Friends and family gathered Sunday afternoon to remember Tito Bradshaw at the Parish on San Antonio’s West Side. A line wrapped around the backyard of the former church, as people chatted and waited to buy T-shirts and stickers with Bradshaw’s likeness on them.
Proceeds from the sales were to go toward funeral and memorial expenses for the cyclist killed by a suspected drunk driver last week, according to Clayton Baines, Bradshaw’s friend and business partner. The hundreds that showed up represented only a small percent of everyone who cared about Bradshaw, said Baines, who co-owned the Bottom Bracket Bicycle shop with Bradshaw.
“It’s been like this for an hour and a half,” Baines said, gesturing toward the crowd. “I should have ordered more [shirts].”
Bradshaw, who was struck in the early morning hours of April 1 on the East Side, was the second cyclist to die in Bexar County this year. His death galvanized the cycling community to honor him with a bike ride the day he died, and this weekend with different events.
Despite the implementation in San Antonio of a global initiative to reduce traffic fatalities, cyclist deaths have not dropped significantly since 2015, when the Vision Zero program was introduced.The program aims to reduce all traffic fatalities, including bicyclist and pedestrian deaths. And cycling advocates say there needs to be a societal shift in how people view non-car transportation before real change can happen.
In 2014, one bicyclist died in Bexar County after a crash with a vehicle. That number rose to five in 2015 and has remained fairly static. In 2018, the Texas Department of Transportation again recorded five cyclist deaths in the county.
So far in 2019, two cyclists have died on the road after being struck by suspected drunk drivers. Bradshaw, a 35-year-old leader in the cycling community, died on Monday after a motorist allegedly struck him from behind. Naji Tanios Kayruz, was killed early February after an alleged drunk driver hit him near the Dominion; the driver did not stop to check on the 58-year-old surgeon, police said.
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said on Tuesday that two deaths are too many.
“As a cyclist, City Council member, mother and neighbor I mourn such devastating losses and am determined to double down on my efforts to make our streets safe for everyone who uses them – cyclists, pedestrians, micromobility users and vehicle drivers alike,” Gonzales said in a prepared statement.
“My most sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to both of their families and friends. As a city, we can and must do better.”
Cristian Sandoval, the founder of Earn-A-Bike, is using the momentum behind Bradshaw’s death to ask the mayor and City Council to prioritize cyclists in San Antonio.
“We have been talking about Broadway Street protected bike lanes for the last five years and nothing has happened,” Sandoval said. “It seems somewhere along the last three or four years, we lost a voice in the city. In one way, we’re helpless. Therefore, we decided to take on this challenge.”
Sandoval hopes to build a cyclist voting bloc that can push council members into fighting for better infrastructure.
“We need protection,” Sandoval said. “We’re a powerful community that provides a lot back to San Antonio and we need to be represented, starting with something as simple as bicycle facilities.”
Linda Vela, the planning and public involvement program manager at the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO), said that most cyclists have experienced either a crash or close call with a vehicle.
“I was riding my bike pretty regularly last summer, and it was not unusual for cars to come very close to me, or for drivers to get frustrated and honk at you when you’re trying to ride your bicycle in the downtown area,” she said. “If there’s anything that comes out of this, I hope that it will be that we realize that everyone’s just a person trying to make it home. And that as drivers, we give people the respect and the space that we would want to receive if we were in that vulnerable situation.”
Vela said she is not sure what will be the cure-all for cyclist safety in San Antonio.
“Whenever someone that you love passes, I think there’s a very emotional reaction and there’s a desire for something, some kind of action,” she said. “I think the City is doing everything they can to get more projects out there.”
The City recently submitted an application for federal funding to improve air quality and decrease traffic congestion. The City asked for money to build about 2.5 miles worth of protected bike lanes as well as update the Bicycle Master Plan, which outlines the future of bicycle infrastructure in San Antonio. AAMPO, which decides how to distribute federal funding, is reviewing applications and is scheduled to make funding distribution decisions in August. The public is welcome to attend the planning organization’s meeting on May 1, Vela said.
“The public is welcome to come out and speak in favor of bicycle facilities and the bicycle master plan update,” she said.
Samantha Flores, who was struck by two motorists just north of Loop 410 on Nacogdoches Road last September, paid her respects to Bradshaw the night of his death. She said that she is tired of seeing her fellow cyclists injured in collisions with cars.
“They repaved Nacogdoches after my accident,” said Flores, who still wears a surgical boot as a result of her injuries. “They filled in all those cracks, but [put in] no bike lanes. It makes me furious.”
Bradshaw continues to invigorate the cycling community even after his death, as well as contribute in other ways. His donated organs went to five people, giving them a new lease on life, Jennifer Pena, who shares 5-year-old son Valentino with Bradshaw, posted on Facebook.
“Valentino will know that his dad lives on through this last gift,” she wrote.
AAMPO is hosting a Streets Skills class on Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. The class is geared toward people who are new to riding bicycles or those who want to learn how to navigate the city safely on a bike. Register for the class here.