Bike Month brings focus safety and shortcomings

City Transportation Director plans update of 2011 Master Bike Plan

How San Antonio plans to improve the cycling experience
How San Antonio plans to improve the cycling experience

SAN ANTONIO – As members of the bicycling community gathered at a City Council meeting Thursday, it didn’t take long for conversation to turn to how much is left to make San Antonio more bike-friendly.

While the cyclists were present at the meeting for a proclamation on May as National Bike Month and Friday as National Bike to Work Day, council members were quick to acknowledge the dangers those bicyclists face.

“We know that cycling in San Antonio frequently isn’t safe, unfortunately,” said District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval.

Data from the city’s Vision Zero program, which focuses on eliminating traffic deaths, showed there are hundreds of bike crashes every year and usually several deaths.

Data gathered through the City of San Antonio's "Vision Zero" program shows several cyclist deaths a year. (City of San Antonio)
Data gathered through the City of San Antonio's "Vision Zero" program shows hundreds of crashes involving cyclists every year. (City of San Antonio)

It is absolutely unacceptable that to ride your bike is a dangerous activity, and it is on us. We own that,” said District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez. “And I hope that you hold city council accountable for making sure that we continue to spend resources and push as hard as we possibly can to make sure that San Antonio is a more and more bicycle-safe city with every day that passes.”

The executive director of Bike San Antonio, Bryan Martin, was one of the cyclists at the meeting. He sees a need for better infrastructure for cyclists in the city. While he praised San Antonio’s system of trail ways, he also wants to see more bike lanes -- especially protected ones with some kind of barrier on high speed corridors -- on city streets.

“What we really need to explain is if we put the bike lanes in place, it can turn bikes into transportation,” Martin told KSAT after the meeting. “And that’s really what we’re looking for. How can my kid ride his bike to school safely without feeling like he’s going to get hit by a car?”

City Transportation Director Tomika Monterville says her department will be asking for funding to update the city’s decade-old Bike Master Plan during the upcoming FY 2022 budget cycle. The city hasn’t always been thoughtful in how it approaches putting in cyclist infrastructure, she said.

“So many of the scenarios we’ve had in the city where we’ve installed bike infrastructure and we’ve had to take it out,” Monterville said. “And that’s because we have not had the conversations with the communities impacted by that infrastructure. And we really haven’t said, ‘Is this the best place for bike infrastructure?’”

Monterville said the new plan will have different layouts of biking infrastructure, depending on the type of street, whether it’s protected lanes or cycle-specific lights. They would also be considering parallel neighborhood streets for bike traffic, rather than some of the higher-speed main throughways.

“We’re looking at corridors. We’re not just looking at a street and saying, ‘Yes, we want to put it there on that street,’ because it’s a disservice, quite honestly, to put a bicycle lane on a street that we know is inherently unsafe for the cyclists,” Monterville said.

They would also integrate the trail way system into plans for an overall cycling network -- focusing on it for transportation, not just recreation.

Monterville said they also plan to created funding strategies beyond just city bond dollars, though that sounds like it will still be a big resource.

This is going to be the plan to guide us and inform how we select projects in the next bond coming up,” Monterville said.

She says the result will be a guide for the city’s path towards a cycle-friendly future.

We’ve identified activity centers. We’ve identified corridors. We’ve identified where people want to be. This plan is going to build upon that and determine what’s the best place. What are the priorities, and how do we get there in terms of funding?”


About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.