Cyclists take to a car-free Broadway street during Síclovía. The free event returns for 10th year.
Cyclists take to a car-free Broadway during the fall 2018 Síclovía. The free event is returning Sunday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Blue skies appeared from behind banks of clouds just in time for Síclovía, the biannual outdoor event that transforms busy city streets into wide-open spaces where San Antonians of all ages can safely play, exercise, and interact with local businesses and community organizations.

“We’re beyond grateful that the sun is out,” Síclovía Director Stephanie Chavira said as the four-hour event kicked off at 11 a.m. The sun provides vitamin D, she said, and a break from recent soggy weather.

“There’s a breeze today,” Chavira added, so though the event started slow with between 5,000 and 10,000 participants, she expected attendance to peak round noon. At the end of the day at 3 p.m., Chavira said more than 67,500 had turned out for the free event.

Now in its 15th iteration, Síclovía is organized by the YMCA of Greater San Antonio and alternates between routes along Broadway Street and in Southtown. Sunday’s route stretched 2.7 miles from Mahncke Park along Broadway Street, Brooklyn Avenue, and Camden Avenue to Madison Square Park on the northwestern cusp of downtown.

Thousands of free parking spots in the Baptist Medical Center lots and garages near Madison Square Park offered extra incentive to participate, Chavira said. The hospital system provided the spots to Síclovía volunteers and participants for the first time this year, which Chavira believes encouraged some who may have previously hesitated to venture downtown.

Myrtle Franklin made the trip from her home in Southeast San Antonio for her third year at Síclovía. “I love it. It’s people coming together, it’s kid-friendly. They’ve got a lot of free stuff, and I meet a lot of great people,” she said.

Franklin stopped by the San Antonio Parks and Recreation tent in Maverick Park where she picked a free tree from an assortment of a dozen varieties to take home with her. She also partook in a Zumba workout and planned to get her “steps” in throughout the day.

The event was also pet-friendly this time around, with open space for dogs to run in Madison Square Park. “It’s so nice to see all the dogs,” Chavira said. “They’re out everywhere, and they make everybody happy.”

The idea behind Síclovía is to provide citizens with an opportunity to “learn about your city on feet or two wheels versus in a car,” Chavira said. “I think it puts everybody in a good mood.”

Another new feature this year, the Believe It Foundation offered adaptive bicycles on-site across from Maverick Park to promote inclusion for participants of all abilities. Wheelchair-bound adults were able test recumbent bikes to see if they are a good fit and comfortable to operate, she said.

Chavira hopes participants stopped at all the parks and open spaces along the route to take in various activities offered by the 40 participating vendors, to “get a bite to eat, some lemonade to rehydrate, and keep on moving,” she said.

Still, the pace is intended to be manageable for everyone. “It’s not a race, it’s not a rush, it’s ‘be leisurely,’” she said.

Síclovía is all about “healthy living in multiple ways,” Chavira said. “There’s a fitness component and a mind and spirit component.”

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...

Scott Ball is San Antonio Report's photo editor and grew up in San Antonio.