Recently I spent more than two weeks down in Houston, TX for business. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are from the time when my family used to live there; pedalling around the neighborhood and down wooded trails on a department store special BMX bike, experimenting with fireworks, etc. All good fun. So why didn’t I have any fun on this trip?
Houston is the poster child for car-centered sprawl. There simply isn’t an area that doesn’t rely on a car to facilitate personal mobility. There is a wide, often 4 lane divided road to go everywhere, yet this has the curious effect of making things even farther apart as the road itself takes up a great deal of land that could be put to better use.
I saw some dusty, unused bicycle lanes, but considering this was on a 6 lane highway with traffic going 50-70 mph with no traffic lights to help cars trying to get into and out of the parking lots I can only believe it was reserved for those who have no fear of leaving this world. Did I mention that the average size of a Texas vehicle is nothing short of huge? I remember a lot of big cars back in the day but now they’ve morphed into gargantuan crew cab full size trucks, with the optional chrome appearance package. And all these trucks are shiny and waxed, meaning they don’t actually do any truck work.
I can see how, for some, it is not possible to imagine life without a car. In fact as it is, Houston couldn’t function without the automobile. The car is so deeply embedded within the system that there is no short term alternative.