Fa­ther mourns dead son: ‘Every time, I re­mem­ber him’

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUT OF CON­TROL - st.john.smith@chron.com dug.be­g­ley@chron.com

hood was teem­ing with fam­i­lies on their way to school, a lo­cal health clinic or the com­mu­nity mosque.

Wig­dan walked with Os­man, 8, Rawan, 6, and Mo­hammed. A MetroLift bus stopped. They walked out in front of it into the cross­walk, marked every few feet with thick white stripes.

Then a black GMC Aca­dia hit Mo­hammed.

“She just moved with­out look­ing at what was go­ing on,” Wig­dan re­called.

The driver — who was not tick­eted or charged with any crime — dragged Mo­hammed for about 20 feet be­fore the driver no­ticed Wig­dan run­ning af­ter her, wav­ing and scream­ing.

Mo­hammed died on im­pact. A re­port filed af­ter the crash said the lit­tle boy “failed to yield the right of way” to the driver who hit him.

Each case is dif­fer­ent, au­thor­i­ties say. On Wednes­day, a bus driven by a Metropoli­tan Tran­sit Author­ity driver struck and killed a woman at a Spring bus stop. Within hours, he was charged in Har­ris County with crim­i­nally negligent homi­cide.

For fam­i­lies, the losses re­main re­gard­less of court ac­tion. To lose Mo­hammed’s daily smile was dev­as­tat­ing, said Aboobi­ada Ali Ab­dalla, his fa­ther.

Com­mu­nity ac­tivists want to turn a patch of ground near the crash site into a memo­rial.

Ab­dalla, 48, went there on a re­cent Sun­day, re­trac­ing his son’s fi­nal steps in the evening light.

“Every time,” he said, “I re­mem­ber him.”

A greater cost

Dis­abled res­i­dents face par­tic­u­larly acute chal­lenges mov­ing around the area.

“When we think about what pedes­tri­ans look like, and how they might be in­ter­act­ing with our streets … we need to be en­vi­sion­ing a 65-year-old (wheel­chair) user,” said Maria Town, di­rec­tor of Hous­ton’s Of­fice for Peo­ple With Dis­abil­i­ties.

Hous­ton re­quires side­walk im­prove­ments as part of rede­vel­op­ment of prop­er­ties or re­build­ing of streets but leaves most of the con­trol in the hands of landown­ers. As a re­sult, many side­walks in the old­est parts of the city are di­lap­i­dated, with por­tions lifted by tree roots that make them im­pass­able for wheel­chair users and peo­ple un­steady on their feet.

Many of the ar­eas with res­i­dents most in need of de­cent walk­ing paths to ac­cess tran­sit have among the worst side­walks, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal ad­vo­cacy group LINK Hous­ton and the Kinder In­sti­tute for Ur­ban Re­search at Rice Uni­ver­sity.

Res­i­dents can re­port prob­lem ar­eas to the city for an Ac­ces­si­bil­ity Re­view Re­quest, Town said, but that alone isn’t enough to solve the prob­lem.

“Ac­ces­si­bil­ity needs to be a prime driver for safety and vice versa,” she said. “If streets are not safe, they’re not ac­ces­si­ble. If peo­ple don’t feel safe walk­ing around, they’re not go­ing to.”

All too fre­quently, in­fra­struc­ture projects pri­or­i­tize au­to­mo­biles over pedes­trian safety, ad­vo­cates say.

“Not enough money is al­lo­cated to pedes­trian and bi­cy­cle projects,” said Clark Martin­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of BikeHous­ton. “We have got to be think­ing of other sources of fund­ing.”

The Hous­ton-Galve­ston Area Coun­cil, the re­gional plan­ning agency that doles out fed­eral trans­porta­tion money, in­cludes $388.5 mil­lion for bi­cy­cle and pedes­trian im­prove­ments over the

Mo­hammed im­pact. A re­port died on filed af­ter the crash said the lit­tle boy “failed to yield the right of way” to the driver who hit him.

next two decades — out of a to­tal trans­porta­tion plan of $88.3 bil­lion. Some road­way projects con­tribute to pedes­trian im­prove­ments, though it is usu­ally 1 or 2 per­cent of to­tal projects.

Ad­vo­cates for more side­walks and bike lanes ad­mit they need to lobby bet­ter. Road projects are well-funded be­cause law­mak­ers hear from driv­ers and de­vel­op­ers who de­mand more roads.

“We have got to sell this in our com­mu­ni­ties,” said Har­ris County Precinct 1 Com­mis­sioner Rod­ney El­lis, an avid cy­clist.

El­lis of­fered $10 mil­lion in county funds to help Hous­ton of­fi­cials ad­dress key con­nec­tions to im­prove safety for rid­ers and walk­ers. El­lis’ goal, he said, was ad­dress­ing that many peo­ple in Hous­ton do not own a car and still need a safe way to school or work. Much of the money would add trails and bike lanes in places caused by Hous­ton’s growth, he said, but where de­vel­op­ers never in­stalled them.


Doug Baysinger still chokes up re­liv­ing the bi­cy­cle crash. He’s still an­gry.

The driver wasn’t tick­eted. It isn’t il­le­gal to fall asleep while driv­ing.

“For her to not even get a ticket, and to cause so much pain and suf­fer­ing … it’s just be­yond me,” Doug Baysinger said.

Joyce, who fully re­cov­ered, aban­doned cy­cling. She doesn’t even like to get on sta­tion­ary bikes — it just brings back mem­o­ries of the crash.

“I keep hear­ing a bunch of friends get­ting hit by a car,” she said. “And I’m just scared. Scared for them, scared for Doug.”

Doug re­mains in chronic pain. He stopped rid­ing for months but even­tu­ally missed it so much he re­cently started again. He got a tat­too on his left fore­arm. “I AM NOT DONE,” it de­clares.

“When I stop rid­ing, it will be be­cause I want to stop rid­ing,” he said. “Not be­cause I’m afraid.”

Steve Gon­za­les / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Wig­dan Ahmed Mo­hammed, shown with her two daugh­ters, Rawan, left, and Rahuf, saw her son, 4-year-old Mo­hammed Ali Ab­dalla, hit by a ve­hi­cle two years ago while in a cross­walk.

God­ofredo A. Vasquez/Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Hous­ton po­lice of­fi­cers in­ves­ti­gate the scene of a pedes­trian death in 2017 on Wes­theimer near Hayes Road.

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