Friday mornings at 8 a.m. is when I am typically pulling my chair up to my desk at work to check emails and plan my morning work-load. Not this morning, however. Friday, May 2, was a bit different. My wife Anna, my son Rizo, and I were invited to take part in the bike fashion show at the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 18th Annual Walk and Roll Rally at Main Plaza. The Rally celebrates walking, cycling, and active transportation for healthy and fun lifestyles.
As a family, we ride as much as possible together. We started our adventures more than a year ago, and now we are often seen in the evenings and on weekends with the little one in a child seat, or being pulled in a trailer on the way to a park (e.g., San Pedro Park, Crocket Park), the grocery store, or any number of other places around downtown San Antonio.
We had been planning to attend the Walk and Roll Rally as a family, but unfortunately Rizo was under the weather Friday morning, so he and Anna stayed home while I attended solo.
I love my ride into downtown from our Beacon Hill home. I have a couple of routes that I take regularly, and I took my favorite one to the event – North Flores Street to Main Plaza.
North Flores is a great route for a cyclist coming from south from Beacon Hill or Alta Vista. Traffic is usually light, and the pavement is generally pot-hole-free for smooth and easy riding. There are plenty of things to see along the route, with budding businesses (Alamo Bike Shop for example), historic homes, and interesting architecture.
Arriving at Main Plaza, the scene was abuzz with energy as pedestrians and cyclists wandered the open space mingling and visiting the booths set up with information about local organizations. The crowd was moving to the sounds of DJ Alfonso, aka Alfonse Torres, a city housing official. When we moved to San Antonio almost 10 years ago, Main Plaza wasn’t even really a gathering place or destination. There was the San Fernando Cathedral, some roads, and a ton of car traffic. Today the historic plaza is a real testament to the amazing work of San Antonio leaders and the community to restore one of the city’s cultural treasures.
The program opened when emcee Robert Rivard of the Rivard Report introduced William Scanlan, chairman of the Main Plaza Conservancy, who spoke about the significance of the gathering at the historic center of the city. Scanlan said the restoration of Main Plaza “was the work of two priests and one mayor.” The priests were both rectors of San Fernando Cathedral, Fr. Virgil Elizondo and Fr. David Garcia, and the mayor was Mayor Phil Hardberger.
“Where you are standing today was once Main Avenue filled with cars, and you couldn’t cross from the plaza to the river without crossing through traffic on Soledad,” Scanlan said. “Now you can walk though a quiet and peaceful plaza from the cathedral to the river.”
“The Walk and Roll Rally celebrates transportation choice. That means choice for everyone: young, old, and those who don’t drive for whatever reason,” said City Sustainable Transportation Project Manager Julia Murphy in an email. “Active transportation is good for personal and environmental health, and that means better quality of life in our community. Folks can start small, and think about walking or biking for short, easy trips.”
District 6 City Councilman and MPO Chairman Ray Lopez, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Director Dr. Thomas Schlenker, and District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales – all cyclists – addressed the crowd and talked about their continuing efforts to improve San Antonio’s health and wellness profile and build more alternative transportation infrastructure in the urban core. They were joined by Douglas Melnick, the city’s new director of sustainability, who came here two months ago from Albany and praised San Antonio B-Cycle, the city’s bike share program.
The fashion show was, in a word, a hoot. It was education disguised as entertainment as real people dressed in their work clothes on a casual Friday showed what they wear while commuting from home to the office on their bikes. No, you don’t have to wear spandex to ride a bike.
You can ride to work and still look professional. Councilwoman Gonzales and her husband, Kevin Barton who rode the Hammerfest at Fort Davis last weekend, modeled as a team – she in a smart khaki suit, he in bikewear. BikeTexas’ Jack Sanford hauled a B-Cycle on to the stage and then busted out some breakdance moves as the crowd cheered. Corrigan “Red” Luckey from REI, sporting a substantial red beard, raised a colorful REI bike above his head to loud applause.
A parade of models and their bikes moved across the stage and posed for a post-show photo after Rivard declared the competition too close to call and awarded first place to all the models and their bikes.
Cindi Snell, co-owner of Bike World, and the “chief pedaler” for B-cycle, the city’s much-lauded bike share program, told the crowd that B-cycle would soon expand to 700 bikes distributed among 75 bike stations. She handed out a free annual membership in a drawing.
Walk and Roll is 18 years old now, and if you’ve never gone, watch for it next year. It’s a celebration of a city that becomes a bit more bike friendly each year, and on a Friday morning, its a chance to join hundreds of other cyclists in the historic center of the city where people have been gathering for nearly 300 years.
I’m happy to have met some really great people and had a chance to get my feet wet with some bicycle advocacy in San Antonio. I look forward to next year’s event.
“The MPO and AACOG did a great job of putting on a fun event that helped normalize bicycling as a mode of transportation,” Sanford said in an email after the event. “The impressive turnout showed that San Antonio families are ready to try different ways of getting around.”
*Featured/top image: Related Stories: The bike models pose for a photo after their fashion debut on stage at the 2014 MPO Walk and Roll Rally May 2, 2014. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.