As the lower Westheimer restaurant row parking crunch continues to draw ire from residents and business owners alike, the Montrose group Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs (OKRA) hopes to help tackle urban congestion from a new angle . . . one bike rack at a time.
OKRA co-founder Bobby Heugel — who owns the popular Anvil and the recently-opened Hay Merchant (with business partner Kevin Floyd) — first revealed the organization's program in a rather heated letter in response to a Houston Press article, which detailed mounting tensions in the Montrose neighborhood as a fresh crop of restaurants and new construction floods the area with cars. But beneath Heugel's anger over how the Press handled the story is a rather ingenious plan.
In an effort to encourage alternative transportation in Houston, Heugel says his group would be providing complimentary bike racks to small restaurants and bars inside the 610 Loop, and not just those among OKRA's membership of about 20 businesses.
"While OKRA is an advocacy group representing the viewpoint of independent bars and restaurants, we're looking to do things that benefit the whole community," Heugel said.
"The program is about trying to have a more heath-conscious city and raising awareness of the need for more biking infrastructure in Houston," Heugel told CultureMap.
"While OKRA is an advocacy group representing the viewpoint of independent bars and restaurants, we're looking to do things that benefit the whole community."
Heugel noted that he wasn't a steadfast biker until the past year, but has become a staunch supporter of bicycle travel. On Twitter, he has been posting his thoughts on biking infrastructure under the hashtag #shrinkhouston.
OKRA plans to distribute modified versions of the bike racks currently found in front of Hay Merchant. "Soon we hope to start by sending out one a month," Heugel said, "working our way up to one a week by the end of the year."
"The racks are really just a simple modernist design," explained Jim Herd of Collaborative Projects, the Houston architectural firm who created the interior spaces for Hay Merchant and its neighboring Chris Shepherd restaurant Underbelly.
"They have a classic style in steel that's attractive to look at in a number of settings," Herd said, adding that the strong iconic design will show a restaurant's solidarity with the bike program.
"I was at Hay Merchant last night and saw bikes absolutely everywhere. The neighborhood certainly could use more bike racks and we're very proud to be a part of the OKRA effort."