Mother, friend, daughter, papi, amor. People are naturally at the center of the Human Cyclists Project, which aims to get motorists to view cyclists not as obstacles but as human beings.
“When you put a face to them, it takes a different meaning,” said local photographer Dan Rosales. “It’s not just some kid who’s out on a bike ride. It’s, you know, it’s families.”
The Human Cyclists Project is an initiative of SATX Social Ride, a group that promotes safe bike rides around the city, and features portraits of smiling cyclists holding up signs that identify them as members of families. Rosales has taken more than 200 of these portraits over the past two years, and the bike group plans to add hundreds more post-pandemic.
Ultimately, the goal is to feature them in a gallery and as part of public service announcements across San Antonio, said Jeffrey Moore, co-founder of SATX Social Ride.
The “share the road” project first took shape in 2016 after a member of the group was severely injured by a motorist. Additional cyclist deaths, including that of local cycling advocate Tito Bradshaw in 2019, provided further impetus, Moore said.
“It’s still the same concept,” he said. “Put a face to that bike rider. … You just see the the huge spectrum of people that ride bikes.”
Between 2015 and 2020, 20 cyclists have been killed in incidents involving motor vehicles in San Antonio and another nearly 2,000 were injured, according to Vision Zero San Antonio, the City’s initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities. In 2020, San Antonio saw fewer deaths and injuries, likely due to reduced vehicular traffic during the pandemic.
The most recent high-profile cycling fatality occurred April 7 when 44-year-old Beatrice “Bea” Gonzalez died after being struck by a car near downtown on April 7.
Samantha Leigh Castillo was charged with intoxication manslaughter and is out on bond awaiting indictment. Gonzalez’s two children, Danielle and David, have filed a lawsuit seeking at least $20 million in damages from Castillo and Cerveza Chapultepec, the bar that allegedly served her alcohol, according to KSAT.
Gonzalez was killed just days after family and friends of Bradshaw gathered to honor his life two years after an alleged drunken driver struck and killed him on April 1, 2019.
The driver indicted in that incident, Linda Collier Mason, is awaiting trial this month. Harry Bradshaw, Tito’s father, said the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office informed him that prosecutors offered Mason a plea deal: 10 years probation.
“We’re just hurt by the fact that so many cyclists have now been killed in San Antonio,” Bradshaw said. “And it seems like all the people … that kill [cyclists] get away with a slap on the wrist. … Ten years probation is a long time, but that’s not bringing our loved ones back or any justice served to the loved ones that was hurt.”
The presiding judge will likely rule on the plea deal on May 17.
The attitudes of the justice system and the general public need to change before San Antonio can reach its goal of eliminating road deaths, Moore said.
“The sympathy or the doubt … goes to the benefit of the car drivers because we all are driving cars,” he said. “Not many people are aware of how dangerous it is or the immense responsibility that it is to drive a car, especially with pedestrians and bike riders out on the road.”
Moore is also a committee member for the Live to Ride fund, which was established through the San Antonio Area Foundation to raise money for bike safety awareness and to improve bike infrastructure throughout the city.
San Antonio lacks a network of safe bike lanes found in bike-friendly cities, he said. The city received a bronze report card from the League of American Bicyclists. The only city in Texas to receive a gold rating is Austin. San Antonio’s Bike Score at Walkscore.com, which grades neighborhoods based on bike infrastructure and road connectivity, is 45 out of 100, qualifying as a “car-dependent city.”
Tomika Monterville, who was recently hired to lead the City’s new Transportation Department, aims to drastically improve the built environment for bikes and attitude towards multimodal transportation.
The City has a head start in the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail, Monterville said. “Historically, we’ve looked at it as Parks and Recreation, but … that’s a major infrastructure component for bicycle mobility and it’s a part of our transportation network. It’s not just being utilized by people who want to take a leisurely stroll.”
San Antonio’s Bike Master Plan is more than 10 years out of date, and the Transportation Department will take a “deep dive” to overhaul it, she said.
“As my mother was saying, when you know better, you do better,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot. We’ve had significant fatalities in 2019 [and] we don’t want that to be the case.”
The department is determining the scope of work and will be requesting money in the City’s 2021 budget to hire a consultant to update the Bike Master Plan. Ultimately, Monterville said she expects that the current annual $1 million that the city allocates to bike infrastructure and activities will need to be drastically increased.
San Antonio needs to catch up on its bike infrastructure, she said. “That’s why this plan is going to cost a lot of money because we have not done a lot. … [The plan] design is going to be informed through a collaborative regional process so that we can connect people with primary bike corridors and secondary bike corridors, much like we do with transit.”
In the meantime, SATX Social Ride plans to restart its massive downtown group rides as soon as this month, which is National Bike Month, Moore said, noting that recent San Antonio Mural Rides have attracted hundreds of riders.
On May 21, the City is partnering with the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to host a Bike to Work Day. Refreshments and bike checks will be available from 7-11.a.m and 3-5:30 p.m.
Rosales will continue to take photos of cyclists for the Human Cyclist Project and at local races. Although he works as a nurse, cycling photography has become a passion of his.
“I’ve been a cyclist all my life and I’ve got a son who rides. … My daughter just now decided to ride,” he said. “And so anything I can do to, you know, just bring some of our issues to light, I’m always for that.”