Bike Houston Tries to Rev Itself Up

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Just like Uncle Sam, BikeHouston wants you. The nonprofit bicycle advocacy group's membership numbers have dwindled so low that they're offering one-year memberships for $5, and are kicking off the discount program tonight from 6-9 p.m. with a happy hour at Firkin & Phoenix, 1915 Westheimer Rd. A percentage of drink sales from the event will also be donated to BikeHouston.

Chairman Darren Sabom said membership dropped in recent years in part due to the organization's outdated Web site.

"Registering online was almost impossible," he said. "In the past year, half the board has turned over. We have a lot of new, Web-savvy people."

He said memberships, which usually cost $35 a year, are being offered for $5 for a limited time as an incentive for new members to join.

"We aren't as concerned about raising money. There are plenty of organizations to represent you if you are a racer or mountain biker, but Bike Houston is the city's only nonprofit bike advocacy group for (casual) cyclists," he said, referring to families who ride on the weekends and those who commute to work by bike. By becoming members, "they're contributing to a group that represents them."

BikeHouston works with the city to create a safer environment for all cyclists, Sabom said. Their programs include helmet giveaways and bike safety education for children, getting the city to install bike racks on Metro buses, and organizing the Moonlight Ramble, a massive nighttime ride every October. Members of the organization also keep tabs on road construction that may affect bike trails. BikeHouston helped promote the Texas Safe-Passing Bill, which was approved by the lege but vetoed by Rick Perry in 2009. They are now working to get the city to pass a similar law.

The membership drive invite encourages people to try out Firkin & Phoenix's new bike racks, which is another project of the group -- getting more racks installed throughout the city. One new member has started a Web site called Where I Park My Bike to illustrate the awkward places bike commuters are forced to secure their rides in the absence of racks.

Sabom said that in spite of the city's budget woes, Mayor Annise Parker seems just as committed to turning Houston into a bike-friendly city as her predecessor Bill White. White was well-known for his love of cycling. Future programs BikeHouston has proposed to the city include an event called Car-Free Sunday, a kind of bicycle-awareness block party where a street is shut down to motor traffic.

"Annise Parker's sustainability director Laura Spanjian is absolutely on board with what we want to do," Sabom said.

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