The High-Hanging Fruit: Broadway’s Complete Street Potential

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Iris DimmickAvenue B’s separated bike lane, the City of San Antonio’s first major investment in bicycle connectivity near the Pear Brewery complex, has left much to be desired for bike and vehicular traffic alike.

What was supposed to be a popular route from the many commercial and residential endeavors of the Pearl District to Brackenridge Park has been underutilized and under-maintained over the past few years.

Perhaps the messy construction projects nearby and the route’s dead-end into Newell Street long before it reaches downtown have contributed to its stagnation.

Separated bike lane on Avenue B near the Pearl.

Separated bike lane on Avenue B near the Pearl. Photo by Iris DImmick.

Though the physical barrier between cars and bikes has proven to be a popular concept, the route itself is a bit of a flop. But increased safety and connectivity of our bike network is paramount as the city attempts to carry out the 2011 Bike Master Plan to increase ridership.

During the Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee (BMAC) meeting Wednesday night, plans to redirect the focus to other nearby streets were emerging.

Road graphic. Courtesy of PeopleForBikes.

Road graphic. Courtesy of PeopleForBikes.

“A bike lane that is open to car parking is not a bike lane,” said Rivard Report Director Robert Rivard of the lanes on Broadway Street which consist of a wider vehicle lane with the occasional striping, road graphic and sign. He spoke on behalf of the local cycling team, the Third Street Grackles.

“We’re fine with the elimination of the city’s first attempt at a cycle track,” he said to the committee and audience of about 10. “But Broadway is a much bigger proposition for us.”

Broadway is the main artery between an increasingly revitalized downtown and the burgeoning Pearl District that includes several high-density housing projects (completed and planned), an emerging commercial market, and cultural and educational institutions.

[Read More: Broadway Reach Launches Cultural, Creative Corridor]

The Museum Reach could have the same connectivity but the narrow, winding path is more suited for meandering pedestrians – not commuting cyclists on a deadline.

A repurposed bridge spanning the river on the Museum Reach, near The San Antonio Museum of Art. Photo by Jeff Reininger.

A repurposed bridge spanning the river on the Museum Reach, near The San Antonio Museum of Art. Photo by Jeff Reininger.

“Broadway is one of the most important spokes on that big (center city transportation) wheel,” Rivard said.

Megan Wright, special projects manager for the Center City Development Office, highlighted a public online survey to collect feedback from citizens on Avenue B, Broadway and North Alamo Street as a possible bike route.

“(North Alamo) is of similar size and there is little traffic,” Wright said after the meeting of the reasoning behind the street suggestion. “We’re considering a few options in this area.”

The quick survey will be available for the public to take through this Friday, Jan. 10 at www.surveymonkey.com and represents the very early stages of exploration into what is to be done with the bike corridor.

“It’s good to get (the committee) and public feedback at meetings like this because now we can take a harder look at Broadway (as an option),” Wright said.

And so, a subcommittee is born.

BMAC Chairman and Bexar County Associate Probate Court Judge Oscar Kazen suggested that the committee form a proactive “‘Broadway Subcommittee’ – we talk about Broadway all the time anyway … and every time we’ve had some issue (like the downtown bike lanes, H-E-B closure of South Main Avenue, etc.) we always seem to be responding to the crisis. We should start looking for solutions now.”

Andrea from Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas address the committee, and the gallery, about the upcoming SicloVerde fundraising event: A bike tour of community gardens on June 15, 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

A photo from a previous BMAC meeting in 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The motion carried and the subcommittee will be formed in the coming weeks.

“We are just advisors but we’re made up of people (and organizations) that make those important decisions,” Kazen said of the role of the BMAC. Nonetheless, they’ll be ready to advise when Broadway’s complete street projects come before City Council in the future. “Knowing full well that we don’t have the authority, we can just be the squeaky wheel.”

Funding for improvements is tight with an average allocation of $1 million from the Infrastructure Management Plan for bike facility projects per year. Such projects are divided into three priority levels. The first involves more simple bike facilities that can be achieved within the existing structure of the street. That is, the street is already wide enough to accommodate a bike lane.

For Iowa Street, the existing street was wide enough to install new bicycle lanes without reducing the number of vehicular traffic  lanes. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

For Iowa Street, the existing street was wide enough to install new bicycle
lanes without reducing the number of vehicular traffic
lanes. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

The second priority involves closing one or more lanes to cars, but requires a traffic impact study. If the results show that vehicular traffic is not impaired, construction can be planned.

The South Flores and Southcross, an example of a priority two project. Existing street was not wide enough; therefore, a reduction in the number of vehicular traffic lanes was required to install bicycle lanes. Courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

The South Flores and Southcross, an example of a priority two project. Existing street was not wide enough; therefore, a reduction in the number of vehicular traffic lanes was required to install bicycle lanes. Courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

If the results show a significant impairment to traffic, additional funding will be required for pavement widening, utility relocation, etc. So the project is then moved to bond funding.

About 40.5 miles of bicycle facilities have been added to the network since 2011, a small dent in the 1, 718 mile total goal.

The City had first tackled easier projects across the city, but recently has run into more complicated, political territory. In 2012, 30 miles of bike facilities were installed compared to 10.5 in 2013 according to the Bike Plan Implementation update presentation made by Anthony Chukwudolue, assistant director of Transportation and Capital Improvements.

“Now we are running into the tougher issues,” Kazan said. “The low-hanging fruit is out of the way.”

To aid in the processes to come, San Antonio Bikes Program Manager Julia Murphy and Chukwudolue assured the committee that communications and notifications to the public and internal departments will be improved.

“Significant work needs to be done to ensure public awareness and outreach,” Chukwudolue said.

It’s still too early to forecast what Avenue B, Broadway and North Alamo will contribute to – or remove from – San Antonio’s bicycle network. But it will be certainly be a more productive, almost enjoyable process the more informed local stakeholders are – that means you.

So here’s that link to the CCDO’s survey again. BMAC meetings are held every second Wednesday of the month at 8 a.m. at MPO Conference Room B at 825 South Saint Mary’s St. To stay in the know about local meetings and other happenings bike project/legislation-related, check out BikeTexas.org and follow the MPO and San Antonio Bikes on Facebook.

 

(Word on the BMAC street is that this year’s Síclovía will not be held on Broadway. Murphy declined to comment on the new location, but said San Antonio Bikes and YMCA will announce that information soon.)

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at iris@rivardreport.com.

 

Related Stories:

Bike to Work: A Prescription for America’s Health Care Cost Crisis

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The Feed: The Future of Cycling in San Antonio

Conversation: Cycling en Masse to Fight Multiple Sclerosis

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

Share the Road: SAPD Launches New Program to Catch Unsafe Drivers

 




There are 14 comments

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  1. City Sights by Bike via Facebook

    Broadway’s biggest problem is for pedestrians. It’s as wide as an interstate highway and very difficult to cross. If you ride far right with so many driveways and intersections, you have to be extremely careful not to be t-boned by people pulling in and out because you are not very visible near the curb. You also lack room to maneuver if someone does cut you off. Riding in the center of the lane is legal, makes you highly visible and gives you room to maneuver. San Antonio’s Safe Passing Ordinance requires motorists to vacate the lane when there is more than one lane.

  2. Page Graham via Facebook

    The biggest issue with the Avenue B bike lane is the transition from the Broadway bike lane at Newell Ave. Since the development of the Pearl, that intersection has become congested and dangerous. The lights are poorly timed, and motorists tend to get frustrated, making it even more difficult for a cyclist to navigate. A possible solution is a dedicated 2-lane bike route, separated from traffic by a curb, on the west side of Broadway between the 1221 Broadway development and Newell Ave.

  3. bigley

    Why isn’t North Alamo St. being talked about as a possible alternative? very light traffic and less lights than broadway.

  4. Steve Wood via Facebook

    Ave B has been useless for months due to construction, plus bands at Sam’s Burger Joint regularly park and block the bike lane. North Main is getting worse with the construction of the apartments at SAC – on-street parking has eliminated one lane in a couple of blocks, forcing all traffic to merge to a single lane – this needs to be addressed by the city.

  5. John

    Everybody who bikes between downtown and Brackenridge Park, the Pearl, Alamo Heights, etc. should do this survey.

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AveBandBroadwaybikes

    It might help to remind them that cutting across the golf course will become a more attractive alternative if the Ave. B path is removed, or if they expect people to bike on Broadway or N. Alamo.

    No, N. Alamo is NOT a good alternative.

    1. It is several blocks out of the way (no matter where you are going).
    2. It is desolate and people feel it is unsafe.
    3. It is ugly, and no one like to walk/bike under a freeway.

    Ave. B is actually a nice place to bike. It runs along a pretty golf course, we can listen to birds singing, we can see trees, we almost always see hawks and woodpeckers, and sometimes raccoons.

    Finally, the city has ONE safe, fairly pleasant way to bike between downtown and the Pearl, Alamo Heights, Brackenridge Park… and now the city wants to remove it??

    Why is San Antonio ALWAYS so far behind other cities in terms of livability??

    A nice alternative route (when it is cold, wet, evening… and the golfers are not out) is crossing the golf course (from behind the Valero gas station on Josephine) over to River Road, then cross the river on to Ave. A, then cross Mulberry into the park.

    A lack of good bike paths will also increase the number of people who ride along the river walk. The riverwalk is not for biking, it is for pedestrians, baby strollers and people walking dogs.

    • Ryan Bigley

      John,

      You sound like you obviously do a lot of riding between Alamo Heights and Downtown but I’d like to correct some of your assertions regarding N. Alamo.

      1. N. Alamo is only one block to the East of Broadway and runs parallel from Houston St. (Downtown) until it merges with Broadway around the old Buttercrust Bakery (North of the Pearl. Hardly several blocks out of the way

      2. This is what I see when I ride south on N. Alamo: Mexican Restaurant, Backside of 1800 Broadway, Bakery Lorraine, Casa Blanca Lofts, Maverick Park, Art Studios, Architecture Firms, Sports bar, Mission Control and Supply, A new gas station opening soon,Mexican Bus Stop, Jill Giles, Churches with great architecture, The Express-news, affordable apartments that are cool, and cherry on top The Alamo! I guess our definition of desolate differ a great deal.

      3. whether you take Broadway or Avenue B you will have to go under the Freeway. I’m not sure what you’re arguing here. And Frankly I think that green space under the 35/281 exchange could be utilized as an outdoor market or a bigger dog park at least.

      I agree completely with you that Avenue B is better when is runs along Brackenridge, I think the obstacle is linking Avenue B to N. Alamo at around the Buttercrust building.

      Keep in mind that Avenue B “T”s in to I think 4th street if you’re traveling South. And it is a big hassle to cross Casa Blanca/Newell St.

      But, obviously having a safe “complete street” on Broadway all the way from Alamo Heights to Downtown is the most ideal solution.

    • Leilah Powell

      Right on, John. Great comments. North Alamo MIGHT be a good additional route at some point but (in addition to the issues you mentioned) using it to get to destinations on the west side of Broadway would require two additional street crossings. Let’s give the Ave B route a chance to recover from the near-constant construction–including the Broadway-Hildebrand project that has had extreme negative impacts at Josephine/281–before we make any rash decisions. And thanks for the shout-out for Brackenridge Park as a destination!

  6. Rayah Long via Facebook

    I love that first line—I mean…come on that’s a no brainer! lol I’m afraid to ride down those lanes in case a parked car opens a parked door! O’d love to see SA get innovative like Portland…PAINT EVERYTHING BIKE ORIENTED LIME GREEN!

  7. Drew

    Like the other people on this thread, I too have been frustrated by Avenue B. As many have pointed out, current construction projects have rendered it utterly unusable. If you attempt it, you will end up muddy and stressed. This is disappointing, as this was really the only safe way to get from the Witte to the Pearl. A point that I have not seen mentioned is that, near Sam’s, there are no poles blocking auto entrance into the bike lanes. This is visible in the first photo. A few times I have had the frightening experience of biking on Avenue B when a car turned into the lane!

    I agree with Rayah’s comment that it would be nice to paint bike lanes to clearly differentiate them from the street. This would really help visibility and safety. And perhaps this could be used to put a local touch. Instead of Portland’s lime green or Copenhagen blue, maybe San Antonio could have a “Fiesta” color such as bright orange.

    To me, as someone who bicycles, it still seems like the city is only paying lip service to issues of livability. There will simply be no expectation of progress if San Antonio continues its obscenely auto-centric urban planning, with minimal funding for bicycles. Current plans to increase bike lane coverage by squeezing them into existing streets are little help: cars in San Antonio drive aggressively, and even in these bike lanes, one must face trash, car doors, and potholes. I hate to be a downer, but without a major re-evaluation of transportation priorities, bicycling will remain dangerous and unpopular in San Antonio for at least the next 15 years.

  8. John

    Myself… I DO NOT want to bike on Broadway AT ALL, no matter what color they paint the “bike lanes”. If I have to bike on Broadway to get to Brackenridge Park, Alamo Heights, etc., I will h a t e it.

    As it is now, biking Ave. B north from downtown, we do have to make that little jog onto Broadway to get from Ave. B/13th St. north to Newel (past the Pig Stand), but there is a nice sidewalk there, so we don’t HAVE to cross to the other side of Broadway.

    Broadway is (and will always be) for cars cruising 50 mph and buses (which will always be pulling in and out of whatever color imaginary bike lanes they paint). It is pointless to put a bike lane on Broadway. Drivers do not want bikes on Broadway.

    It’s unfortunate, but the truth is that bike-able routes are just an after-thought in the big development schemes.

    They can stick the “bike paths” sort of wherever, just somewhere out of the way of development. After the developers get what they want, then the city can decide where they can stick the bike path.

    They can put the new bike path on the desolate section of N. Alamo directly under the freeway, where we will have to cross Broadway 2 extra times coming AND going, and then all they need when they are finished is a photo of a happy smiling family biking on the new bike route to put on a website and in a few glossy brochures. Then they can check off that box. What the actual biking public wants (and whether or not people will actually use the new path) is sort of irrelevant in the big picture. These decisions are made by people who would never actually get on a bike (or maybe once for a press conference or a photo-op). I get it. Really, I get.

    The way the city has been developed… if you are riding/bike-commuting from north to south, you can’t go through/across Fort Sam anymore, riding on St. Mary’s (the only other N-S route that gets you anywhere) is dangerous and unpleasant. That’s why Ave. B is so essential to people who actually use a bike to go north-south in that part of the city.

    Safe bike routes should be a right that we all have. Biking can be Saturday recreation, too, but it is also how many of us get to work, run errands, get to places where we meet friends, etc. Dodging cars and buses on a heavily-trafficked street like Broadway can never be considered safe biking.

    Sooner or later it will get to the point where I will give up riding a bike, and just take my car like a normal, responsible citizen is supposed to do.

  9. Pete

    Avenue B was well utilized before all the construction. Not only by commuters but also by families and casual riders out for some exercise. I knew plenty of people who would take their entire family to the Witte and ride to the Pearl from there. Taking that away would be a significant loss.

    In my mind, the biggest problem with Alamo is how does one access it when traveling South? Is the cyclist supposed to cross three lanes of traffic to turn left? As a fair weather commuter who rides down Broadway because Ave. B is not an option, I don’t believe you could safely get over to access Alamo. I go home St. mary’s because i don’t feel comfortable navigating the double turn lane at Austin Hwy during high traffic periods. Can’t fathom trying to work my way over to turn left during peak commuting times when headed South.

    I typically go all the way down Broadway to Third/Martin but believe Newell to Camden and st. Mary’s from the bike lane is quite workable and connects to most of the employment centers downtown.

  10. Zatoichi

    I’m struggling to find a safe bicycle route from my home near North Star Mall to my new job at the BofA Building. So far the best I can do is mix it in with the cars on McCullough.

    So I’m happy to learn about a plan to work on Broadway bike access. Its going to take more than lip service or some striped lanes on a few streets to turn SATX into a bike-friendly place where I can commute to work every day.

  11. John

    re. North Star to downtown routes:

    I have found many fairly bike-able routes through San Antonio, incl. the area you’re talking about, just by trial and error.. and I couldn’t do it w/o a smartphone with a map application that can show me exactly where I am.

    Does anybody know of a webite, blog, etc. where people can share their favorite bike routes from one section of the city to another? That could be very useful for new-comers. I’d want advice like that if I were moving to another city.

    The bike-able routes are always going to be a bit further than “as the crow flies”, but I don’t mind a slightly longer route if it is safer and more pleasant. I zig-zag through the residential neighborhoods as much as possible.

    I bike from downtown to the The Quarry regularly. From North Star, I would get over to Basse Road. From there, I take one of two routes (both go through Brackenridge Park).

    1. Jones-Maltsberger to Devine, then pass the zoo, cross the river, get on Ave. B all the way downtown.

    2. Get on Tuxedo, then downhill on La Jara, wind through Alamo Heights (easy to get lost in there!) to the HEB Central Market on Broadway, then cut through the UIW campus (across Hildebrand) into the park, then onto Ave. B.

    Winding through Olmos Park is also not bad. I sometimes take Thelma > Shook > Hollywood > cross Trinity campus to Tuleta, then pass the zoo, etc. That’s a steep climb going north!


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