Cyclists ride south on Broadway Street. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

More than five dozen cyclists gathered Sunday in the midmorning sun for a ride down Broadway to stress the importance of protected bicycle lanes. They started from a University of the Incarnate Word parking lot and rode to Travis Park, with a few stops along the way.

Bryan Martin, interim director of Bike San Antonio and CEO of electric bike company Bronko Bikes, helped organize the group bike ride. The ride featured many of the cycling groups around San Antonio, including SATX Social Ride, Zombie Bicycle Club, and Wild Dawgs. Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), and Mayor Ron Nirenberg joined the cyclists. 

Martin said the Sunday’s ride was a “civic engagement ride,” to highlight how good bike infrastructure in San Antonio would improve safety for cyclists – starting with protected bike lanes on Broadway.

The current plan for the Broadway Street project does not include protected lanes for cyclists on lower Broadway. Instead, the City of San Antonio is planning to put protected lanes on Avenue B and North Alamo Street, which run parallel to Broadway, with a $6 million reimbursement deal from the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ).

But the cyclists who rode down Broadway Street on Sunday say that moving protected bike lanes over a street is not the solution. Cyclist Brian Clements said the compromise won’t push more experienced cyclists off of Broadway Street, therefore not significantly improving safety for cyclists.

“There’s a bunch of riders, people like myself, who won’t get off Broadway, bike lane or not,” he said.

A protected bike lane on Broadway would also be important for people who have considered bicycles as a form of transportation but are hesitant to make the switch from other modes, Martin said.

“This bike lane is not for the folks who are here today,” he said. “We’re already riders. This is for folks who want to ride but are afraid of cars.”

Richard Garcia, co-founder of Street Ratz of San Antonio Bicycling Club, said he’s watched the cycling community grow over the last decade. Not too long ago, it was surprising to see cyclists downtown, he said. Now, it’s commonplace.

“We just need safety,” Garcia said. “There’s no route that’s safe heading from the North Side to downtown. I used to commute [by bike], but now I’m terrified of being run over.”

Cyclists have been fighting for more bike infrastructure in San Antonio, fueled by the vehicle-caused deaths of two prominent cyclists this year. Garcia used to bike the 7 miles between his home and his office downtown but has since given that commute up after deciding that some of the busy roads he traversed were too dangerous.

He argued that protected bike lanes on Avenue B instead of Broadway Street would actually increase the danger for cyclists who choose to ride there instead, due to the relative low light and fewer people on the side street compared with the main artery.

“It’s dusk,” he said. “You’re riding there. There’s no eyes on you. Someone can run you over, and how long will it be until someone gives you aid? It’s your story against there’s and you’re lying on the ground.”

Annie Diaz, who works at CPS Energy, said she wants to see protected bike lanes on Broadway Street to encourage people to choose energy-saving bikes instead of driving cars. She added that it was good to see City Council represented at Sunday’s bike ride.

“It shows they support [protected bike lanes on Broadway] and that San Antonio could be a city that promotes bikes and outdoor activities,” she said.

Garcia’s co-worker Raul Flores said installing protected bike lanes on Broadway would serve as a good starting point to establish stronger bicycle infrastructure around the city.

“If we can make it work here, we can make it work anywhere in the city,” he said.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.