About 40 concerned cyclists gathered Wednesday evening for the inaugural San Antonio Bike Collective meeting. The group hopes to unite cyclists across the city to call for more bicycle infrastructure, safety, education, and bike theft prevention.
Local cycling advocate Cristian Sandoval, who co-founded Earn-A-Bike Co-op (EAB), a local bicycle outreach organization that offers bicycle maintenance and education classes to community members, led the meeting.
“We need to build the cycling community around the people who live in San Antonio,” Sandoval said, pointing towards the diversity of attendees that came from different parts of the city and socio-economic backgrounds.
While San Antonio is considered a “bike friendly” city by the League of American Bicyclists, the city has hundreds of miles of roadways that have little to no infrastructure or connectivity for bikes. Government sponsored awareness campaigns can only go so far to change a culture and transportation system built around motor vehicles. The City and other entities have bike advocacy and safety programs but, Sandoval said, the community needs to have somewhere to go outside of governmental bureaucracy.
Governing bodies and the community at large often look to how other cities address cycling needs and try to fit San Antonio into that box, he said. “We are not Seattle, we are not Chicago, we are not Los Angeles. … What is happening here now is different from what happened there. I don’t think many of the things they do in Seattle are going to work here.”
While cyclists in Seattle commute to work and school, he said, the majority of cyclists in San Antonio are not commuters and instead ride in large competitive or social groups such as the Tuesday Night Bike Club, the Wild Dawgs, the Street Ratz of San Antonio, Dantes Roll Models, and others.
Members of some of those groups, like the Wild Dawgs, pedal to a different rhythm of cycling.
“They ride at night. They go fast. They have a very ‘road’ approach to riding,” Sandoval said. Three members of The Wild Dawgs attended the call to action meeting to address cycling issues.
Sandoval said he started the San Antonio Bike Collective to help give riders a voice.
“San Antonio has very knowledgable and passionate cyclists, and they are not included in many of the important conversations,” he said. “The City’s Bicycle Master Plan and SA Tomorrow are prime examples.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, attendees gathered into four groups to discuss bike infrastructure, safety, education, and theft. After about ten minutes of discussion, individuals presented their group’s focal points.
The group that discussed infrastructure encouraged attendees to read the City’s Bicycle Master Plan. By doing this, the group said cyclist could better address code violations to report to the City. The bike theft group told the room to carry around their bicycle’s serial number in case of theft, the education group suggested that cyclists mentor one another in bicycle safety, and the safety group encouraged cyclists to wear a helmet and carry back-up gear.
The main points of discussion and action will be posted to the collective’s website for open discussion. Once a consensus is reached online, the collective will “support and promote” an idea to follow through with.
“The goal here is to come out of these group discussions with an action item,” Sandoval said.
Visit the collective’s website to stay up to date with meeting times and discussions.
The collective will meet on a monthly basis at the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects headquarters at 1344 South Flores St. Although Sandoval started the collective, his goal is for a group member to take over his position.
One of the collective members, George Longoria, said he hopes the group will eventually become a force that the City’s policy makers will have to reckon with.
“The thing that has been missing is this, right now,” he said, referring to the meeting. “It is time to bring all of these groups together.”
*Top image: Local cycling advocate Cristian Sandoval leads the discussion. Photo by Joan Vinson.