May is National Bike Month and the City of San Antonio kicked it off with an announcement of a $200,000 private donation to the city's B-Cycle program, which has 23 stations with 230 rental bikes across the city.
The new money will eventually build seven new stations and add 70 more bikes for a program that's grown into the second busiest in the country in just 15 months of existence.
To help with the B-Cycle boom as well as an increase in cycling traffic, the city has painted 15 sections of highly-trafficked roads with "sharrows," large arrows that inform cyclists where to ride and to alert drivers to their presence.
"We're using sharrows where we'd like to have a bike lane and there's not enough right of way or using them on already established bicycle routes where we want to reinforce that cyclists are already using that road to travel," said Julia Diana, the program manager for the city's bikes program, who added that bikes are recognized as legal forms of road transportation. "We just want to preach tolerance a little bit and let them know that there's enough road for everyone to get along and to share it."
The city added two sharrows in 2011 and 13 more in the first four months of this year, a welcome sign for avid cyclists.
"Any help that cyclists can get is great," said Jimmy Hover who works at the bike shop at the Blue Star complex. "We're trying to get healthy, trying to get fit and this is a really great way to see the city of San Antonio and enjoy it while still trying to be fit and be safe," added Theresa Sands, who had just checked out a B-Cycle bike at Blue Star with a friend.
The B-Cycle program has already seen great growth and expects to see even more with the sharrows which alleviate some safety concerns many new street riders may feel.
"I didn't have a bike when I was younger and so I'm still learning, I'm kind of wobbly and when cars speed by me or are real close to me it makes me nervous because I'm afraid I might get in their lane or they may come in mine accidentally," said Sands.
"I think if they had more of those I would ride more on the main roads instead of sticking to the side roads," said Maverick Robertson, another B-Cycle user.
Diana said the city is currently looking at new locations for more sharrows, but does not expect to add any more until 2013. In 2010, the city added a "Safe Passing" ordinance which requires most drivers to give at least three feet of clearance when passing cyclists.
Violations are a Class C misdemeanor and can carry a fine up to $200.