In a world that is seemingly obsessed with organized sports, the concept of playing in the streets is refreshingly simple. And that is the core of the concept of Síclovía. Close a few miles of streets, and let the people be creative with their human-powered modes of transportation: bicycles, tricycles, unicycles, scooters, skateboards, rollerblades, little red wagons, and of course good old-fashioned shoe leather – you name it.
And to make things even more interesting, many people dress creatively. The result is a carnival-like atmosphere, powered by the participants.
The concept originated as “Ciclovía” in Bogota, Colombia, about 30 years ago. Imported to San Antonio a few years back, the name was altered slightly to give it a local flavor. Síclovía was hugely successful from the outset, with tens of thousands flocking to the initial event. As a result, San Antonio has served as a model for other locales, such as Austin. Organizers estimated a turnout of more than 50,000 people, less the original estimate. Still, the near-Southside seemed as alive with people as possible on a perfect outdoor Sunday.
Initiated by the City of San Antonio, the event has since come under the aegis of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio. It is held twice a year, in spring and fall. The event has grown in concept, with each successive Síclovía offering something more than its predecessor. Spread along the route are “Reclovías,” where activities such as fitness, yoga, and live music are offered. In addition, food and liquid refreshments are available. Artists lined the route, selling items like t-shirts and hand-blown glass.
Fortunately, several bicycle shops were scattered along the route, filling tires with air and fixing flats. (Shout out to the folks at Bike World, who fixed my flat tire for free!)
In addition, free bike helmets for kids were being distributed. Even free live oak trees and mountain laurels were being given out by CPS Energy.
Local businesses and organizations get in on the act as well. For example, The Monterey on South St. Mary’s Street offered up adult beverages and snacks. The Mercury Project, an art space on Roosevelt Avenue, hosted “The Color of Blind,” an art exhibit designed with the visually impaired in mind.
All previous Síclovías have been held along Broadway, from the southern edge of Brackenridge Park down to Alamo Plaza. This year marked the beginning of a new era with the route moving to Southtown, starting in King William and making its way down to Mission Concepción. This route gave the ride more of an intimate, neighborhood feel, due in part to the narrower streets and the smaller buildings lining the streets. The streets were crowded almost to fault, but it’s hard to complain about too many people having too much fun.
Many participants, residents of San Antonio, took to the Mission Reach. The trail was in full bloom Sunday, showcasing the trail’s beauty and capacity to visitors and locals alike. Tens of thousands of participants from all over the region were on the river, a strong indication that no matter what the location, people will come.
The future of Síclovía burns bright — the new route was a bold, yet successful, decision on the part of organizers. Hopefully, the event will continue to expand. Holding the event more than twice a year would be a great next step, perhaps rotating the location around different parts of the city. San Antonio is fortunate to have this event, one that is helping to stem the growing tide of obesity, especially among the city’s youth.