This time last year, Samantha Flores was in a coma. When she woke up days later, she wasn’t sure if she’d ever ride a bike again after a hit-and-run left her in the hospital with critical injuries. But on Friday, Flores led a group of about 30 cyclists on a 9-mile route from the location of the hit-and-run south toward downtown.
She organized the ride and festival, called “Cyclist Lives Matter,” to promote traffic safety, memorialize cyclists that have lost their lives on the road, and bring attention to a dangerous, car-centric culture. She believes she was struck by someone in a car who was frustrated with a cyclist’s presence on the street.
“We need to change the culture,” Flores told the Rivard Report. “We just want to get home safely.”
Flores was riding home from Eastside bar and restaurant Cherrity Bar, where she worked as a manager, when she was struck by a vehicle and left at the scene on Nacogdoches Road just north of Loop 410. She had just gotten off the bus around midnight after work. A good Samaritan called the police, and she was rushed to San Antonio Military Medical Center in critical condition.
“My whole leg went sideways,” she said after the initial crash. She described feeling a second vehicle run over her arm, pointing at scar tissue. Her leg is healing, she said, but still requires a soft brace and hurts after long rides. She can no longer work at restaurants or bars.
“Physically, I’ll never be that girl again,” she said. Nor emotionally, she added, as she sees a therapist for post-traumatic stress disorder.
She’s done twice the amount of doctor-recommended physical therapy and training, Flores said, to get back on her feet – and back on her bike.
“We’re taking down a giant – there are still monsters on this street,” she said, noting that she still feels nervous when passing by the telephone pole where she was hit.
“But we’re here and we’re taking back the street,” she said, looking at the pole. “You can’t hold me back.”
A spokesperson for the San Antonio Police Department said Friday that no arrests have been made and the case remains open. SAPD asks that if anyone has information about the suspect or the vehicle, they call its traffic investigations detail at 210-207-7385.
Cherrity Bar and Kimura, where she used to work, hosted fundraisers to help pay for her medical bills.
“Thankfully, that helped cover a lot of expenses,” Flores said.
There have been several cyclist deaths this year involving vehicular crashes, including Tito Bradshaw, a popular bike shop owner who was killed by a drunk driver while riding his bike near downtown, and Dr. Naji Tanios Kayruz, a surgeon who was killed in a hit-and-run while riding on the far-North Side in the Dominion.
Flores, a daughter of immigrants and a descendant of Native Americans, said that while “death doesn’t discriminate,” these crashes are tolerated because the victims are more typically low-income people of color.
“If it was a cute Alamo Heights kid [who was killed], there would be outrage,” she said. “We need to elect people who will protect us. … Unfortunately, City Council isn’t listening to us. More people will die before they hear us.”
Many in the cycling community have advocated for more infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes, in the wake of these crashes. The City of San Antonio should update its 2011 Master Bike Plan to create safer, more connected routes for cyclists, the mayor and several City Council members have said.
Jeff Moore, founder of SATX Social Ride, sits on the Live to Ride fund committee, which was established soon after Bradshaw and Kayruz died to raise money for projects designed to promote awareness about bike safety in San Antonio.
“We’re still looking for more corporate donors,” Moore said, adding that the group will soon launch a website to provide fundraising and project updates.
Dori Kurkowski found out about the ride through SATX Social Ride. She’s new to cycling but rides once a week. If there were better bike lanes in San Antonio, Kurkowski said, she’d probably ride more.
“I wouldn’t ride this street by myself,” she said while waiting for cyclists to gather at an abandoned Sonic Drive-In on Nacogdoches Road, a busy, four-lane thoroughfare that does not have bike lanes.
On streets like this, such as San Pedro Avenue, Kurkowski said she sometimes rides on the sidewalks. That’s illegal, she said, “but it’s safer.”
Flores’ father drove a car with its hazard lights blinking behind the group to protect the cyclists.
The ride comes amid a discussion in City Hall about whether to install protected bike lanes on the entire 3-mile Broadway Street redevelopment project. City staff and consultants recommended diverting such infrastructure to adjacent streets to allow for wider sidewalks and a vehicular parking and service lane. City Council’s Transportation and Mobility Committee will review alternative designs for lower Broadway later this month.
Saturday’s ride ended in the near-East Side with a mini-festival of sorts at Cherrity Bar featuring bike-centric vendors and artists.
Flores credits her active, vegan lifestyle and her helmet for allowing her to recover to the point that she can ride again, but she will still need to complete years of physical therapy.
“I’ll always walk with a limp,” she said.
She has dreams to become a professional artist and spent much of her downtime painting.
Bradshaw and Dr. Kayruz led worthy lives that were taken away from them, she said. “I would really like to be worthy … for them. It’s sacred to be allowed a second chance.”