As San Antonio continues to grow, so does the need for multimodal transportation throughout the congested city streets.
On Friday morning, more than 100 people gathered in Main Plaza to champion that cause at the 20th annual Walk and Roll Rally, an event that encourages all San Antonians to reduce the amount of time spent alone in a car by using alternative, active modes of transportation like walking, biking and public transit.
Hosted by the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the pop-up rally is the kick off event for National Bike Month which brings a host of free events to the city that celebrate the power of biking not only as an alternative mode of transportation, but also as a way to reduce carbon emissions and increase healthy lifestyles among citizens.
Several partner organizations were present on Friday to show their support, including B-Cycle, San Antonio Bikes, and VIA Metropolitan Transit who will provide free bus transportation throughout Friday for riders who board with a bike.
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), an avid cyclist who showed up in full riding gear, read the National Bike Month proclamation to the crowd and stressed San Antonio’s commitment to the Vision Zero initiative which raises safety awareness to eliminate roadway fatalities.
“It’s a very ambitious goal, but it’s doable, it’s possible,” she said. “If you take Vision Zero very seriously, we can have a safe community for all of us.”
A gradual shift away from more old school methods of transportation planning has allowed San Antonio to make steady improvements in building a more bike-friendly city.
“It might seem logical that if you widen roads then we’ll still be able to get around, but in reality, you can’t keep widening roads indefinitely because of the cost and space,” said Allison Blazosky, a bike and pedestrian planner with Alamo MPO. “The idea of having some other (transport) choices are going to be so vital as we keep growing. Within the last five or six years, the city has done a lot more to make biking more of a normal way to get around, and more people are seeing it as a potential for transportation.”
The lineup of National Bike Month events includes a number of workshops and events like SicloVerde on Saturday, May 7, an event hosted by the Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas, that will gather participants to embark on a unique walk/bike tour around several community gardens in the city. There are several tour options to choose from – including a 5K walk, 7.5 mile bike ride, 11 mile ride, or a 25 mile ride – and each participant will receive a free T-shirt. Ticket sales will benefit the Green Spaces Alliance. To purchase tickets, which range from $10-$30, click here.
Bike to Work Day in San Antonio is on Friday, May 20, and the MPO will host a Bike Night block party at its offices, 825 South St. Mary’s St., starting at 5:30 p.m. There will refreshments, a bike fashion show, bike-themed PechaKucha, and more. Attendees can also take advantage of free valet bike parking.
The MPO hopes that citywide awareness initiatives will spark more of an interest in residents to more actively seek out alternative transit options throughout San Antonio.
“(The Walk and Roll Rally) gives us the chance to talk about where we’ve come in 20 years as a community trying to make our streets and neighborhoods and our city safer for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Robert Rivard, director of The Rivard Report and the event’s keynote speaker. He cited the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System, a growing system of more than 52 miles of creekway trails, as a shining example of providing walk/bike opportunities to connect major points in the city. There is plenty of room for improvement, however, on inner city streets like South Flores, a busy thoroughfare that lacks bike lanes in key areas.
“Let’s celebrate what we’ve done in 20 years, but let’s accelerate what we’re doing and make ourselves a Vision Zero city, and let’s do it now,” Rivard said.
After the festivities, which included a bicycle contest and a raffle for several prizes, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott led a bike ride along the Mission Reach. It’s support like that, Blazosky said, that is essential to bring the Walk and Roll movement to more of the city.
“Hopefully, what we’ve been doing the last couple of decades has helped give the public and also the public officials the support to make some of those policy changes, invest in the B-Cycle program, invest in the greenways,” she said. “It’s a long way to go, but we’re getting there.”