New park speed limits could put cyclists on the wrong side of the law

A face-off between cyclists and pedestrians, in Harris County's Terry Hershey Park, is coming down hard on bike riders who go too fast.

The hike and bike trails that go from Highway 6 to the Beltway are a popular recreation-spot that have only gotten more crowded during the pandemic, and all those extra people have brought a long-simmering problem to a head.

Starting this week, Precinct 5 deputy constables are enforcing a new 10 mph speed limit on the trail, using laser-guns to catch speeders, just like they do on the road. While they are beginning with warnings, tickets could be issued that could total hundreds of dollars.

Retiring Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack made the call, saying he's trying to respond to frequent complaints about cyclists riding too fast among pedestrians. 

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In a lengthy phone conversation, Radack says there's been a long-time effort to get cyclists to slow down around pedestrians, in the park. 

When catching violators proved too difficult, and complaints continued, Radack says speed limits and tickets became the next logical step. 

"Now we have their attention," he says of cyclists, "Maybe down the road, this can be adjusted, but they're not going to ignore this anymore."

Among park-goers, reaction is mixed. One cyclist responded, "I've had a few bikers blow by me, sometimes. Ignoring the pedestrians, people with strollers; it's a safety issue."

Critics, though, say there's a big difference between riders who speed down the path and keeping the pace at a leisurely 10 mph. The new rule, some say, goes too far. 

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"I'm not a serious bike rider, but I like to get out here and get exercise," says cyclist Austin Drake, "10 miles an hour would restrict my exercise level, I think."

"We're pedestrians, ourselves, and we're all for keeping it safe, but 10 miles an hour might be a little on the slow side," says Robert Charlton, as he finished a walk.

Radack insists he is not trying to get rid of cyclists from the park and Incoming Precinct-3 commissioner Tom Ramsey did not answer an inquiry to gauge his support for cyclist speed limits.

Meantime, the BikeHouston advocacy group calls this a 'supply-side' problem of too much demand and not enough trail space, worrying the enforcement will force riders onto dangerous roads.