Broadway slept in Sunday morning. San Antonio’s signature north-south surface street was closed south of Mulberry to Alamo Plaza for the city’s 7th Síclovía, but early morning cool temperatures attracted few people. Volunteers stood on corners, sat on curbs, and attended to last-minute set-ups. People must have partied late Saturday night.
Around 350 runners and walkers participating in the 3rd annual 5K Run/Walk flowed out of Alamo Plaza north on Broadway and up to the turnaround point near the Pearl and Run Wild Sports, where owner and president Catherine Austin stood on the curb, encouraging passers-by.
Then Broadway went quiet again. The most cyclists I saw in one place at 9 a.m. were the members of the San Antonio Police Department’s Bike Patrol, talking in a pre-game huddle before things got busy.
Broadway is home to Síclovía, but there was a new name and new route this time around: Midtown-East reflected the new spur that took people east on McCullough Avenue/Nolan Street to Dignowity Park. Even at 10 a.m. the park was largely empty, although that didn’t stop the DJ on hand from cranking it up. Bike Texas volunteers tended a corral of bikes made available for the day.
Everything had changed by the time the clock struck 11 bells. It was as if zombies in every corner of the city were summoned from their sleep. Side streets grew crowded with parked vehicles where families unloaded bikes. People started moving up and down Broadway in waves: on foot, on bikes of all sizes, styles and colors, on skateboards, pushing strollers, small kids urging on scooters past the watch of parents, and dogs of all sizes with their owners tethered to the other end of leashes.
“From Maverick Park to Lion’s Field it was really crowded,” said Monica Garza, Síclovía’s director. “It was a little quiet early, but it really got busy fast.”
By 12 p.m. Broadway from Pearl to Lion’s Field was crowded with people on and off bikes. I watched a kickboxing class underway at the northern edge of Broadway just below Mulberry, and then wandered over to the H-E-B Welcome Tent for a welcome banana and bottle of water.
There were free copies of a cookbook with healthy recipes, and a number of healthy cooking demos going on. I watched a few minutes of the edamame guacamole demo (who knew?) and made a mental note to try it later. Some of the best meals I’ve served have been copycat efforts after watching a Central Market cooking demo, information I don’t always share at the time.
Kickboxing turned to disco boogie by the time I headed south again to find family members, and I began to notice a certain level of chaos descending on the event. A few random cyclists seemed intent on racing through the crowd at the expense of everyone around them, and too many people, especially adults with children, just wandered and headed inattentively against traffic.
I witnessed two collisions and one spill, all three involving small kids on push scooters. Two wandered into the path of cyclists on Broadway, and a third crashed downhill on Nolan Street in a solo mishap, his scooter sliding a quarter block past where he lay momentarily. Unfortunately, one of the collisions involved one of my own adult sons as a young boy on a push scooter darted in front of him without looking, his mother not watching. Both fell hard and thankfully were uninjured, but the original front wheel on my son’s 40-year-old vintage Peugeot racer was destroyed.
Síclovía is probably becoming a victim of its own success as larger and larger crowds come to play and recreate, many of the participants clearly unfamiliar with or indifferent to safety etiquette. Too many parents of adolescent children mistakenly assume they are safe to wander freely and unattended.
One young girl on a bike who was not wearing a helmet fell and struck her head in a solo mishap that required her to be transported to the hospital by EMS, according to Garza, who said her condition was still unknown at 4 p.m.
“You bring up a really good point: We emphasize the rules of the road at every opportunity we get,” Garza said. “Part of it is that San Antonio is still learning how to participate in Síclovía, but some parents are not watching their kids, especially the ones on motorized toys. There should be a natural flow, but people should move just like traffic moves, in one direction on each side of the road.”
A speed limit for the day is not a bad idea and a ban on motorized toys is worth considering. I watched a couple of fun children’s events staged safely off the street, and it could be that one short section of Broadway should be corralled and reserved for parents with kids ages 10 and under on scooters and small bikes. Síclovía Kiddie Park.
Experienced cyclists, meanwhile, should take their workouts elsewhere. There’s no room for speed at Síclovía, and no one is impressed. Just the opposite.
I spoke to dozens of participants Sunday, and every one of them loves Síclovía and wishes it would happen more frequently and happen in more places around the city. Síclovía No. 8 is tentatively set for March 29, Palm Sunday.
“We’re going back to Southtown,” Garza said. That makes sense. Síclovía No. 6 along the Mission Reach district was far and away the most popular to date. “We do get all kinds of calls asking us to bring the event to different places, so we may have some surprises up our sleeve in the future.”
One can imagine Síclovía on the Westside, or farther north. Imagine closing Stone Oak Boulevard to vehicle traffic for a Sunday, or Blanco Road around Phil Hardberger Park. If Síclovía became a monthly event, it could be staged in every Council district at least once over the course of the year.