.com/velopaso.


Don’t Let City Council Back-Pedal

Thank you El Paso, with your support, and the generous votes of our City Council, El Paso now has a Bicycle Advisory Committee!!!

On Tuesday City Council will consider two agenda items. One calls for ending any new spending on bike lanes, the other calls for the creation of a Bike Advisory Council to help facilitate community investment and bicycle policy.

We are asking all bicycle riders to join us as we urge a NO vote on 11.3 (ending spending on Bike Lanes), and a YES vote on item 11.4 (creating a Bike Advisory Council).

It is important that we turn out on force to show the city and City Council that #WeRideElPaso, and that we not only need safe routes and bike lanes, but we want to play a roll in the planning and design of these facilities.

To sign up to address City Council, please fill out the online form here: http://www.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/signup_form_agenda.asp
Ride to Council route

Ride to Council route

The City Council meeting starts at 8:00 at the new City Council chambers at the old El Paso Times building at 300 N. Campbell St. If you wish to ride your bike to council, we will gather at 913 E Nevada Ave at 7:30AM and depart, as a group, for the City Council meeting at approximately 7:45AM. (click on thumbnail of map at right for full sized map of the Ride to Council)

If you can’t make it to speak to council on Tuesday, please call or e-mail the Mayor and your representative to ask them to vote NO on 11.3 – ending spending on Bike Lanes, and to vote YES on item 11.4 – creating a Bike Advisory Council.

Mayor Oscar Leeser, mayor@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4145
Rep. Ann Morgan Lilly, district1@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4151 (West)
Rep. Larry Romero, district2@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4996 (Central)
Rep. Emma Acosta, district3@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4515 (East Central)
Rep. Carl Robinson, district4@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4400 (North East)
Rep. Michiel R. Noe, district5@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4701 (Far East)
Rep. Eddie Holguin, district6@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4182 (Far East/Lower Valley)
Rep. Lily Limon, district7@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4108 (East/Lower Valley)
Rep. Cortney Niland, district8@elpasotexas.gov, (915) 541-4123 (West/Downtown)

Please help us spread the word as we work to protect need bicycle lanes, and hope to secure a real voice in the future planning and design of our bike infrastructure.
Follow Velo Paso on Facebook, Twitter, and join our Facebook Ride to Council event


Can we make El Paso Bike Friendly?

On Monday, February 24th, Stephen Clark, aka “Bike Friendly Steve,” from the League of American Bicyclists, paid El Paso a visit, to learn more about our existing bicycle facilities, and offer some insight and advice to local transportation planners and Velo Paso members as to how we might make El Paso Bicycle Friendly.

Over the past few years we have seen a good deal of improvement, but there’s so much more we can do. From better design of bike lanes (and improve our existing ones), to simple things like better signage, or even lockers and showers for bike commuters.

Perhaps the biggest change we can help effect, with your help, is to change the conversation from making our roads safe, to making our rides pleasurable, and ultimately to make riding advantageous!

There’s lots of work to do, and we’re still scribbling notes from Steve’s visit. So for now, here’s some of the news coverage:

Non-profit to help El Paso become bicycle friendly city – KTSM

Expert on bike-friendly cities visits El Paso today – El Paso Times

El Paso bike lanes: Roads to be more cyclist friendly – El Paso Times

Eastsiders react to El Paso’s bike programs – El Paso Times


Lets put an end to unnecessary deaths

Last August, Trey Hancock was riding his bicycle when he was hit and killed by a pickup truck. Immediately following the crash the driver reportedly said that he saw Hancock and thought he had enough room to pass safely, but then blamed Hancock for supposedly swerving into his path. When faced with the choice of possibly slowing down and moving over to share the road, the driver chose instead to continue as though no one was there. The result was another unnecessary death.

The driver was eventually charged with careless driving, and faces a possible fine of $25 to $100, and perhaps even 5 to 30 days in jail. The problem with such a light charge is that it sends a clear message that we won’t be held accountable for the decisions we do or do not make when behind the wheel.

It also tells us that in the eyes of the law, life is cheap.

It’s time Texas and New Mexico not only pass strict vulnerable road user laws, but enforce them. What happened to Trey Hancock was no accident. Had the driver who killed him simply taken a moment to change lanes or slow down in order to pass safely, a loving father and husband would still be with his family today, and we would still have our dear friend.

Those split-second decisions we must constantly make while we are behind the wheel can forever alter another person’s life, and our own, in an instant.

Please pay attention, slow down, and move over to give cyclists and all other vulnerable road users at least 3 feet when passing (5 feet if you’re in a commercial vehicle). It’s not just common courtesy, in El Paso it’s the law, and it could be the difference between the life and death of a loved one.

Read The El Paso Times coverage here:Border Patrol agent charged with misdemeanor in biker death


Ride List

New for 2014, Velo Paso will be posting news and info on rides in and around El Paso! If you have an upcoming ride, please submit your ride information here.
For your safety, we always encourage you to follow the rules of the road/trail, wear a helmet, use lights when visibility is poor, and carry water as well as basic tools to make adjustments or fix a flat.

Mondays, 6:30PM-10:00PM – Hell Paso Zombie Bicycle Club Weekly Ride – Meet at Union Plaza, El Paso, TX, United States (map) – Hosted by Hell Paso Zombie Bicycle Club

—–

Tuesday, July 22, 5:45PM – B/IG FUN RIDE – The El Paso Bicycle Club’s Beginner/Intermediate Group (B/IG) training program for beginning and intermediate riders runs Tuesday evenings through early September. A brief cycling lesson is followed by a ride, beginning at River Run Plaza, 1071 Country Club (just east of Upper Valley Rd). Riding groups are paced for beginner, beginner/intermediate and intermediate riders. Helmets required. The July 22 ride is a simple group ride with no lesson. Afterwards, we’ll show our appreciation to the Rio Plaza merchants by buying dinner (pizza, subs, chicken, etc.) and beverages (or bring your own). Bring chairs. Socialize and talk cycling! More information and a resource guide of training materials can be found at elpasobicycleclub.com/big – Hosted by El Paso Bicycle Club Helmets and water required

Tuesday, July 22, 6:30PM – Tuesday Evening Ride – Meet: 6:30pm Album Park to Ft Bliss ID’s — Cat A 20 mph (Controlled) Albert – Non Stop — Cat B 18 mph pace — Cat C 14-16 Altura lead by (Ray Gonzalez) — ALL Category levels need to bring Lights and ID’s – Hosted by EP Cyclists Helmets and (2)H2O bottles required

Tuesdays, 7:00PM – Tuesday Night Downtown Ride – Meet at Soho Cocktail Lounge, North Oregon Street, El Paso, TX, United States (map) – Ride Starts at 7:15pm All bike styles welcome, everyone is welcome. Lights, Helmets, and Hydration for safe cycling. RIDE INFORMATION: Contact Chuck 915-791-2006 “Ride Your Bicycle El Paso!” – Hosted by Chuck’s Bicycle Repair

—–

Wednesday Morning West Side Ride at 8:00AM – Meet at West side Kohls parking lot – Hosted by EP Cyclists Helmets and (2)H2O bottles required

Wednesday Night Ride at 5:45PM – These are leaderless rides of 17-22 miles leaving from Rio Plaza, 6205 Upper Valley Rd (at Artcraft) – The most popular route is a 19-mile loop to Gadsden H.S. Riders begin 5-5:30 p.m. this time of year. El Paso Bicycle Club will man an information table from 5 to 5:30 p.m. with maps and also offer a moderate pace (15-17 mph) ride beginning at 5:15 p.m. – Optional dinner afterward at Hello Pizza, 1071 Country Club (River Run Plaza) – Hosted by El Paso Bicycle Club Helmets and water required – please arrive 15 minutes early

—–

Thursday Evening East Side Ride at 6:30PM – Meet at “Park and Ride” — Cat A+/A Leaderless — Cat B 18 mph Pace — Cat C 14-16 mph – Hosted by EP Cyclists Helmets and (2)H2O bottles required

—–

Fridays at 8:00AM – It’s the Great Bagel Ride! – Meet at Hospital Parking Lot on Edgemere & lp375 – We roll out at 7:30 am – This is a Cat B with some Cat A sprints at certain points, 25 miles! – Hosted by EP Cyclists Helmets and (2)H2O bottles required

—–

Saturday, July 26, 6:45AM – B/IG Metric Century – Meet at River Run Plaza, 1071 Country Club, and ride to Mesilla and back. 63-67 miles, 15-17 mph pace. Snack break at Café de Mesilla. This is the 4th distance ride to B/IG riders and a qualifying ride for the September B/IG century ride. – Hosted by El Paso Bicycle Club Helmets and water required – please arrive 15 minutes early

Saturday, July 26, 7:00AM – La Mesa/Cruces – Meet at La Mesa (across from Eagle Grocery on NM 28) and ride the rollers to Las Cruces. 16-18 mph, 30 miles. Dan Post, 526-8364. – Hosted by El Paso Bicycle Club Helmets and water required – please arrive 15 minutes early

—–

Sunday, July 27, 7:00AM – La Mesa/Cruces – Meet at Braden Aboud Park, 4325 River Bend (between Sunset and Frontera) for ride to Border Crossing then return for club picnic between 10 and 11 a.m. B/IG group led by Margaret O’Kelley, 588-3825; 15-17 mph group, Tony Casas, 820-9333; 18-20 mph group, Chris Hoffman, 497-3026.. – Hosted by El Paso Bicycle Club Helmets and water required – please arrive 15 minutes early

—–

Mondays, 6:30PM-10:00PM – Hell Paso Zombie Bicycle Club Weekly Ride – Meet at Union Plaza, El Paso, TX, United States (map) – Hosted by Hell Paso Zombie Bicycle Club

—–

Tuesday, July 29, 5:45PM – B/IG Ride & Lesson – Cross Training/Core – The El Paso Bicycle Club’s Beginner/Intermediate Group (B/IG) training program for beginning and intermediate riders runs Tuesday evenings through early September. A brief cycling lesson is followed by a ride, beginning at River Run Plaza, 1071 Country Club (just east of Upper Valley Rd). Riding groups are paced for beginner, beginner/intermediate and intermediate riders. Helmets required. The July 29 lesson is “Cross Training / Core.” What you can do off the bike to make you better on the bike, with special emphasis on Core Training. More information and a resource guide of training materials can be found at elpasobicycleclub.com/big – Hosted by El Paso Bicycle Club Helmets and water required

Tuesdays, 7:00PM – Tuesday Night Downtown Ride – Meet at Soho Cocktail Lounge, North Oregon Street, El Paso, TX, United States (map) – Ride Starts at 7:15pm All bike styles welcome, everyone is welcome. Lights, Helmets, and Hydration for safe cycling. RIDE INFORMATION: Contact Chuck 915-791-2006 “Ride Your Bicycle El Paso!” – Hosted by Chuck’s Bicycle Repair

—–

Wednesday Morning West Side Ride at 8:00AM – Meet at West side Kohls parking lot – Hosted by EP Cyclists Helmets and (2)H2O bottles required

Wednesday Night Ride at 5:45PM – These are leaderless rides of 17-22 miles leaving from Rio Plaza, 6205 Upper Valley Rd (at Artcraft) – The most popular route is a 19-mile loop to Gadsden H.S. Riders begin 5-5:30 p.m. this time of year. El Paso Bicycle Club will man an information table from 5 to 5:30 p.m. with maps and also offer a moderate pace (15-17 mph) ride beginning at 5:15 p.m. – Optional dinner afterward at Hello Pizza, 1071 Country Club (River Run Plaza) – Hosted by El Paso Bicycle Club Helmets and water required – please arrive 15 minutes early

—–

Thursday Evening East Side Ride at 6:30PM – Meet at “Park and Ride” — Cat A+/A Leaderless — Cat B 18 mph Pace — Cat C 14-16 mph – Hosted by EP Cyclists Helmets and (2)H2O bottles required

—–

Fridays at 8:00AM – It’s the Great Bagel Ride! – Meet atHospital Parking Lot on Edgemere & lp375 – We roll out at 7:30 am – This is a Cat B with some Cat A sprints at certain points, 25 miles! – Hosted by EP Cyclists Helmets and (2)H2O bottles required


Action Alert: Attend TxDOT’s Online Meeting

If you missed TxDOT’s online TTP 2040 presentations in November, here’s another chance to not only join in, but to offer feedback in order to help shape TxDOT’s long term transportation policy!

What: Online Public Open House When:Thursday, December 5th at 6pm Central/5pm Mountain Where: Click this link to access the meeting. If requested, enter your name and email address. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: 12345. Click “Join”. Who: You!

TTP 2040 is the state’s multimodal, long-range transportation plan, and will serve as TxDOT’s “blueprint” to guide collaborative planning efforts with their stakeholders in order to address the state’s transportation needs and accomplish the goals in TxDOT’s Strategic Plan. The TTP 2040 will include strategies for the development, construction and implementation of projects and services for all transportation modes, including roadways, aviation, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian, waterways and coastal waters, and freight and passenger rail.

When you submit feedback to TxDOT, please:

Ask that TxDOT adopt an agency-wide, district-wide, and area-wide Complete Streets policy with guidance, procedures, and review included. Remind TxDOT that a Complete Streets policy is in accordance with their first priority: safety for all road users. Point out that the review process for Complete Streets is more economical in the long run, saving TxDOT the time and other resources required to add bicycle or pedestrian accommodations later in the project. Express your support for trails projects in your community: The current federal transportation bill allows TxDOT to move trails money away to non-bike/ped uses much more easily than before, and we want them to keep trails funding for trail building.

Public comments will be accepted throughout the development of the Texas Transportation Plan until Sept. 1, 2014. Written comments may be submitted by email or by USPS mail to:

TxDOT TPP Division TTP 2040
P.O. Box 149217
Austin, TX 78714-9217

Let’s make sure TxDOT remembers people who bike and walk in their transportation planning, and thank you for participating in this process.


Traffic Skills 101

Few activities are as fun and enjoyable as riding a bicycle. Velo Paso’s Traffic Skills 101 (TS101) is a fast-paced class that will give you the confidence and know-how to ride safely and legally. You will learn how basic bicycle maintenance, rules for riding, and bicycle handling skills.

This class is ideal for relatively new cyclists who want to build upon the basics, those returning to cycling from a long hiatus, people who want to be more independent on their bike, and those who feel a little nervous while cycling in traffic. These classes are taught by our experienced instructors who have been certified through the League of American Bicyclists.

This course is organized into three sections taught both in-class and on-road with approximately 8 hours of total instruction time:

1. The Basics

Your Bicycle Maintenance Clothing & Equipment Bicycle Handling

2. Bicycling in Traffic

Your Role in Traffic Avoiding Crashes Hazard Avoidance Maneuvers

3. Enjoying the Ride

Ride Etiquette Sharing the Road

You will need a helmet and a bike in good working order to participate in the on bike portion of the class. Special classes can be arranged for those wishing to learn to ride, for children, commuters, or for those interested only in the in-class portion of the program.
For more information or to schedule a class, fill out the information on our CONTACT US page, and be sure to include TS101 in the subject line.


Make roads safer for both cars and bikes

As printed in the El Paso Times on 11/22/2013

Froma Harrop’s recent commentary on bicyclists and cars was long on anecdotes yet short on policy recommendations. We all have stories about scary situations while riding our bikes or driving near a cyclist. But what is needed here in El Paso is better infrastructure so that cars and bikes each have their space on the road, limiting the possibility of close calls or collisions. I ride my bike daily throughout central El Paso to get to work, run errands, and meet up with friends. I’m a certified cycling instructor and Velo Paso board member; I follow the rules of the road and make myself predictable and visible. Drivers still honk at me, though, when my presence on the road slows them down or frustrates them. Each of those honks is a potential supporter of expanded and improved bike infrastructure. Cars want to move safely at their speed; cyclists want the same thing. While educated cyclists and drivers can share the same lane, it’s more dangerous for cyclists and it’s frustrating for drivers. A connected, expansive system of bike lanes and bike boulevards will help move cyclists through El Paso more safely and quickly, while keeping cars away from vulnerable cyclists and allowing them to move at a more comfortable speed. Instead of complaining, let’s build better bike infrastructure and improve safety on our roads. Sarah Rich, Central El Paso

Sarah Rich is an attorney, policy analyst, and founding member of Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition

You can read Froma Harrop’s ediorial here


It’s time to properly fund Bike Share

Over the past few months the Bike Share program has been on and off again due to issues over funding, but it looks like a solution may soon be at hand! Once again, Velo Paso is asking for your support to help make our Bike Share a reality, by attending the MPO’s Transportation Policy Board (TPB) meeting and showing your support for this new funding plan.
El Paso MPO Transportation Policy Board Meeting
Friday, November 1, 2013 at 9:00 A.M.
El Paso MPO Office, 10767 Gateway Blvd. West, Suite 605, El Paso, Texas 79935

As always, you can show your support by contacting the members of the TPB via mgranados@elpasompo.org at the MPO offices, and tell them you support funding for El Paso’s bike share.

Sample letter:

Dear Transportation Policy Board member: Thank you for your continued support for the Bike Share program. Over the past several months you have demonstrated time and again that El Paso is ready for a robust Bike Share program, and I respectfully ask that you once again demonstrate your support the new funding plan to ensure El Paso gets the program you have been voting for, and El Paso deserves. Bike Share programs reduce both congestion and air pollution, serve as an economic catalyst for local businesses, and, in the long term, lead to innumerable savings in health care costs. Bike Share programs are becoming the next form of public transportation, as commonplace as buses, light rails and subways. El Paso will also earn the notable distinction of launching the first bike share system in the Southwest, an achievement we should all be proud of. On November 1, 2013, please vote once again to ensure El Paso gets a properly funded bike share.

Please feel free to personalize the letter and add why bike share is important to you.

Copyright © 2020 Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition.
A 501©(3) nonprofit organization.