Humans of Houston
In the City of Houston, every other day someone loses their life in a traffic crash on our streets and every day three people will suffer from severe, life-altering injuries. Vision Zero is committed to ending this trend. Nearly 7 million people live in the City of Houston and move about on our streets. These are their stories.
Every other day I used to have an encounter, a close call. I saw people texting, on Facebook, not paying attention, changing lanes in front of me. It's a behavioral trend. I got used to it over the years here. I'm European as an origin, so we have different rules of life and a different approach to behaving. When you are in the car in Europe, it’s a full-time job. You don't play with your phone, you don't even play with music. You pay attention. Here in Houston, people are nice drivers, but totally unskilled ones. It’s kind of like a wild, wild west. So how can we make our streets safer? I don't think we can make our streets safer without changing the mindset, driving the car is a full-time job. It requires your full attention.
Speeding. I think people tend to go faster than the speed limit here. I believe speed plus lack of attention is the major contributor for the mishaps and safety issues on the Houston roads. People tend to believe on the multi-lane highway that they are safe, that they can go fast, but if you're traveling like 60/70 miles an hour, the available reaction time to something expected is very, very short. That’s when the bad things happen. You can see, something happens, and people start to brake and the people behind them are too late to brake and the crash, and all of the pileup starts.
I mean, it's obvious. Not just Houston, the entire USA is a car-centric place, because you have to get from A to B independently, so you need a car. Over the last 10 years, I noticed there is a very nice, very promising trend to build up the infrastructure of the biking and walking trails. I remember when I came here in 2009 and started biking, there was a few independent biking trails, but these days, you can go to the Bryce Bayou from downtown to Sugarland; you can go from downtown to the Jersey Village through the White Oak Bayou. You can go from Memorial almost to Katy. This is a great improvement.
“It's really important for me to be safe because I have a young child and another one on the way. I need to make sure that the roads are safe for their safety and our family’s safety. I used to have a commute that required me to get on I-45, and it was constant fear because of the aggressiveness of others. So, I really don't get on the highways unless I have to.“
“Generally, just on our local streets around here I feel pretty safe. As I biker, I'm guilty of complaining, and I definitely am guilty about being a complaining driver too. If we have the infrastructure to allow those two groups to coexist, I’d complain a lot less on both sides.”
“I see Houston as my long-term place where I'm going to raise my family, and we're an active family. I would love to be able to move out and about around the city without having to get in my car. I'd love to be able to teach my kids how to bike safely and just eliminate some of the hazards. I think only an adult mind has the capacity to watch out for that many hazards at one time. We enjoy walking and biking around our neighborhood, but there's not even any sidewalk or lane dividers in our roads to use for safe biking and walking. It's a constant struggle, like making sure the dog doesn’t get hit by a car, or our stroller with a baby doesn’t get hit by a car. So feel all of that, on a very personal level.
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“When I'm traveling with my two teenage girls, and if we go out for a bike ride or walk or even driving, trying to teach my 16-year-old how to drive, that's probably when I've been most afraid. Just having to help her learn how to deal with the unnecessarily wide, fast streets, the drivers who don't pay attention, managing to make sure you're looking out for people walking and biking. That's honestly, in the last year, been one of my biggest challenges. But it really brought it home how hard it is to drive around our city and to teach someone to do that. It's really terrifying in lots of places, and a lot of is because we just have designed terrible streets to support that.”
"I know that it's a crisis because I see so many people struggle with the lack of safe streets.. How many people are killed or injured in Houston every year? And how many people don't actually make the trip that they might enjoy walking or biking because they don't feel safe? I know it's the probably one of, if not the biggest deterrent to people thinking differently about how they move around. It has huge impacts on our city’s development pattern, its sustainability, its resilience, its air quality, and so it's hit the heart of so many issues that impact Houston. I think it's such a critical crisis of just the number of people, the number of deaths, the number of families impacted on an emotional level that it is, an economic toll on our on our community. And it's something that we've sort of taken for granted as the status quo. It's just the cost of moving around and that mindset is unacceptable in my mind. We continue to just live with that and say that's just the cost of doing business. It is unconscionable, and I’m super excited to see the city is kind of taking this on and, I think the plan that was put forward was really great. What I what I really want to see are the actions. We all know someone who's been impacted by either a fatal crash or serious injury crash. And that just is unacceptable in my mind. I don't think there's any other acceptable goal but zero. But we have a long way to go.”
“Nobody ever wants to experience that. Nobody ever wants to receive a phone call, stating that your son, wife, husband, child, whoever was hit by a vehicle, and is no longer with us. That's the worst news ever. Nobody wants to experience that, but when you do get the call, it's unacceptable. You get a billion things that go through your head but, at that point in time it's basically too late.”
“I woke up, as normal, got the kids off to school. My wife and I both went our ways to work. Everybody got home from school and work, prepared ourselves for the rodeo. I can't remember which country singer we were going to see. I got the news, as we were walking out the door, literally, getting ready to walk out the door. And it was, it was a shot. I don't have the words for it; it's just the whole body went numb. I was at a loss for words. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I didn't want to believe it. It happened at three, I didn't hear from it or anything of it till nearly six, seven o'clock in the evening. I just told my wife I went numb; everything else is too blurry, and I was like that for several days. I can't explain what I felt—it was unreal, unexplainable, very hurtful very painful. A lot of crying, a lot of tears. You just want to sit and lay in bed. And you think that you’re all cried out, you’re never cried out, sadness over and over. And before you know it, days have passed by, hours, days turn into weeks and it's a very touching hurt, and when you speak about it, you just re-live the pain and everything and it never goes away. You learn to deal with it, you learn to accept it. I don't want to say that. I don't think that at this time I'm ready to accept that. I know I will have to one day, but I've yet to reach that.”
“When I was growing up, bicycling was my thing. I was told once that they didn't understand where David got his love and passion for cycling. I didn't answer the question, I just thought, with a happy smile deep inside my heart—well, I know the answer to that. I grew up, going up and down that same road he was killed on. There was a time in my life when I did ride up and down that strip and didn't have a worry in my life, didn't think twice of going up and down without? anybody hurting me. But now, you think twice with the high rate of vehicles going through there. It does change my mind about it, but I've never felt like I didn't need to share it with the cyclists because they're important, just as we are.”
“Something that I’ve noticed is that sometimes, there is no place to walk around safely in Houston. People have to walk on the street, because there is no sidewalk here usually, which is probably also part of the problem. You have to walk on the street or ride your bike on the street unless you go to a park. I'm an international student from Colombia where there are always sidewalks on each side of the street, and you can walk safely without being afraid that a car will kill you.”
“Lives matter. Of course when you have a crash, there is usually someone who was being irresponsible and there is an innocent person who will always be involved in the situation. That person could be a member of a family, and for my family, or any family, to have to deal with the death of a loved one, is horrible to think about. If [Vision Zero] can make people change the way they drive, and change their perception of driving safely is, that is important. I will say that's one of the reasons why I haven't gotten my license here because people drive crazily in Houston. I don't feel safe. So, I think that Vision Zero will also make us feel safer when driving, or when I'm crossing the street, or when I take public transportation.”
“I was going past 610 on North Braeswood. And that was the area I think that someone had passed away last year, and it's kind of a sketchy intersection when you're going under 610. And there was a car that was very close to me and kind of grazed my elbow. That was scary and just thinking about that person died a year ago, and how this is a bike route path to a lot of people that go this route because it connects you and other bike paths so that was definitely a sketchy situation. Since then I've kind of stayed almost exclusively on trails.”
“It just gives you so much more peace of mind when you're in an area where you feel protected. That's one of the things that I have to make sure when I'm going on a bike ride, like I need to go on Google Maps and see if there is a bike lane or if there are a lot of cars are traffic on the shoulders. I have to do my research because I know Houston drivers or Houston road conditions, and there could be some serious situations and I don't want to be involved in that or have any surprises.”
“I let my friends know and advocate for things that are going on bike route-wise throughout the city. I think letting folks know that I that I ride my bike. Hopefully that makes them think twice when it comes to driving. I don't know, I think just being courteous on the road is a big part of it. And celebrating wins, there's been a lot of development over the last three, four years in Houston, bike paths and protected pathways and all of that stuff. And that's been really heartening to see. The city's, doing a great job of building on their infrastructure.”