It can be hard to get things done in politics, so we love to see it when a worthy plan comes together – especially when that plan involves bicycle paths.
Houston is already well on the way to upgrading our bayous into usable green space, but Mayor Annise Parker on Friday announced the next target for transformation – utility rights-of-way.
Parker joined representatives from environmental groups and CenterPoint Energy to announce that the utility company was kicking off the plan to transform grassy stretches of power lines into an extensive system of trails that will connect with the bayous – complete with a $1.5 million donation to get things started. That’s a hefty gift from a company that didn’t have to play ball in the first place, and an addition to Houston’s history of corporate stewardship.
These rights-of-way have been a missing link in any plan to build a bicycle system that can actually function as a transportation network. The bayous may meander across our city, but they essentially only function as an east-west corridor. These utility stretches will be the north-south avenues that complete a grid for pedal power.
The plan required cooperation at the city level, in the state Legislature and in private office buildings. All deserve praise for making it happen, especially Republican state Rep. Jim Murphy and Democratic state Sen. Rodney Ellis, who worked to pass a bill that would indemnify CenterPoint against liability for negligence along the rights-of-way – similar to the standard held in 47 other states.
Despite our city’s size, it often feels like Houston has one of the weakest voices up in Austin. These two were able to cut through the usual chaos.
Progress is often slow, and it will be a while before Houston’s hike-and-bike network is complete. But after waiting to clear the legal hurdles, it seems like everything is finally on the right path.