“Just make the streets safe.”
That was the plea made Tuesday by an emotional Teresa Pinales, who was still grieving the loss of her son when she spoke to a small crowd gathered at the intersection where he died. David Loya, a 23-year-old Heights resident, was killed March 7 when he was riding his bicycle on Heights Boulevard and collided with a school bus traveling on 8th Street.
Loya’s parents, two siblings and a cousin joined U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who announced she was introducing federal legislation aimed at improving safety and curbing fatalities among cyclists. Loya was the 11th cyclist to die in the last five years within Jackson Lee’s district, according to BikeTexas chairman Tom Riddle.
“We need to get serious,” Jackson Lee said.
The Save American Bicyclists Act would allocate federal funding to help lower cycling accidents and deaths, giving states incentives for tracking those statistics and enacting laws to improve them as well as for adding cycling safety questions to driver’s license tests. Jackson Lee said it also would require cycling safety training in government-funded youth programs.
Jackson Lee also wants bike lanes to extend across intersections and be more clearly marked. The bike-lane markings on Heights Boulevard, for example, stop before 8th and then reappear past the intersection.
“If you put it across, the driver will say, ‘Oh, there’s a bike lane,’ ” Jackson Lee said. “You don’t see anything here.”
Jackson Lee, a Democrat whose district includes part of the Heights as well as Garden Oaks and Oak Forest, said cyclist safety is not just an issue in Houston, where there has been an average of about 100 deaths per year among cyclists and pedestrians. Her legislation pitch Tuesday included a chart showing that nationally there was an average of 85 cyclist deaths per month in 2017.
So the local and statewide cycling advocates on hand Tuesday were thankful for Jackson Lee’s initiative. So were members of Loya’s family, who after the congresswoman’s announcement gathered at a makeshift memorial at the site of his death.
“My brother would appreciate everything that y’all are doing for him,” said Loya’s younger brother, Julian Pinales. “Just make the streets safer for the bicyclists.”