It’s days like these – warm, barely humid, almost chilly in the evening – that remind me why we put up with San Antonio summers. Monday was no exception, a perfect evening for Something Monday riders to explore Main Plaza as the sun set just beyond San Fernando Cathedral.
About 20 riders of varying experience levels and bike styles joined us on this casual, social ride in partnership with San Antonio B-Cycle that led us from the Blue Star Arts complex, through the King William Historical District and down into “The Heart of the City.”
But as we approached the Johnson Street foot bridge Something Monday experienced its first run-in with the law. An officer of the San Antonio Police Department, using a loud-speaker from his patrol car, said something to the effect of, “That was a stop sign … and stay in your lane.”
Moments earlier, as the group converged on the intersection of Johnson and King William Streets, we stopped as a whole and continued through the stop sign, as no cars were coming in any direction, as one big bike blob. As tempting as it is to act as one unit, this is against the law – each cyclist is supposed to stop (acting as a car) and groups should ride two abreast. Indeed we were taking up more than our fair share of the road – easy to do in big groups on slow, near-empty neighborhood streets.
A few riders and myself stayed behind to address the officer, who quickly sped up to the curb and approached us.
“Great. Is he really going to issue us tickets?” I thought to myself. “I guess I’m in charge of this Something Monday thing … should I offer to pay for them?”
I started with the officer by acknowledging that were being a bit too casual through the neighborhood and assured him that we would be more diligent in following traffic laws – which we were.
His response was a surprisingly short, “Okay. Be careful.”
Not the discourse on bicycle laws and safety that I was expecting, but, lesson learned.
He quickly got into his patrol car and drove away before I could explain further or ask his name, it’s likely that he was called to another scene or perhaps he decided that pursuing this infraction would not be the best use of his time.
The remaining ride to Main Plaza continued on quite legally and smoothly, especially for Steve Wood, who joined us in his recumbent velomobile. I was surprised at how fast, sturdy, and quiet his pod-like recumbent tricycle was. Wood is founder of San Antonio Bike Tours, which uses the tag line, “The laid back way to see S.A.”
Literally, those that sign up for the by-appointment tours in recumbent tricycles, are the most laid back traffic on San Antonio’s streets. Wood and his futuristic contraption was a welcome addition to our pack.
During the ride, the group was buzzing about this Sunday’s Síclovía. The biannual bike festival closes down two and half miles of Broadway, includes interactive and educational booths, food trucks, vendors, a doggy station, and more.
[Read more about Sunday’s festivities: “The Feed: Síclovía – It’s a Party and You’re Invited.”]
Also on the ride was Sara Reid, local dentist technician and certified cycling instructor. She leads an historical Eastside bike tour, City Sights By Bike, almost every Sunday – depending on the weather.
This Sunday, the weather looks good for both Reid and Síclovía. She’ll be at the San Antonio Museum of Art’s parking lot at 110 W. Jones Ave. at 8 a.m. greeting guests and making sure bikes are in working, safe order. At 9 a.m., she’ll depart to tell the “East Side Story” through the cemeteries, old schools, and Hays Street Bridge of the area. Find out more at www.facebook.com/citysightsbybike, the tour ends at noon, so there’s plenty of time to stop by Síclovía afterwards.
When we arrived at the plaza we were greeted by Main Plaza Conservancy (MPC) Executive Director Jane Pauley-Flores who explained how, through aggressive programming and partnerships, the MPC has been able to reactivate the public space since its redevelopment in 2007.
The interactive (read: play in them) fountains have played a large part as well as concerts, movies, private event rental, and public art.
For instance, Pauley-Flores said, on Oct. 26, the plaza will be filled with hundreds of high school mariachi bands competing for a spot on the Plaza’s Mariachi Corazón de San Antonio. A place in the band, acting as a sort of ambassador of San Antonio and the MPC, also means a $1,000 per year college scholarship – $5,000 if they are awarded four years in a row.
“This shows that students can matriculate into higher education through music,” Pauley-Flores said. “It’s opening doors for so many kids.”
She also shared details about the upcoming art installation, San Antonio | THE SAGA, which will be installed and revealed in spring 2014.
French artist Xavier de Richemont, who has similar work on display in Germany, Spain and France (see above video), will use dozens of projectors to turn the facade of San Fernando Cathedral into a moving canvas to portray the story behind Main Plaza. How long will it be up there? About three nights a week, Pauley -Flores said, for 10 years. For more information, visit www.mainplaza.org.
Pauley-Flores also pointed out some lesser-known features in the plaza, including the large stone inlays with factual, historical information about the plaza scattered throughout the grounds. She then gracefully fielded questions while the sun began to set – our solar cue to start the ride back.
We rode back down Flores Street to the Blue Star Arts Complex. Some needed to go home, others needed a well-earned drink and a bite at La Tuna Icehouse and Grill. We did run into another formidable bike ride on the way. Is this the Zombie Bike Ride, by chance?
Bells were rung, fun was had, connections were made. Stay tuned this Sunday for our Síclovía and City Sights by Bikes coverage. You’re sure to see some familiar faces.