Thursday, January 22, 2004

"It will be a pedestrian-friendly venue -- something you don't see a lot around here," - Free four-day street party leading up to Super Bowl

It is true that in the past Houston has not been pedestrian friendly, something that was confirmed for me when I was almost killed walking across Main Street from the Rice U Metro stop recently. Last Friday I needed to pick up our race packets for the Houston Press/Metro 5K race the following Sunday (see previous post). I decided that I should ride the Metro Light Rail train from the Rice U stop to downtown since I had advocated the construction of the light rail line but I had yet to ride it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to "put my money where my mouth is."

We had drizzle and rain off-and-on Friday afternoon as I accomplished my errand. The train ride was smooth and uneventful, and walking from the Main Street Plaza stop over to the George R. Brown Convention Center was quick and easy. It grew dark as I returned to Rice, and the rain continued with its sputtering. I got off the train, walked across Fannin, and waited for the signal at Main and Sunset to change so I could cross. It was 6:25 p.m. (I looked at my watch so I would know how long the errand had taken). The "WALK" light came on, and I started across all six lanes of Main, three northbound, and three southbound, with a seventh left turn lane in the middle. As usually occurs with "WALK" lights, it started flashing about 5 milliseconds after I started across, telling me "you better hurry up and get across or you're going to be flattened by an SUV going 50 mph". It was raining and dark, and I was walking carefully so as to not slip.

I then looked over at the line of vehicles waiting to turn right onto southbound Main from Sunset and noticed that a large garbage or dump truck was waiting for me to complete my journey across the road so that he could turn. People in cars behind him were honking their horns. I started to walk faster diagonally across the southbound road so that he could turn around me once I had advanced far enough across. I could not see into the truck, and so could not tell if the driver was motioning for me to cross or what. He started revving his engine, turning his wheels, and accelerated into the street, turning much more quickly into my path than I anticipated. As I stared into the radiator of the advancing behemoth, I realized I would be killed if I did not take corrective action. I moved quickly to my right, and put out my right arm to straight-arm the fender of the truck, as if I could stop a few tons of rolling steel. That action accomplished my goal of getting out of the way of the truck. He drove most of the way past me and stopped. I was totally pissed off and I yelled at him "hey buddy, I was in the crosswalk!" He yelled back something like "you weren't crossing fast enough" and I replied rather obviously "you could have killed me!"

I looked around and realized I was standing in the middle of Main St. in front of three lanes of southbound traffic waiting for the light to turn green. There were some people looking out of their cars at me from the northbound lanes and left-turn lane, but I could not be sure that anyone else could see me, given how the corner is not well lit, and the pavement and trees suck up the light when its raining like that. So I muttered and continued to walk across the street. The truck driver drove away. I didn't even get his license plate even though I was probably standing about 2 feet away from the rear of his truck. I was so pissed off and jazzed up that I didn't think about it. I made it to the corner, and I muttered to another pedestrian "what do you have to do around here?" to get across the street safely.

As I made my way across the Rice campus, I noticed groups of students headed over to the street corner, probably to ride the Metro train, and I began to worry that one of them would get hit by a car or truck trying to cross the street in the dark.

My right arm began to hurt on my way home, so I stopped in at the Rice Police Station to report the incident. But it was not on Rice property and without a license plate no one could do anything anyway. I was upset that I had forgotten to get the plate number. Since I had my cell phone with me, I could have called the police right from the street, and I didn't even think about that until later.

All sorts of things rolled through my mind as I thought about my brush with injury. I was not hurt (my arm was fine the next day), and it is unclear whether the truck driver really saw me or not as he moved into the turn. I would have had to spend a lot of time with police and lawyers and such, and for what end? To get a guy fired from his job driving a truck? So I probably did the right thing in not getting all torqued out of shape about the whole thing. Who can be sure?

I have not ridden my bike since Sunday before last, about 10 days. I did manage to work out a couple of time since then (and of course I walked 3.1 miles on Sunday). Today I bought new pedals with toe clips for my bike and a bottle and bottle rack from West U. Cycles on Rice Blvd. in the Village. Great store; they have answered a lot of questions for me when I've been in there. Still trying to decide what type of bike rack to buy for my car--trunk mount, like a Saris Bones rack, or roof mount, like a Thule? I don't have a trailer hitch mount, so I can't do a hitch-mounted bike rack. I'm leaning toward a Sarie Bones rack.