San Antonio has a bike friendly score of just 1.5 out of 5 stars, 284th out of 512 cities (People For Bikes). With a population of 1.5 million, it’s 6th largest city in the US and the fastest growing (Census). We must establish a safe, interconnected bike network now or we will soon be choked by traffic and pollution.
BikeSA has worked for two years on improving bike safety. We’ve gone door to door, created petitions, attended city meetings, rallied cyclists to attend public meetings and more. Because of this, the city has agreed to add protected bike lanes to 2 miles of Broadway, where before it was only 3 blocks. Before our efforts, there were no plans for bike lanes on St. Mary’s, now they are planned for the whole bond project. We got the city to clean the major bike lanes once a month rather than once a year. They are now studying where car parking can be removed from bike lanes, and a protected bike lane on S Alamo as well as Commerce because of our requests.
We’ll be meeting with influential members in the city to devise a plan to move forward. We’ll assess the current bike plan and work with the bicycle community to realize the protected bike network. We’ll work with city officials and develop strategy to ensure timely rollout of the network.
The power of the bicycle to relieve traffic and emissions is greatly underestimated. These figures from the National Association of City Transportation Officials show that installing a protected bike lane can facilitate transport of about the same amount of people as a Bus Rapid Transit dedicated bus lane.
Car lane = 1,600 people/hr
Bus mixed w/ cars = 2,800 people/hr
2-way cycletrack = 7,500 people/hr
Dedicated bus lane = 8,000 people/hr
Light rail = up to 34,880 people/hr
Heavy rail = up to 120,400 people/hr
53% of people in the US want to bike more, but worry about being hit by a car. 47% say they would bike if streets had protected bike lanes (People for Bikes). When safe bike infrastructure is there, people use it. Those places with the most bike infrastructure see rates of up to 50% of all trips by bike.
People say it can’t be done here because Americans love their cars. But this hasn’t been achieved in any US city because safe and complete bike infrastructure has never been built here!
San Antonio also has the worst walk and bike scores among cities with 1 million or more people. It has a walk score of 38 and a bike score of 42 out of 100. It has the 6th highest percentage of overweight adults in the US – a staggering 38.5% (WalletHub). Unfortunately, obesity in SA is going up. 20% or 1 in 5 people in San Antonio live in poverty (Census). Providing affordable and safe means of transport is essential to ensure their needs are met.
A new study found that cycling 30 miles per week cuts heart disease and cancer risk in half. Cyclists had a 41% lower risk of premature death compared to those who regularly travel to work by car. The avid riders had a 46% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 45% lower risk of developing cancer (The British Medical Journal). Although electric cars are better for the environment, they still pollute since most of our electricity comes from polluting sources. Car use doesn’t just harm the environment, it increases obesity, isolation, personal monetary costs and roadway costs, asthma, crime and more (World Health Organization).
The US transportation sector produces about 30% of all US global warming emissions, more than almost any other sector. Auto-oriented, car dependent cities are discriminatory against those who cannot drive – the poor, the young, the elderly and the disabled. These people deserve safe, comfortable and convenient ways to get around the city. Bicycling is a fun way to get around town! It has been shown to actually improve mental well-being. One study, published in the Journal of Diabetes Complications found that after cycling for 12 weeks, participants saw a boost in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein responsible for regulating stress, mood, and memory.
Cycling also improves one’s self-perception and sense of self-worth, resulting in higher self-esteem. These improvements are even stronger for mental health patients and people suffering from mild depression. So it can potentially be just as effective (if not more effective) than psychotherapy.
Bike lanes benefit businesses:
In New York City, the addition of a protected bike lane on two major streets led to “a 50 percent increase in sales receipts.” In San Francisco, after a bike lane was added on Valencia Street “two-thirds of the merchants said bike lanes had been good for business.” In Seattle, the creation of a new bike lane, which eliminated 12 on-street parking spaces resulted in a serious increase in retail sales along the street.
When a new protected bike lane was installed on Broadway in Salt Lake City, sales on the street rose 8.8%, in spite of the fact that the bike lanes decreased on-street parking by 30%. Surveys of business owners along the street showed that a majority of them felt that the change was positive, and most of the remaining business owners felt neutral about it (People for Bikes).
In 2013, the city of Vancouver installed protected bike lanes on a key street, which involved removing 20 parking spaces. For business owners along this corridor, their initial fears about losing sales did indeed come true. But that was only a short-term result. Soon after the bike lanes were installed, one local restaurant owner happily reported that business was better than ever and stated, “We definitely have benefited from the increased usage of the bike lane.” With a slew of bike riders now streaming by, he was able to reach a range of new customers.
As someone moving to SA from Chicago, I can attest that having dedicated bike lanes does wonders for encouraging more bikers! Over the last ten years I lived in Chicago, it’s was exciting to see so many people commute via bike and feel more connected to their own health, the city (and nature) in many ways.
Permit should be reguired for street parking