Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
An estimated 60,000 San Antonians brought bikes, longboards, rollerskates, and scooters to a car-free Broadway Street Sunday for the 11th biannual Síclovía, the city’s largest health and wellness event.
Following an 8 a.m. 5K Run and Walk, families participated in free group exercise classes at four “Reclovia” stops along a route that extended from Parland Place to McCullough Avenue.
“We’ve got all shapes and sizes out enjoying being able to ride and walk in the street, try Zumba for the first time, and check out new healthy recipes from H-E-B,” said Sandy Morander, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater San Antonio, which sponsors the event. “There’s just something for everyone.”
Dozens of local organizations provided healthy snacks and activities, such as San Antonio Parks & Recreation department’s free health screening and an award presentation for winners of Fit Pass 2016, a summer program that tracks participants’ healthy living.
Families seemed unfazed by a brief burst of heavy rain and periodic drizzling, which cooled off the myriad dogs enjoying the outdoors and glistened off Broadway as the sun reemerged. Oak, anaqua, and Mexican sycamore saplings handed out by Plant Trees San Antonio bobbed all along the road in bike baskets and strollers.
Michael Baldwin, special projects manager for San Antonio Parks & Recreation, praised Síclovía as a celebration for how far the city has come in terms of health and wellness awareness.
“It highlights a lot of the organizations that provide free and low-cost wellness and fitness services that are available to people on a year-round basis,” Baldwin told the Rivard Report. “… Even though it’s raining today, you can see that people want to come out here and enjoy this.”
At each Reclovia, hip hop and Latin music cajoled community members to set aside their wheels and join Zumba, kickboxing, and aerobic instructors for 20-minute bursts of energetic fitness.
At the northern-most Reclovia, organizations as diverse as the American Heart Association, the Witte Museum, and Camp Gladiator provided information in front of the fountain in Mahncke Park. A short bikeride southward, and one could find children throwing frisbees at the Lions Field Reclovia, while others took turns on yoga mats.
A handful of organizations stressed the connection between physical and environmental health at the Maverick Park Reclovia, while an emphasis on children and educational programs characterized the KLRN Reclovia at the route’s southern end.
Initiated in 2011 as part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program, Síclovía is one of several efforts to tackle obesity in San Antonio. According to the CPPW website, when the program started, “65.7% of adults (were) overweight or obese” in Bexar County, with obesity rates as high as 27% among black and Hispanic children and 12% among white children.
In addition to Síclovía, the CPPW initiative instituted the B-Cycle bike-share program, installed fitness equipment stations in 22 parks and five libraries, created the ¡Por Vida! restaurant recognition program, and provided online and in-school health and fitness awareness programs.
Morander said the YMCA has good reason to believe Síclovía is delivering a concrete impact.
“We hear a lot of anecdotal stories (like), ‘Thanks to Siclovía, I’m now in Zumba, I joined the (YMCA), I lost 35 pounds,’” Morander told the Rivard Report.
Morander added that surveys conducted at every Síclovía event also indicate that 35% those participating would not otherwise have spent their day being physically active.
Moreover, according to a statistic presented by YMCA officials last spring, 55.7% of participants in last September’s Síclovía reported that they increased their physical activity levels after attending the event.
Representing San Antonio’s chapter of Kidical Mass, an organization that promotes family-friendly biking, elementary school teacher Matthew Rottman said he appreciates the awareness Síclovía raises.
“I’m all about promoting families biking,” Rottman told the Rivard Report, “and I think this is the biggest event for San Antonio and has been for five years since they began doing it … You see a lot of active kids, which I think is helping change the face of San Antonio in terms of childhood obesity and health and diabetes.”
With so many kids spending so much of their time sedentary and indoors, parents and caretakers hoped that taking their children to the event would teach them the importance of being active and outdoors.
“It’s something to do, going outside and doing something instead of being at home and playing video games and watching TV,” said Chris Estrada, who has attended Síclovía with his family since it began.
The event, which requires $350,000 in fundraising support from partners like H-E-B, University Health, and Humana, ended at 3 p.m. just as storm clouds and heavy winds closed in on the city’s downtown area.
With continued support, Morander sees Síclovía as an increasing part of San Antonio culture.
“It’s part of who we are,” she said, “and our gift to the community that we’ll keep doing as long as people help us.”
Top image: Bikers ride down Broadway Street during Síclovía, an effort aimed at increasing physical activity in the community. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.