In an event that hearkened back to the pre-pandemic rides that drew hundreds of people on bikes to downtown streets, a procession of cyclists wove through King William on Saturday for the inaugural Fiesta Bike Parade.

More than 200 riders started at Brackenridge High School and rode a meandering route through the King William and Lavaca neighborhoods south of downtown. Local bike clubs SATX Social Ride, San Antonio Lady Riders, Black Girls Do Bike, Odd Fellas, and Wild Dawgs supported the ride.

There’s been talk of a Fiesta parade in the bike community for 20 years, SATX Social Ride founder Jeff Moore said. The timing was right this year. With San Antonio’s annual 10-day bacchanalia postponed due to the pandemic, the King William Association changed their typical Fiesta parade to a porch-decorating festival. On Saturday, many of the historic homes in the area were festooned with colorful Fiesta decorations and front yard floats.

“We thought if they’re going to parade for us, why don’t we parade for them,” said William Long, a rider and cycling advocate. Dressed as a mariachi, Long’s bike towed a trailer bearing a makeshift throne for Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), who served as the parade’s grand marshal.

Rides like these serve as both social gatherings and organizing events for cyclists who want to see a more bike-friendly San Antonio. After a series of deaths of cyclists hit by vehicles, many want to see “less talk more action” from local leaders, Long said.

While the City has developed a network of more than 80 miles of greenway trails, riding remains dangerous on most city streets. In the first three months of 2021, San Antonio saw the deaths of five motorcyclists, eight pedestrians, and one cyclist after collisions with vehicles, according to Vision Zero data.

“Politicians aren’t going to do anything unless they see more cyclists,” Long said. “The way to get seen is you go to their events on your bike. Shake their hand, tell them who you are, tell them what you represent, invite them along for a ride.”

Riding in such a large group allowed cyclists to own the road in King William on Saturday. People stood on their porches and admired the stream of bikes covered in flowers and ribbons, with speakers blasting a diversity of rhythms.

  • Thelma Rodriguez sits in a basket with Newman, a bull terrier, and Pixie, a Chihuahua, during the inaugural Fiesta Bike Parade on Saturday.
  • Phillip Johnson poses for a photo with his custom-made bike during the inaugural Fiesta Bike Parade on Saturday.
  • A person rides their flower-themed bike during the inaugural Fiesta Bike Parade on Saturday.
  • Mechella Lara and her miniature dachshund, Lilly, get ready to ride during the inaugural Fiesta Bike Parade on Saturday.

Enrique Caballero, who lives just north of downtown, came down with his 3-year-old dog, Cersei, named after a character in the popular “Game of Thrones” series. She perched with her paws out of Caballero’s backpack, her pink tongue lolling and long blonde locks of fur swaying in the breeze.

A Laredo native who has lived in San Antonio 20 years, Caballero feels Fiesta’s absence. He’s played former Republican presidential candidate and Trump Administration Cabinet member Ben Carson in Cornyation, Fiesta’s campy, satirical pageant. He often visits A Night in Old San Antonio and the Battle of the Flowers Parade.

“I don’t go really to see the parade, just to people watch,” he said.

Wendy Lyons showed up on Saturday riding a recumbent three-wheeled bike rented from Los Angeles Heights bike rental shop Pedal Guerrero. Lyons left her custom-built “Frankenbike” at home, the one she got after moving to King William from downtown Miami several years ago.

“All my neighbors rode bikes, my friends rode bikes, and I didn’t have one,” Wendy Lyons said. “People don’t ride bicycles in downtown Miami. It’s just not that crowd.”

The sturdy, comfortable recumbents were a perfect choice for her 72-year-old mother, Joan, who said Saturday was her first time on a bicycle since a trip to China 10 years ago. She remarked on how much easier it is to observe the world going by from two wheels (or, in her case, three).

“We love King William, but we never get a chance to look at the old houses because we’re always on our way somewhere,” Joan Lyons said. “Well, this is a great vantage point.”

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.