Your complete streets aren’t complete. At least, not right now.
The idea of ‘complete streets’ is a fantastic one. For the unfamiliar, a complete street in urbanist talk is a street that is designed to be safe for folks of all abilities and ages to travel, be it by car, as pedestrians, cyclists, or on public transit. Usually, that means adding features and amenities the road didn’t have before, like crosswalks, a wider sidewalk, or the go-to, a bike lane.
Complete streets are a great concept. Once they’re filtered through the many stakeholders within a city, however, a complete street may lose a few critical components.
This story from Planetizen, which highlights a Complete Streets policy of our San Antonio, dives even further into it. What the dive tells us is why these complete streets feel so half-baked.
Why are our streets so incomplete?
One of the main reasons according to the story mentions that ambiguity is a killer. This is what happens when you’re trying to check a box: you lose out on why you’re trying to build a complete street in the first place.
You can see this ambiguity in their very own policy. There might be some good things in there: “streets that account for all ages and abilities” and “streets that provide shade and create buffers” are fantastic ideas. But here in lies the problem: there’s nothing actionable, very little specific, and a whole lot of good ideas that can be avoided.
And of course, there’s the issue of lack of funding. San Antonio streets are riddled with potholes, largely because a sizeable tax base can’t support our sprawling roadway network AND everything else that needs to be supported. It’s hard to find funding to support car culture and ever-expanding roads and goodwill for cyclists despite cycling infrastructure costing significantly less both in construction and upkeep.
San Antonio local active transportation planner Joey Pawlik mentioned that San Antonio communities are already looking at updating the city’s complete streets program. We’ll have to stay tuned on what changes, as community outreach and work takes time, but it is comforting to know that something will happen, hopefully.
Complete streets sound useless, but as Michael Lewyn says in the story from Planetizen, that’s not completely the case. They’re just not the lone tool in the street safety toolbox we need to use to make streets safer for everyone to use.
What can we do about making our streets better for pedestrians and cyclists?
As of now, we don’t have a magic solution to build more equitable, effective streets in San Antonio. Streets take time to design, which means if you want to see positive changes in the future, we have to start advocating now. Well, yesterday would be better. Today works, however.
What we can tell you, however, is that new complete streets policy work is coming soon. And once we know exactly what’s going on, we’ll make sure to not only share it all with you but tell you what you can do next to help.
Until then, join us at Bike San Antonio. Visit one of our local events, join us at a ride, or reach out. We’d love to hear from you.
Those in the San Antonio cycling community know the tireless efforts involved in bike safety and advocacy. Bike San Antonio has been working diligently these last few months to produce a Public Safety Announcement, network at Síclovía, and team up with local bike nonprofits including Earn-a-Bike and Ghisallo Cycling Initiative. We are promoting bike education as we continue to grow our coalition through active engagement with diverse individuals and bike groups throughout the city.
We’d like to thank local SA journalist Billy Busby for partnering with us on the PSA, and his creativity in bringing it to fruition. Since airing on YouTube on Sept. 24, “Saddle Up SA” has reached more than 400 viewers and received multiple shares on social media. This is more than a message from the SATX bike community to motorists to obey traffic laws. It’s a clarion call for the public to share the road, give 3 feet for cyclists, and recognize that people on bikes belong to the community and deserve respect.
This project comprises one in a series of cycling and pedestrian-related PSAs to come that will be featured on TV to help bring cycling tragedies to a halt. We honor a nationwide commitment to Vision Zero and the Complete Streets policy that the San Antonio-Bexar County Transportation Policy Board adopted in March 2009, and that City Council approved on Sept. 29, 2011. Still, it will take much more. We need justice for cyclists who are assaulted, struck, injured, or killed on the streets and highways of Texas each day. That’s why you’ll see us posting on Facebook and Instagram to raise money for injured cyclists and sharing announcements about upcoming events and ways to volunteer to further bike education.
In the season ahead, we’ll launch a membership drive to give folks a chance to show their support for our cause by owning a Bike SA t-shirt, helmet, lights, and bumper stickers. Donating to our organization will help us strategically advocate safer bike infrastructure, education, and awareness both politically and in our communities. We are building capacity to hold public forums with stakeholders, outreach meetings to increase participation from cycling residents in each council district, and hire an executive director to build relationships with elected and non-elected officials.
The calendar is full with all that’s planned. Be sure to look for our board members and riders at the Tuesday night SATX Social Ride, at ActivateSA virtual meetings, on the trails and greenways, and all your favorite riding spots.
Happy fall, San Antonio, and safe travels on two wheels!
A record number of cyclists have been riding along the streets and greenways of San Antonio since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bike shops began selling out of bikes last spring, and have struggled to keep up with demand since.
The time to build comprehensive bike infrastructure in San Antonio is now. With a population of 1.5 million, the city is the sixth-largest in the U.S., and continues to be the fastest-growing, outpacing any other major metropolitan area. Still, statistics and local wisdom show it’s behind in providing citizens with a safe, interconnected bicycle network.
In May of 2019, People for Bikes reported that San Antonio had a bike-friendly score of 1.5 out of 5 stars based on ridership, safety, network, reach, and acceleration, ranking it 284th out of 512 cities. That number has decreased to 1.2 according to the organization’s latest data–a problem that is reflected statewide. Despite the fact that more than 4 million Texans ride bicycles each year, Texas is at the lower end of bicycle-friendly states in terms of current laws enacted to protect people on bikes (ranked 30 out of 50, according to the League of American Bicyclists).
San Antonio’s bike community is growing exponentially, and while motorists may be starting to take bicycles seriously, the reality is the city is not safe for cyclists. People continue to be killed on San Antonio roadways while riding. The overwhelming reason San Antonio residents don’t ride bikes more often is they don’t feel safe riding in traffic, but the lack of bike infrastructure gives them no other option.
Over the last four years, Bike San Antonio has been hard at work improving bike safety. We’ve engaged in meaningful outreach with bike groups throughout the city, including SATX Social Ride, Activate SA, Pedal SATX, and Earn-a-Bike. We’ve hosted public events such as Street Skills Classes and walk and bike nights. We’ve spoken to city planners and architects with the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO) and Public Works department, as well as elected representatives on the San Antonio City Council, to advocate bike infrastructure. By participating in questionnaires and online surveys, we’re increasing public participation to make our elected officials aware of which streets are priorities for public safety.
On October 27, 2019, Bike San Antonio and Bronko Bikes hosted the inaugural “Ride Broadway with City Council and the Mayor” to advocate a protected bike lane on Lower Broadway Street. Broadway was one of the 50 major citywide projects included in the $850-million municipal bond package approved by voters and passed by City Council in 2017. It committed funds to build 200 miles of sidewalks, bike amenities, and multi-use paths over the next five years. $42 million of this funding is devoted to transportation, drainage, public facilities, and recreation on the southern portion of the street, which is now under construction.
Riders from across San Antonio, the SATX Social Ride, Wild Dawgs, Storm, Zombie Bike Club, Give 3 Feet, and San Antonio S’well Cycle flocked to the event. They joined Mayor Ron Nirenberg, City Council Representatives Shirley Gonzales (D5) and Ana Sandoval (D7) in a ride down the busy corridor in support of bike lanes.
Bike SA board members also attended a virtual CoSA meeting on August 6, 2020, to advocate bike infrastructure on Commerce Street from St. Mary’s to Santa Rosa Avenue. We urged the City to comply with the Complete Streets policy that the San Antonio-Bexar County Transportation Policy Board adopted in March 2009, and that City Council approved on Sept. 29, 2011.
The City’s Department of Planning and Community Development recognized the need for Complete Streets more than a decade ago, and the proposed Complete Streets policy requires city roads to be planned, designed, built, and maintained for all users, with requirements for developers to consider bike lanes, wide sidewalks, and pedestrian buffers, among other amenities.
San Antonio was recognized in this recent report, “Safe Streets in American Cities,” for setting Complete Streets policies, and has made strides in safe paths for walking and biking. Much more work is needed, however, for our roadways to accommodate users of all ages and ability levels by providing a holistic approach to multi-modal transit.
We continue to support the Vision Zero SA initiative and the full implementation of the 2011 Bike Master Plan, which recommends a 1,768-mile network of bike facilities, including 861 miles of bike lanes, 12 miles of bike boulevards, 228 miles of multi-use paths and cycle tracks, and 500 or more additional miles of wide shoulders and signed routes. The plan outlined 17 miles of bike lanes and paths to be constructed, including the designation of Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails as connectors linking bike infrastructure across San Antonio, and the addition of protected bike lanes on major thoroughfares. We’d like to see the recommended improvements put into action.
Bike San Antonio’s board members have aligned the following projects with our Strategic Plan of Take Action, Bike Rides, Community Engagement, and Bicycle Safety through Education and plans, which will be presented at upcoming meetings:
Stop funding/planning more greenway miles until committed greenways are funded/given completion dates.
Build a continuous E/W corridor through downtown that connects to Broadway protected lanes
Build the “Tito Bradshaw Memorial Bikeway” that connects to a downtown corridor and extends to at least 410 East. Ensure the Bradshaw family/community is consulted in this process.
Create an E/W corridor that connects to a downtown corridor and extends to at least 410 West.
More public meetings about Roosevelt Avenue
Public Works shall maintain an up-to-date website of all protected bike corridors.
Do something concrete to get more bike racks out there.
Advocacy is our #1 goal. Communication with property owners, businesses, and designers is key to securing bikes a place on the road. Continued outreach and marketing will help grow a broader, more inclusive coalition of cycling advocates from diverse demographics and neighborhoods throughout San Antonio, helping create fair and equitable bike infrastructure for streets designated within the Bike Master Plan and beyond.
Working with the AAMPO and groups that receive federal funding to implement local plans will help Bike SA unite municipalities and agencies to build a truly connected network, provide public bike education programs, and leverage funding at the county, state, and federal levels to improve connectivity to roadways outside Bexar County.
We’ll continue to seek out large projects that offer buffered or protected bike lanes and that link gridded areas inside 410 to curvilinear streets and neighborhoods outside 410. In addition, bike safety can be greatly increased at intersections. Cyclists prefer not to take neighborhood streets because they have to stop at every intersection and face poorer street quality, as well as dogs, lighting, and other obstacles.
Over the last couple years, we’ve welcomed two new board members: Alex Papanastassiou served as Bike SA’s Executive Director until he had to leave the group early this year due to other commitments. We are happy to have Tina Beecham on board with us as our new Vice President. Tina is a Trek advocate and founder of Pedal SATX who works with Bike World, People for Bikes, and Black Girls Do Bike, which has close to 500 members and more than 86 chapters nationwide. Tina’s commitment is to strengthening bike advocacy in San Antonio through various practices, including surveys to gather input on streets lacking bike amenities, and to secure better funding sources. She stresses the importance of safety and action in improving bike education.
There’s no doubt that bike riding is growing in Texas. The increasing number of bike riders on the streets is leading state legislators to introduce bills addressing traffic and bike safety. We also need protection for multiple road users. H.B. 554, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives in the 2021 legislative session, for instance, requires motorists to provide a three-foot distance between a car and a bike and truck drivers to provide six feet of safe passing space. H.B. 3325, the “Crash Not Accident” bill filed by State. Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-District 43, changes the terminology to describe transportation-related accidents as crashes. This April, a second bill was voted unanimously out of the Texas House Committee on Transportation and recommended to be sent to the Local & Consent calendar.
Unfortunately, however, laws are not enough to save the lives that have been cut short by bike crashes. Earlier this month, San Antonio witnessed the tragic loss of another cyclist who was near and dear to the community. Beatrice Gonzales was riding with her friends when she was struck by a drunk driver in front of Central Catholic High School on St. Mary’s Street. It was like any other night when cyclists enjoy riding, until disaster struck.
This kind of thing can’t keep happening. Bike San Antonio is determined to see San Antonio become a bike-friendly city for all. Please stay tuned and visit our social media channels to see the excellent work we’re devoting to building bike infrastructure in our home city.
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.
In just 2 days, 1,000 people have signed the petition for The Tito Bradshaw Memorial Bikeway on E Houston, and 8,000 emails have gone out to 8 city officials. We are demanding action! As a result of these emails, I received a message from the Director of Transportation & Capital Improvements (TCI) expressing his condolences and agreeing to meet. He also shared the news that two weeks ago, City Council approved $21 million for dedicated bike facilities, and to update the City’s Bike Master Plan. He encouraged us to provide feedback on what we want prioritized in the FY2020 budget. Please take the survey at www.SASpeakUp.com. View all surveys here.
This was my response. We appreciate your efforts to update the bike master plan, but once it is updated we need to implement it. San Antonio is good at creating plans to increase street safety, but not as good at implementing them. We are a highly creative and technologically advanced society, we can easily make it so we don’t have to fear for our lives just to get from a to b.
I have to disagree with you that we are making progress with Vision Zero. As you can see in these graphs, since 2010 we have hardly increased the number of complete streets, traffic fatalities and serious injuries are increasing, alternative transit use is decreasing, and commute times and VMT are increasing.
Bryan and I walked down Broadway the other day to show how dangerous the streets are. As you can see in this video, there are construction steel plates in the bikeway that are uneven and unsecured. We called them in to 311 6 days ago and they are still there. They are placed incorrectly, and they shouldn’t move when driven over. Many cities add a textured coating on the plates, and place them so they are all flat. Cyclists and even motorist can easily slip on these with any bit of rain. Cyclists told me that they biked over them in the dark and didn’t even realize they were slick metal plates until they were off of them.
I’ve heard city officials here say that protected bike lanes are great, but “we aren’t built for that in San Antonio.” The Netherlands wasn’t built for bikes either, but in the 70’s they made a conscientious decision to accommodate cyclists. Now in some cities as many as 50% of all trips are by bike. I consistently hear from planners and officials here that if we take away car lanes it may increase traffic. Look at NYC who have been installing protected bike lanes on their streets that are already at a standstill with traffic. They make it a priority because they understand the importance. I encourage you to watch this video as well.
In terms of the money allocated to bike infrastructure and planning, the amount devoted to bikes is minuscule compared to the entire transportation budget. We could build 1,280 miles of protected bike lanes for the cost it takes to build 1 mile of freeway! San Antonio now has just 355 miles of on-street bike lanes. The bike plan goal is to add 1,740 miles of bike lanes in the next 20 years, which is 87 miles each year, we are not on track to meet this goal. We look forward to working with y’all to remedy these deficiencies in the transportation network.
I would like to see more enforcement of cars parked illegally in bike lanes, as well as ‘no parking signs’ along ALL bike lanes. Bike lanes and shoulders with debris/parked cars are dangerous and costly to cyclists. They increase the chances of falling, or getting a flat/blow-out.
Most cyclists know how costly, time-consuming and inconvenient this is. To avoid getting a flat, or to get around larger obstacles, cyclists are often forced into car traffic, which endangers lives. Despite complaints to the city, there hasn’t been consistent enforcement of these lanes/shoulders. Please act to get these bikeways enforced consistently.
Samantha Flores was riding her bike home from work around midnight last Friday, September 7th, when she was hit by a vehicle that left the scene. She’s now in the hospital suffering from severe injuries. She had holes in her liver and one of her lungs, a dislocated elbow, lacerations on her spleen and stomach, a broken femur with a buildup of tissue in the knee, which was also dislocated. She also has a broken fibula in her left foot. She was knocked unconscious but regained consciousness in the hospital.
She’s 23 and works 2 jobs, one of which is at Kimura, a ramen restaurant downtown. The manager, Victor Cortez recalls, “Sam had a lot of regulars who came specifically to see her, so a lot of her customers are distraught because she’s not around. She’s a really generous and thoughtful person. She’s also vegan, so she’s very interested in preservation of nature and animals.” Kimura is donating $2 to Sam from every vegan ramen sold.
On Friday night she was working late at Cherrity Bar where she’s a manager. Cherrity Bar is a nonprofit that donates a portion of their proceeds to other nonprofits. She spent months cultivating it from the ground up, and it opened last weekend without her there.
“The best way to describer her is giving, she gives to every person she meets,” said one of her friends. Regular Kimura customer Idaira remembers, “I would come to this place and even though it was really busy, she would always have a smile and be kind to everyone, you don’t see that at all the bars.”
The crash happened just north of 410 on Nacadoches. At midnight she couldn’t take the bus, and being that most streets in that area are cul-de-sacs, Nacadoches is basically the only route she could take on her bike.
We owe it to those who chose to bike or who have no other options, to make our streets safer.
San Antonio is not projected to reach its Vision Zero goal of zero pedestrian/cyclist fatalities and injuries by 2020. As of 2016, there were 2,912 pedestrian/cyclist injuries and fatalities. These are actually increasing. People for Bikes named San Antonio one of the most dangerous large cities for biking.
The SA2020 goal for Complete Streets is 6,465 miles by 2020. Yet, as of 2016, there were only 2,370 miles of Complete Streets. In San Antonio, 80 percent of severe or fatal crashes occur on main arterial roads with speeds posted at more than 35 mph. Protected bikeways can cut traffic crashes up to 90 percent!
Her medical bills are piling up. To donate visit her gofundme page.
I’m Janel Sterbentz and I decided to start this new bike advocacy group because I saw a dire need for it. Although I’m not from here, the longer I’m here the more I love it and want to improve the city while preserving it. I have a Master’s in Urban Studies and have worked for transportation departments, bike advocacy groups, grassroots organizations and for-profit businesses.
Many have been telling me that there are lots of different bike groups here, but they’re not connected. Cyclists tell me how unsafe they feel on the streets, and how often they’re harassed and yelled at by people in cars.
I hear from friends that another cyclist was killed or severely injured, but I don’t see it in the news, and I can’t find any details about just how many have been killed and why. This is why Bike San Antonio is needed, to organize cyclists and demand safer streets!
We’re dealing with a mental health crisis in the US, with more people depending on costly pharmaceutical drugs or turning to illicit drugs, both of which can lead to health problems or death. There’s an obesity epidemic here in San Antonio, and whether or not you believe in climate change, the fact is that pollution from cars leads to many health problems.
If you do believe in climate change, you know we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels now to prevent more catastrophic and costly disasters. The US transportation sector produces about 30% of all US global warming emissions, more than almost any other sector.
Bicycling is such an amazing activity because it can easily and simply solve all of these issues. Cycling has been proven to reduce cardiovascular diseases, cancer, premature death, isolation and depression. We can all easily contribute to cleaner air and water, reduce climate change disasters, and reduce healthcare costs — all the while increasing our mental and physical well being!
Often people rally against bike improvements because they think it will take away their parking or increase traffic, but from my experience this doesn’t have to be the case. I worked with a group in San Francisco where we were able to get protected bikeways installed on streets in the middle of the city.
It required the removal of about 60 parking spaces. This is in a neighborhood where you can circle around for half an hour looking for an open space. The city was able to re-stripe parking spaces and find underutilized areas to make up all the spaces.
Yes, sometimes installing a protected bike lane requires removal of a travel lane, but often the capacity of the roadway is great enough and traffic light enough that it doesn’t affect traffic. Also, the more bike infrastructure there is, the more people travel by bike which decreases overall car traffic.
I’ve already put in a lot of unpaid time, and spent my own money on flyers, a banner and stickers. Please support Bike San Antonio by getting a membership. Once this organization gets stable funding we will hire an Executive Director and as much staff as we can to make the streets safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable for everyone.
With a membership you get a membership card and sticker. Eventually members will get discounts from participating businesses. Also, join us for our third meeting!