Improvised bike parking at Trader Joes until they implement shaded parking along the side. Photo by Anna CohenMiller.
Improvised bike parking at Trader Joes until they implement shaded parking along the side. Photo by Anna CohenMiller.

Living in San Antonio, there are many parts of town that have high quality access to grocery stores. Within 410, the Alamo Quarry Market  is home to two great grocery stores: Whole Foods Market and Trader Joes. Recently I decided to take an adventure and expand our biking with our toddler to include grocery shopping.

The Question:

Is biking to the Quarry feasible with a toddler?

If the ride was feasible, then we could start regularly biking to go grocery shopping and benefit from:

  • enjoying the outdoors to a greater degree;
  • saving money on gas;
  • getting more exercise; and
  • engaging in additional conversations with our little one, as we discuss everything around us.

The First Half of the Ride to Trader Joes Was Great

I find that riding with a toddler involves a lot of decisions. Which roads are the least crowded? Which roads might have the best potential for construction and animals? Riding from our home in Beacon Hill, there are also decisions I have to make as the one powering bike — which is weighed down by a growing toddler. So how can I get there without too many hills?

We meandered through Beacon Hill along Breeden to Summit, across into Monte Vista. This path allowed us to avoid too many grand hills — which is important since I am limited to seven gears on my bike. It turned out that Howard Street, between San Antonio College and Hildebrand Avenue,  had a proliferation of great views, including construction vehicles, people mowing their laws, large gardens of cactus, and squirrels and birds. Very entertaining for Rizo, who sits in a seat mounted to the front of my bike.

Crossing over Hildebrand, we traveled along McCullough Street having a great view of locally owned stores. Most of that area is highly regulated at 30 miles per hour which meant that when drivers passed us, it was at a fairly low speed. On a related note: Olmos Park has been sung about by a Texas musician who is known for performing in San Antonio.

Biking on Basse Road from the Alamo Quarry Market. Photo by Anna CohenMiller.
Biking on Basse Road from the Alamo Quarry Market. Photo by Anna CohenMiller.

Even people near the roundabout were very helpful, acknowledging our presence and allowing us to proceed in the center of the lane as there is no room for cars to go around a bike within the roundabout).

The Second Half of the Ride was Treacherous

After crossing the railroad tracks in Olmos Park, the speed limit goes up and suddenly drivers become a bit more aggressive as they get ready to merge onto Basse Street. There are parts of this later section of McCullough that have a sidewalk — which can become an alternate route for bikes when the road is too dangerous. Bikes can even be walked along the sidewalk, but it abruptly ends within a couple feet on Basse. While there are two lanes on Basse in each direction, the speed limit increases and some cars merge onto Highway 281, which was the part of the trip that felt the most treacherous. There was neither a place to safely stop and wait for cars to merge onto 281 nor a crosswalk for us to use. For instance, these amenities exist at 410 and San Pedro Avenue.

Rizo trades in two wheels for four when we arrive at Trader Joes. Photo by Anna CohenMiller.
Rizo trades in two wheels for four when we arrive at Trader Joes. Photo by Anna CohenMiller.

We did, however, manage through Basse without any extreme problems. It took a huge amount of concentration and hyper-awareness to ensure that I was making eye-contact with drivers who might come into our lane. Drivers didn’t honk at us, but it felt like we were unexpected and unwanted visitors on the roadway.

Once inside Quarry Village, a great sense of relief cascaded over us, as our son could see Trader Joes and shrieked in delight. I slowed down to ride with traffic through the parking lot.

As cars circled around looking for parking spaces, we could ride straight up to the grocery store and park. Although there are no bike racks currently available, after talking with some people at Trader Joes, they were very excited about the possibility of covered bike parking along the side of the building.

The Answer to the Question

Riding to go grocery shopping at the Quarry is feasible, however, because of its current treacherous nature, I would not recommend it for high traffic times of the day. We took our ride in the early afternoon during the week, when many people had already finished lunch and were back at work.

Two Simple Solutions to Encourage Bikers (and Pedestrians) to Visit the Quarry

  1. Create a bike lane along Basse between McCullough and the Quarry — or ideally all the way up to Broadway to encourage shopping and use of the entire corridor. A protected, seperated lane would allow some additional safety between high-speed vehicles and bicyclists. Bike lanes can be created in a variety of ways, such as having bikes go only on one side of the street or cyclists to go with the traffic on each side of the road.
  2. Add a protected left-hand turn signal at each of the highway exits for those leaving Quarry Village onto Basse. This would streamline both car and bicycle traffic. An extraordinary example of a variety of ways this could be achieved focuses on protected intersections.

Imagine the impact of improving the Basse corridor, connecting living, work, and shopping, and energizing the city in progressing towards the community goals for SA2020. Ultimately, a great thing about these potential solutions is that we have organizations and people in our city who are experts in figuring out how to make cycling fun and safe.

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A.S. CohenMiller has a doctoral degree in Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching from the University of Texas at San Antonio and writes about arts-based research, motherhood in academia, adult education,...