Despite yesterday’s INRIX report that declared that Houston’s traffic situation was better than nineteen other cities in the U.S. and Canada (it placed twentieth in the “driving intelligence” company’s list of worst traffic cities), most people who get around Houston do so via car. Those people, however, will have to be a bit more careful in how they get around in the month of April, as a new pilot program being tested that month will close certain streets to automobile traffic, leaving them reserved for cyclists and pedestrians. As the Houston Chronicle reports:
Houston officials will soon close portions of some heavily traveled roads to cars, testing whether residents will take to the streets for some exercise and entertainment.
The pilot program, announced Wednesday, starts April 6 when a combined 2.5 miles of White Oak Boulevard and Quitman Street will be closed to automotive traffic between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“It is a way to acquaint ourselves with what is around those streets in a way we don’t normally experience it going by car,” Mayor Annise Parker said.
The Heights and near north side closings will be followed in May with a closing of mile-long stretch of Westheimer in the Montrose area and a two-mile closing of Washington Avenue to Market Square Park.
That’s an interesting approach to take in Houston, which isn’t necessarily known for its progressive transportation policies. The fact that the streets are only closed certain hours, meanwhile, may confuse drivers who attempt to use those roads in the afternoon—as may the fact that the streets that are going bike-and-pedestrian only are going to change with the month.
Still, that’s a lot of cynicism for an idea that has a lot of potential. Finding a road that you expected to drive on closed can be frustrating, but the goal of creating more walkable, liveable cities is one that it’s difficult to achieve without making some changes. In any case, it’s probably a safe bet that people will let Mayor Parker know what they think of this initiative pretty quickly after it begins.