On Becoming a B-cyclist: A Cautionary Tale

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James Rodriguez at the Ace Mart B-cycle station in Southtown during his successful effort to complete Le Tour de B-cycle. Photo by Charlotte Luongo.

James Rodriguez at the Ace Mart B-cycle station in Southtown during his successful effort to complete Le Tour de B-cycle. Photo by Charlotte Luongo.

Charlotte_Luongo_headshotMy dear fellow Rivard Report readers, I am here to warn you. I can personally attest that the Rivard Report can, has, and will likely continue to give its readers potentially dangerous, health-altering ideas.

Case in point: One morning (July 3, 2013, to be exact) while innocently sipping my coffee and perusing the aforementioned publication, I read “Summer Updates From SA B-cycle” by August Sullivan. The article caught my eye because I have twice lived directly across the street from a B-cycle station and have once been almost run over by a B-cycle. (Let the record reflect: I have also not been almost run over by dozens of other users of the same B-cycle station.)

San Antonio B-cycle Hub on the corner of South Alamo Street and East Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard. Photo by Leo Suarez.

The culprit’s lair: San Antonio B-cycle Hub on the corner of South Alamo Street and East Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard. Photo by Leo Suarez.

I clicked on the article to find out what other diabolical plans B-cycle had for my life, only to discover that they were sponsoring an event called Le Tour de B-Cycle – timed to correspond with the Tour de France – in which participants must visit all 32 of their northern stations in a single day in order to win a free t-shirt. I instantly understood what this was: They were issuing a direct challenge to me. The cycling gauntlet had been thrown.

I announced my intentions to complete the tour to my much less impulsive partner, James. He did his best to reason with me, reminding me that it had been years since I had ridden a bike and suggesting that we start off slowly by going to just a few B-cycle stations instead of all in one go. He managed to reign in my zeal enough that I agreed to do a few “test runs” before our Le Tour attempt.

James Rodriguez setting out from the B-cycle station at the San Antonio Housing Authority on our scavenger hunt for more. Photo by Charlotte Luongo.

James Rodriguez setting out from the B-cycle station at the San Antonio Housing Authority on our scavenger hunt for more. Photo by Charlotte Luongo.

My first test run was to take me to San Antonio’s Central Library. As I checked out a B-cycle, I was more excited than nervous. How hard could this be, after all? I learned how to ride a bike as a kid, and I am a regular at my gym’s cycling class. I had it in my head that the old adage “It’s just like riding a bike” would actually apply to riding bikes. I hopped on my first B-cycle with gusto and took off down the street.

It was a complete disaster. I floundered and wobbled and endangered every living and non-living thing within a 10-foot radius. Apparently, the old adage has a statute of limitations — one that I had far exceeded.

Tricycles await their princesses on Broadway Street during Siclovía 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Tricycles await their princesses on Broadway Street during Siclovía 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

B-cycle cruisers are notably heavier than typical mountain or road bikes. This generally makes for a more leisurely cruise, but it can take a few tries to get used to it.

The last non-stationary bike that I had been on was a little pink number with a flower-encrusted basket and glittery tassels flying from its handlebars. That was a good 28 years ago.

I wasn’t about to give up, though. I continued my blundering progression up the street, yelling out apologies all the way, and somehow made it in one piece to the library. By the time I was ready to go home, I had decided just to hoof it and leave the two-wheeled beastie locked up where it belonged at the library’s B-cycle station.

But as I walked past it, I started feeling a bit ashamed of my timidity. So with a sigh of resignation/trepidation, I checked out another B-cycle and pedaled back down the street.

B-cycle employees daily trek to each rack location, such as the Central Public Library, to make sure there are enough bikes available at each one. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

B-cycle employees daily trek to each rack location, such as the Central Public Library, to make sure there are enough bikes available at each one. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

That’s when the miracle happened. One moment I was composing my own eulogy and the next moment I had converted to the Church of B-Cycle. Suddenly my nightmarish trek through the heart of downtown—during rush hour no less—turned into a pleasure cruise. I’m not sure what triggered the metamorphosis … maybe the cool breeze rushing past me or the friendly waves from other cyclists or the fact that I somehow finally managed not lurch down the road like a rabid wombat. Regardless, I was hooked and was more excited than ever to do Le Tour.

After one more practice run with James (who, blast him, got over the wobbles in about 10 seconds … show off), we took to the streets of San Antonio. We were armed with a map of our route, water, a first aid kit, and plenty of small bills (just in case we came across an El Paraiso ice cream vendor—it’s important to be prepared, you know). Our plan of attack: Start in Southtown at the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) and snake our way north through to the western-most stations all the way up to the Witte Museum. On the way back down, we hit all the stations on the east side of the river. Clockwise:

Northern detail of B-cycle rack map and our Tour de B-cycle route. Click image to englarge and click <a href="http://sanantonio.bcycle.com/Portals/6/SanAntonio-map2013-via-print.pdf" target="_blank">here to download the full version</a>. Interactive Map of stations available at www.sanantonio.bcycle.com.

Northern detail of B-cycle rack map and our Tour de B-cycle route. Click image to enlarge and click here to download the full version. Interactive Map of stations available at www.sanantonio.bcycle.com.

Our first trip took us two blocks. Piece of cake. We checked in our bikes at the B-cycle station and then checked them right back out again. One station down, 31 more to go.

We continued along in this fashion for the next hour and a half. The most eventful thing that happened was our attempt to figure out if bicycles are allowed in bus lanes. We are still in the dark on this one. The bus drivers we polled (by making close observations of their hand gestures) seem to have widely divergent opinions on the subject. Perhaps one of you can comment below and solve this mystery for us.

By the time we reached the Witte Museum, our confidence was high – we had visited almost half of the 32 stations and managed not to run into any anybody, including each other. Also, we had tried out a new breakfast taco restaurant that received our coveted “Plate-Licking Good” rating.

What occurred next, though, reminded us that we were still very much bicycling novices: Hills.

Author Charlotte Luongo meeting a new friend at the Main Plaza B-cycle station. Photo by James Rodriguez.

Charlotte Luongo meeting a new friend at the Main Plaza B-cycle station during the 2013 Tour de B-cycle. Photo by James Rodriguez.

After taking one look at the tangle of cars on Broadway, we decided to take side streets to our next station.

Want to know a neat little fact about San Antonio neighborhoods such as Government Hill, Tobin Hill, and Terrill Hills? They got their name from the fact that there are actual hills there. Huh. Who would have thought?

Still panting from our topography lesson, we rolled in to Alamo Plaza to face our next challenge of the day: People, lots and lots of people. And, of course, accompanying all these people were cars, buses, trolleys, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, you name it. Getting around of this part of downtown, particularly on a Sunday afternoon, required us to walk our bikes frequently. We quickly learned that this is a real downer for bicyclists. It’s like being given an awesome action figure for Christmas, but being told you’re not allowed to take it out of the box.

The craziest part of this bike-unfriendly zone is that it has three B-cycle stations, all just around the corner from each other. James and I weren’t surprised to see that two of the three didn’t have a single bike at the station. People were apparently fleeing the area. We decided to follow these wise folks’ example and move on to our next set of stations.

Despite our growing fatigue from the many miles we had already covered, our enthusiasm returned as soon as we crossed Cesar Chavez, bringing us back to Southtown, our home turf. We powered through the last few B-cycle stations, finally pulling up to the station ever-so-conveniently located directly across from our house.

James Rodriguez at the Ace Mart B-cycle station in Southtown during his successful effort to complete Le Tour de B-cycle. Photo by Charlotte Luongo.

James Rodriguez at the Ace Mart B-cycle station in Southtown during his successful effort to complete Le Tour de B-cycle. Photo by Charlotte Luongo.

It was now time to deal with the inevitable aftermath of our biking folly. For me, this mainly took the form of a tender seat (and I don’t mean bike seat). So, I got a little reminder of our Sunday adventure every time I sat down over the next few days. That hasn’t discouraged me, though, from getting back up on the two-wheeled horse. The day after Le Tour, James and I B-cycled back home from lunch. Tuesday, I B-cycled up to Main Plaza for the farmer’s market. Tomorrow, I suspect we’ll B-cycle over to the Lila Cockrell Theater for a show.

I fell fast and hard for B-cycle. So now I am a healthier, calorie-burning, car-eschewing citizen. Thanks, Rivard Report – thanks a lot. And as for you, dear fellow reader, consider yourself duly warned that this could be your fate, too.

Le Tour de B-cycle runs until July 21, 2013, so there is still plenty of time to take your town tour. For more information, go to www.sanantonio.bcycle.com or visit their Facebook page.

 

Charlotte Luongo is a recent transplant to San Antonio. She arrived in December, 2012, by way of Austin, Morocco, England, Greece, and Virginia (she took a few wrong turns trying to get here). Charlotte holds a variety of degrees from the University of Sheffield, University of Bradford, and University of Texas in the impractical fields of osteology, paleopathology, and funerary archaeology. Despite these disadvantages, she managed to obtain a paying job as an executive editor of the science department at a small academic publisher. In her spare time, Charlotte enjoys cooking, gardening, engaging in hand-to-hand combat, and doing her taxes (okay, just seeing if you were paying attention).

 

Related Stories:

New Event: ‘Something Monday’ — Rescheduled Due to Rain

Summer Updates From SA B-cycle

Field Research, Riding Around on the San Antonio B-cycle

The Case for Cyclists Breaking Traffic Laws

San Antonio’s Drive Toward Safe Cycling

Confluence Park: Nature’s Learning Laboratory on the Mission Reach

SicloVerde: Riding Bikes, Visiting Gardens For a Cause

Building a Bicycle-Friendly San Antonio, One Committee Meeting at a Time

 

9 thoughts on “On Becoming a B-cyclist: A Cautionary Tale

  1. I too have been baffled by those downtown bus lanes. Please let us know if you ever find out whether or not they’re bike friendly!

  2. B-cycles are a great idea, but a poor design. The bikes are quite hard to steer and take a lot of work to keep on track.

  3. That is quite an accomplishment, Charlotte, especially for James, whom I happen to know quite well and who I know would much rather be at home with a good book. Loved the humor in yor article. It made for good reading. Am looking forward to more articles from you. Congratulations!

  4. Thanks so much everyone for the encouragement!

    Victoria, you couldn’t be more right about James preferring a good book to a long bike ride in the middle of summer. Poor man. He has to work hard to keep me out of trouble 😉

    As for the comment about lack of t-shirts, RRR, what can I say? It’s a slow economy.

  5. Charlotte, again with the showing off! Dang you! Just another example of your superiority and my jealousy (of your lung and leg capacity as well as your ability to write such a scientific-sounding article). Is this the beginning phase of your “Wipeout” training?

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