A cyclist crosses East Houston Street on Soledad Street.
Bike to Work Day hopes to encourage San Antonians to switch up their commutes. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

In the gray early morning hours of Friday, cyclists around San Antonio stopped at “energizer stations” stocked with food and beverages on their way to work.

Bike to Work Day, hosted by the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO), saw an increase in participation since last year, the first time AAMPO set up energizer stations for cyclists to visit. AAMPO partnered with businesses and nonprofits to set up nine stations in San Antonio and one in New Braunfels.  

Joey Pawlik, the active transportation planner at AAMPO, manned the station the organization’s office on South Flores Street. He estimated about 40 cyclists stopped for tacos, and more rode past on their way to work.

“One guy was riding his bike before 7 a.m.,” Pawlik said. “We said, ‘Hey, happy Bike to Work Day! Come get a taco!’ He said, ‘I gotta be at work at 7’ but [still] came over for a goody bag, a taco and filled out a comment card. It was cool that people took the time to stop by.”

Bike to Work Day is part of Bike Month, and AAMPO hopes to encourage people to ride bicycles all month through its Alamo Commutes app, where riders can log their bike rides and enter to win prizes.

Helena Zambrano, the sustainability coordinator at Overland Partners, carefully poured batter into a waffle iron Friday morning. Overland Partners’ energizer station was in their office courtyard, by Rosella Coffee on Jones Avenue. She estimated that about 25 cyclists – mostly Overland Partners staff and their friends – came to enjoy their free breakfast. She explained that like riding a bike to work, the breakfast itself was even planned to be sustainable; the plates and silverware were reusable, they composted all biological leftovers, made waffle batter from scratch to avoid using plastic, and stocked the table with recycled and unbleached napkins.

“There’s no waste!” she said.

Overland Partners Architect Allison Peitz stopped by the bicycle tuneup station by the breakfast food. She lives near the South Texas Medical Center and usually drives to work, she said. But she used Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to figure out how to commute to work without driving. She hopped on a bus, got as close to downtown as she could, and biked the rest of the way to the office.

“Looking at Google Maps, you can’t exactly figure out what combination of biking and busing gets you here,” she said. “This was an experiment. I wanted to see if it was possible. Biking the whole way here isn’t realistic.”

She doesn’t think she can continue commuting that way every day, though she’ll try to do it more often.

“Busing was pretty smooth,” she said. “It just takes three times as long to get here.”

Yvette Hernandez lives in South San Antonio, but nannies for a family in the King William neighborhood. She said if she didn’t drive to work, her ride would be 45 minutes or more and take her through unsafe areas. She bikes everywhere she can, though, and advises newer cyclists to slowly increase their comfort level by using a bike to supplement their daily travel.

“I would say start small, even if it is driving your car somewhere like a park and ride, or somewhere to make your commute shorter and little by little extend it,” she said. “Or go to H-E-B or the post office on your bike, run little errands on your bike.”

Hernandez said she started biking seven years ago and has  since become active with Tour de Cure, a fundraiser for diabetes research, and MS 150, which raises money for multiple sclerosis research. She also helps organize events for SATX Social Ride and said that the cycling community is ready to get more involved with bike advocacy. Just last month, cycling community leader Tito Bradshaw was killed by a motorist while biking down E. Houston Street.

“April was just a horrific month to experience, and I think more people want to be part of this Bike Month,” she said. “Tito’s death, I think it impacted every single cyclist, whether they knew him or not.”

Allison Blazosky, a regional transportation planner at AAMPO, said that cyclists had expressed gratitude for promoting and supporting riding bikes as a feasible transportation option. Blazosky said last year’s Bike to Work Day saw around 100 cyclists, and she was encouraged to see how many more showed up to Friday’s event.

“We’re already talking about next year, to keep improving it,” she said.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.