How to Request a Bike Lane in San Antonio

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Construction crews work to reconstruct a street with a protected bike and pedestrian path along Avenue B near the Pearl.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Construction crews work to reconstruct a street with a protected bike and pedestrian path along Avenue B near the Pearl.

When a makeshift crosswalk appeared on the St. Mary’s Strip, city officials were quick to voice their displeasure at residents taking pedestrian safety into their own hands. But the incident raises an interesting question: How should residents ask the City of San Antonio for infrastructure to protect pedestrians and cyclists?

Arthur Reinhardt, assistant director of the City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements (TCI) department, said “[San Antonio 311] is the best process for our community to use when they would like to request a crosswalk, bike lane, pothole repair, or any other type of infrastructure request. It’s more efficient than sending us an email or a voicemail.”

Recently, the Rivard Report asked citizens to report their concerns about cycling conditions in San Antonio on a crowdsourced map we’re calling Open Ciclismo. The more than 100 responses describe everything from potholes and missing or inadequate bike lanes, to aggressive dogs and road debris as challenges to making San Antonio a bike-friendly community.

We shared the map with several City staff members, who were receptive to the data on the map generated by public responses.

“The City welcomes public input,” Reinhardt said. “Receiving feedback from those who bike across our community helps City staff to be aware of commuting challenges they are facing. This information, combined with our staff’s expertise, will improve our planning efforts.”

The majority of responses to Open Ciclismo, about 74 percent so far, describe challenges from dilapidated or missing infrastructure such as missing bike lanes, obstructed road-sharing signage, a lack of road signage, and disconnected bike facilities. Residents also note where existing or new bike facilities are working, including a stretch along Northwest Military Highway and Wurzbach Parkway, and along North Flores Street.

Some residents feel that the city’s 311 service is not effective.

“This week I saw something to report and I called … but it was a terrible experience,” Carye Bye wrote in the comments section of a recent Rivard Report article.

There are many ways to access the 311 service: by phone, by filing an online service request on the city’s website, or by using the mobile application, San Antonio 311. Every call or online submission gets tagged with a code. That code directs the request to a specific department or department manager.

A sign posted informing cyclists that an upcoming bike lane is closed.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

A sign posted informing cyclists that an upcoming bike lane is closed.

Currently, no category exists on San Antonio 311 for cycling-related concerns like missing bike lanes, road debris, or hazardous intersections, which may affect how bike-related requests made on the mobile application are routed to city departments. One category related to these concerns is “traffic sign missing/down.” The city is working with Cityflag, a local company, on the development of a new 311 app. Cityflag plans to use a mapping system much like that of Open Ciclismo to let users tag the location of various issues.

“Based on the request type, there’s different priorities and different service level agreements,” Reinhardt said, “but if it’s an emergency we’ll get out there right away.”

Service level agreements determine the city’s response time to various requests, ranging from 30 days for installing a bike lane, to about two business days for a stop sign or pothole.

There are several factors the City takes into consideration when evaluating a request. For example, Reinhardt’s department will assess whether there is enough pavement width (five feet is the minimum for a bike lane), whether two-way traffic is still possible, and whether addition of the lane will restrict parking, before approving it.

Zoning also is a critical factor used to determine whether a bike lane is appropriate.

“Typically we don’t have to put bike lanes on a residential street because the density is so low,” Reinhardt said.

Like bike lanes, crosswalks also are subject to intense evaluation that includes assessment of pavement width, right-of-way width, and surrounding land use. Current standard practice does not allow the placement of crosswalks on residential streets, Reinhardt said.

“There’s been numerous studies that show neither a negative or positive impact on safety to put a crosswalk in a residential neighborhood,” Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt highlighted a study by the Federal Highway Administration that shows no significant differences in the number of pedestrian crashes for marked and unmarked crosswalks. In the same study, there was no significant difference in the number of pedestrian crashes on a residential street versus a commercial street, regardless of whether or not a crosswalk was present.

According to the study, what makes a crosswalk effective at reducing pedestrian crashes is whether the crosswalk is paired with other safety features like a raised median or a crossing island.

The City defines a “residential street” as a street that has a “local” roadway: a road with only one or two lanes, and where the surrounding land use is single-family homes or duplexes. As San Antonio becomes denser and developers embrace mixed-use development patterns with first-floor commercial space, some streets may no longer feel residential, but are still classified that way.

For instance, the intersection of North St. Mary’s and East Mistletoe streets, where the illegal crosswalk was promptly removed by the City, is located on the outskirts of a residential neighborhood that also includes restaurants, bars, shops, and other commercial enterprises. It’s one of San Antonio’s most popular nightlife districts where pedestrian traffic increases significantly on weekend nights.

A make shift crosswalk and narrowed street lanes draw praise and criticism from neighbors.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A makeshift crosswalk and narrowed street lanes draw praise and criticism from neighbors.

Some local organizations are trying to bridge the gap between how residents view their streets, and how the city perceives them.

Local nonprofit Bike San Antonio recently released an online form that allows the public to “request clean bikeways.” Anyone can edit the petition that requests the city to clean trash and other debris from bike lanes, which can be sent as an email directly to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and members of City Council.

“Despite complaints to the city, there hasn’t been consistent cleaning of these lanes/shoulders,” the petition reads, wrapping up with a video of several neon-clad citizens cleaning up road debris with well-worn brooms in a downtown bike lane.

Although citizens find themselves resorting to ever more creative ways to get in touch with San Antonio’s government, the City continues to embrace public feedback. TCI can also be reached on Facebook and Twitter.

Opportunities for public input into San Antonio’s bike planning processes:

Nov. 14, 6 p.m. at the Mexican American Unity Council Community Center, 2300 W. Commerce St.: Alazán Creek, a popular route for cyclists, is undergoing a re-design process to construct linear trails along the creek. The City of San Antonio in partnership with the San Antonio River Authority is seeking public input on trail design including neighborhood connections.

Through the end of November: The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO) is collecting online public input for its Bike Share Master Plan. You can take an online survey or suggest a location for a bike-sharing station on an online interactive map. The Bike Share Master Plan will explore the feasibility of extending the B-Cycle program to other areas in Bexar County, including Comal, Guadalupe, and Kendall counties.

Dec. 2, 9-11 a.m. at the Claude Black Community Center, 2805 E. Commerce St.: The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department is seeking public input for the 2018 San Antonio Parks System Plan. The plan includes updates to park amenities and bike facilities.

UPDATED– Wednesday January 10th, 9 a.m. at MPO Conference Room B, 825 South Saint Mary’s St.: The AAMPO hosts monthly Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee (BMAC) meetings, every second Wednesday of the month. People can share their input in the “citizens to be heard” portion of the meeting agenda. Those who wish to speak can sign up to do so when they arrive at the meeting. The Pedestrian Mobility Advisory Committee (PMAC) will meet at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 17th.

 

Rivard Report readers may continue to share information about where improvements could be made, where bike riding is challenging, and where it is safe through the Open Ciclismo map. We’ll monitor your feedback and keep track of local government’s response.

16 thoughts on “How to Request a Bike Lane in San Antonio

  1. I support bicycles, however individual bicyclists and groups of cyclists often cut in front of drivers, take illegal turns and are almost hit…at great miles per hour in the inner city. I suggest that bicyclists need training and certification must like driver’s licenses in order to make sure they are aware of circulation laws that affect everybody…especially them-if hit.

    It happens so frequently that dashcams might be needed by both as it is a common thought that drivers are the perpetrator and bicyclists the victim…not necessarily so!

    Is there a site that receives all bicycle related almost-incidents?

    • I’m glad I am not the only one who feels this way. I think with the rise in popularity of biking everywhere people have forgotten that if you are riding a bike on the road then you must obey the same signs and traffic stops as a motor vehicle. I have seen too many bicyclists run red lights or stop signs and narrowly escape being hit by a car. Just yesterday as I was on my way to pick up my son from my parents an older woman riding a bike just decided to stop on the street right in front of blue star. As it is South Alamo was reduced from two lanes each way to one lane so to me this would be another violation as her stopping slowed the flow of traffic. I think it would help if SAPD started ticketing bicyclists as much as they do those operating a vehicle. Maybe this would help enforce the notion that they as bicyclists need to obey the same laws as those in cars in order to keep themselves and others safe.

      • I can definitely understand how both of you feel having been on both sides of this.

        What I can say from the perspective of the cyclist and perhaps counter intuitive is that –sometimes– it actually feels safer to not follow traffic laws. If I ride in the middle of the lane, or pass as often as possible, or run a red light when it is very clearly safe to do so….sometimes these are actually preventative measures for my own safety. Have you ever ridden a bike in San Antonio downtown traffic? I have for a period of a year without a car at all. What I find is that a lot of the downtown drivers are not from here or even know where they are. Conventions, festivals, RW, Alamo….on and on…so many reasons to come here for just a little bit. Many who drive downtown and are from San Antonio aren’t downtown very often either. This creates a scenario where the cyclist has to become more proactive than passive for their own survival. Proactive for me in this situation sometimes seems really aggressive or reckless to drivers I’m sure. I understand that many drivers want cyclists to be held to the same ticketing/law standards as drivers but remember we aren’t actually “motor” vehicles. Our motor is our legs and lungs so we can’t just lightly press a pedal to keep up with you. We have to time lights, cars, and every other downtown obstacle with that ability and energy in mind while staying safe and self aware. Self awareness is critical and I think if anything that’s what we could target in our cyclists and drivers alike.

        Some cyclists are reckless just for the thrill of it, I certainly admit to being guilty of that too. It’s not cool, I’ve been really badly hurt from it, and I’ve learned the hard way about helmets too.

        I just thought I’d throw this out there because things aren’t always what they seem until you’ve been the one sandwiched between a bus and a big truck tourist turning into your lane without acknowledging you and you must now do something incredibly risky to stay fluid and not crash. That might sound dramatic but it’s not as uncommon as you think.

        I don’t hate drivers. But I do think they can be just as bad if not way worse. Much more of a hazard than I am to those around you if you choose to get reckless in a car.

    • This is a non-sequitur and the same tired, old red herring. This article is about infrastructure. Do not conflate a need for safe infrastructure with one’s ability to follow the rules. EVERYONE has a problem following the rules at one time or another. I know, I know – YOU are a good driver, and YOU are never break the rules! Well, me too. I am a good cyclist and I never break the rules – except when I do. JUST LIKE YOU. So, the next time you see someone on a bike run a stop sign, think about how many cars that rider has dealt with that were doing stupid, illegal, aggressive or unsafe things. The number of moving violations committed by cars is obviously much, much higher. It’s called empathy. Finally, to your point about increased regulation – I got cut off by an old lady yesterday and I have seen several old ladies driving recklessly. Therefore, we should require yearly drivers license renewal for all old ladies over age 65. Hows that for regulation? Does that hit a little closer to home? If thats not a good solution, then what is? Maybe we should have bigger brighter signs and slower speed limits and better public transportation so it’s EASIER for you, not HARDER. That is called working together.

  2. Of course there are cyclists who will disobey laws no matter what, but often they are reacting to unsafe infrastructure. If there is a pot hole or glass on the side the cyclist needs to move into the travel lane to avoid it. One study found that cyclists who ran red lights actually had less crashes as those who waited for the green because the law abiding cyclists were more often hit by cars turning right after the light turned. Many European cities spend a sufficient amount of money on bike infrastructure so there is adequate room for everyone, resulting in way fewer injuries/deaths. When cyclists have that safe infrastructure they are less likely to disobey the laws.

    It’s true that crosswalks without extra features like flashing lights are actually more dangerous because they create a false sense of security. Some cities set up flags people can pick up on one side and wave while in the crosswalk then return at the other end. Also, some bike lanes can be more dangerous if located in the door zone where parked cars doors open and can hit cyclists in the bike lane. Installing bike lanes with a barrier or median between the auto travel lane and bike lane are safest.

    Regarding the last paragraph, I think it’s not “although,” it’s that these citizen efforts enhance the visibility and importance of issues of public concern, making them more likely to be considered and resolved.

    • Good points, Janel!

      I also think 311 is a terrible way to render where infrastructure needs to go. It should be based on bike/pedestrian data, crash/accident data and where marginalized people live and have been dis-invested in. Infrastructure improvements based on 311 calls could lead to more inequities and what people have access to in the city.

  3. What about when there is a need to remove a bike lane that is unsafe? currently I have a one block long bike lane on both sides of South Alamo from Cesar Chavez to S. Presa that was put in about ten years ago with no input from the local business owners. It makes no sense I see people on bikes using the sidewalk more than the bike lane because of all the heavy bus and truck traffic in our area. Usually the only time bikes are in the street is when they are in large packs and take up the whole street and not the bike lane. Those bike lanes have taken away alot of valuable parking spaces for the businesses along this stretch of S Alamo. Why have a bike lane that only goes one block.

  4. I was reading the article and almost spit out my morning tea when I saw my own name in the article. ha ha….

    I only learned 311 existed two weeks ago. I assumed their role was to put you through to who you should talk to, not actually take any sort of reports.

    I’m gonna call 311 this week with some of the things we are told we should call 311 about like non emergency situations like a need for a bike lane, etc and I’ll report back on how that goes! I recommend everyone else to do so also.

    I did call 311 this week when at dusk I saw a huge wooden sign that had fallen into the street (too big for me to move) and was completely over a bike lane and I felt this made sense because it was an immediate concern that needed someone to take care of it right away. Though on my bike ride home the sign WAS STILL in the road but now only ‘half way’ covering the bike lane. The next day it was finally off the road completely.

  5. How about removing street parking on Broadway side at the corner of Broadway and Jones and reinstating the bike lane that citizens already paid for in the first place. They could relocate street parking for visitors and commercial parking by chopping a part of the park on Jones Street. All we drivers and citizens want is a decent street not one where we have to be constantly invading incoming traffic lines at Broadway (Broadway and Jones corner).

    • 🤣😂😅😄 totally know your pains. I experienced that a lot while there as well! Luckily my bike is easy to carry and I wear easy off road jogging shoes with MTB spd clips. Maybe a combo remediation to drum up revenue to remove the 11% lead paint poisoning in the 78212 & 78203 can address sidewalk challenges at the same time ♡ I’ll keep praying for it!

  6. Having RAAM goals, though I dearly love the Ft. Sam Houston area of Texas where my father is laid to rest, it is one of the poorest quality cycling infrastructures I have personally experienced, though not the bottom. Despite being popular with boomers extending their quality of life, Cycling is great for low-mid level income means of transportation, especially during oil shortages caused by man or nature. With the potential of becoming a safe harbor city, San Antonio as the bulls eye of Texas would make a great starting point for connecting multi-use trails to other communities as well. Perhaps as a revenue generator for multi purpose infrastructure, Pullen passenger trains can be added to connect all the national/state parks from Liberty harbor through the Alamo to finally reaching the Vegas gold mines as international tourism demands go up to travel from east to west to enjoy their family holidays taking in America’s leadership in historical presevation and conservancy. Chicago has Amtrak an economical means that connects us to the west for a much more enjoyable ride than driving for 20 hours or missing the site by flying.

    My sympathy for meanie pant cyclists! Sadly tolerance is a well used tool for diplomats cuz people suk! Always in my thoughts and prayer dearest fellow Texans for your heart has always been in the right place! 👍👍👍Good Luck Team Tejas!

  7. You know that rule on trails, yield to the lower power? Motorized vehicles yield to bikes, bikes yield to pedestrians. Do a Google image search for “trail courtesy” and you’ll find variations of this hierarchy. The same applies in roadways. Humans on foot and bicycle are far more vulnerable in roadways than those in vehicles. If you hit a pedestrian going 20mph, they’ll likely survive, but at 40mph, they’ll likely die. Keep that in mind next time you drive 40 in a 30 where people may be walking (unless, of course, you don’t break rules while driving).

    If you’re in a vehicle, yield to humans. Period. If a 10-second delay on your trip is going to make you late for a meeting, you were going to be late anyway. Please stop acting like it’s such an inconvenience.

  8. bicyclist are a huge issue within the city, they seem to always feel the need to ride in the most inappropriate areas. No reason to be cycling down Stone oak Parkway Between 4PM and 6 PM with full I ride for the Federal Post Office gear.

    Texas , thus San Antonio is to spread out to have Bike lanes through out the city. One lane on each side of the road is an additional lane that could carry a car.

  9. I still can’t believe there’s not a way to request a street tree planting with 311 — including as tree a planting is a Tricentennial SA300 activity.

    This article helps to draw attention to not only how the 311 process but the City overall is out-of-step with pedestrian needs and actual conditions.

    The problem isn’t just residents not having easy ways to note where a crosswalk could be better, a bus bench is missing, the sidewalk lacks proper lighting or where a City tree well has been left empty for years. The main problem is we’re relying on the same folks tasked with fixing potholes and addressing storm water as managing all our pedestrian mobility concerns.

    This is why MOST cities (Houston, Austin, etc) have created mobility planning units that direct planning/urban design review AND capital improvements in pedestrian improvement work.

    TCI currently has nothing in their divisional structure that comes close to addressing key pedestrian mobility concerns including seating, lighting and tree/pedestrian cover. It’s why we keep spending dollars on street widening or resurfacing and parking while pedestrian and transit conditions have actually worsened in San Antonio in 2017.

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