A new pilot program aimed at encouraging more bike and foot traffic on Cincinnati Avenue on the West Side between Woodlawn Lake and St. Mary’s University officially launched Monday morning. The street will be closed to non-local vehicular traffic for four weeks.
“If you’ve ever felt like cycling but you’re a little bit too worried that some car is going to hit you, well let me tell you there’s not going to be that many cars on this street,” Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) said as a bus passed by the small press conference taking up a lane in the street. “Maybe a bus here and there, but there is very slow traffic – so you can come out, bring your kids, they’ll be hopefully a lot safer here than on a regular street.”
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduced vehicular traffic in most areas of the city and the summer months have people flocking to parks and trails where social distancing can be difficult. Reduced traffic makes some streets safer for cycling and pedestrians, but the Share the Streets initiative takes that another step further by restricting non-local vehicular traffic.
Cincinnati is closed to through traffic for vehicles in three sections: from St. Mary’s University (Camino Santa Maria) to North General McMullen Drive, from Bandera Road to Wilson Boulevard, and Wilson to South Josephine Tobin Drive at Woodlawn Lake.
“Road Closed to Thru Traffic” signs were put at those intersections and on connecting streets. The streets are still open to local traffic, buses, and service delivery vehicles.
“I rode by Woodlawn Lake this morning and it’s just packed – runners out in the bike lanes,” said Jim Bailey of Alamo Architects. Part of the plan is to attract joggers and cyclists down Cincinnati Avenue. “They haven’t made it out this way yet.”
Bailey co-founded ActivateSA, a multimodal transportation think tank, which proposed the Share the Streets initiative to the City of San Antonio’s Public Works Department.
The group worked with the Woodlawn Lake Neighborhood Association and University Park Neighborhood Association to help spread the word for weeks ahead of the road closures. About 200 flyers were sent out to residents in the area and the feedback on Cincinnati Avenue has been largely positive or apathetic so far, according to City officials.
More on share the streets
Efforts for a similar pilot in Monte Vista were stalled, possibly extinguished, after some residents voiced traffic and safety concerns.
As more people become aware of it, more folks will use it, Bailey said.
“We’re delighted to participate in this important step for health and safety as we exercise this summer into the fall,” said Tom Mengler, president of St. Mary’s University. If the pilot is successful, the closure could continue at least throughout the pandemic, he told the Rivard Report.
“If you find your way walking towards the St. Mary’s campus on your walk, please know that you are invited to stroll on our campus,” Mengler said.
The 30-day pilot will tell ActivateSA and the City how the public receives the closed street, what works and doesn’t work, and “whether we should do more and continue this or look for longer-term improvements to the streets,” Bailey said.
As the pilot concludes, the City will perform a survey to gather resident feedback, said Razi Hosseini, director of Public Works. He expects this won’t be a one-time event. “Probably come next summer or next fall, we’ll do it again.”
More flyers will go out next week alerting residents of another street closure initiative on West Cesár E. Chávez Boulevard.
“I actually grew up on Cincinnati and brought my kids here [when we] moved back to San Antonio,” said Janelle Moore, who now lives on nearby Woodlawn Avenue. “I’m really excited that they get to bike in a street that I didn’t get to bike on when I was a kid.”