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Local nonprofit wants change at site of fatal bicycle crashes near Rice

April 27, 2018 GMT

A Houston bicycle safety advocacy group called on city leaders this week to improve a Rice University-area intersection where two cyclists have died in crashes in the span of one year.

The appeal came just after a woman was run over a dump truck and killed while turning her bicycle from Sunset onto Main on Tuesday.

“This could have been preventable,” BikeHouston spokesman Ivan Fuentes said. “With better design and action, we wouldn’t even have to be talking about this.”

Local nonprofit BikeHouston will go before Houston City Council this coming Tuesday to urge the city to make changes to the intersection of Sunset where it crosses with both Main and Fannin, right outside the front entrance of Rice University.


City officials, calling the crash tragic, added that improvements to the crossing were underway when the woman died. The city has approved a conceptual design to fix the intersection but is waiting on a final design before construction can begin, spokeswoman Alanna Reed said.

“In an ideal world, there’s no bike fatalities, or car accidents either,” Reed said. Houston Metro “and the city are definitely working together on intersection safety throughout Houston.”

One of the projects would prevent traffic on Sunset from continuing eastbound to Fannin and instead direct drivers to turn on Main, Reed said.

Houston Metro and the city began looking at altering the intersection after popular Rice University scientist Marjorie Corcoran, 66, died there while biking on Feb. 3, 2017.

Corcoran, 66, was struck by a Metro light rail train while riding her bicycle near Hermann Park. She was heading toward the campus about 8:15 a.m. when she crossed over the southbound tracks along the 6300 block of Fannin near Sunset. Corcoran was pronounced dead at the scene.

Just more than a year later, another woman died close to the same spot.

Both she and the man driving the dump truck had a green light at the time of the crash, said Asst. Chief Wendy Baimbridge, who heads the Patrol Region 3 Command at the Houston Police Department. The dump truck was making a right turn off of Sunset to go south on Main, while the cyclist entered into the intersection on a crosswalk and was struck by the right back tire of the truck. She also died at the scene.

She was meeting her husband at Rice University, where he works, Baimbridge said.


Because she was in the road at the time of the crash, the cyclist might have been at fault in the accident, Baimbridge said.

“Cyclists have to abide by all the laws of motorists when they’re on the street, so at that point - it sounds like it could change, again this is under investigation - but the cyclist would be at fault considering that,” Baimbridge said.

Fuentes disputed the cyclist would have been responsible, considering that Texas law only prohibits people from riding bicycles on sidewalks in business districts, he said.

Houston’s vulnerable road user ordinance also protects the bicyclist, Fuentes said. The law states that vehicles have to provide “vulnerable road users,” such as bicyclists, an appropriate amount of space between them before they turn in front of them.

The city should take the latest crash as a cue that something needs to be done on Sunset, Main and Fannin, Fuentes said.

“It’s unfortunate that [improvements] didn’t come sooner where it could have possibly prevented this crash,” Fuentes said. “Hopefully now they move faster in order to prevent any further from happening as a result of this poor design.”

The city is going to continue working with motorists, bicyclists and law enforcement on bicycle safety issues in Houston, including the vulnerable users law, Reed said.

“No one is exempt and we are all responsible for each other’s safety,” she said.