It’s Time for a Safe-Streets Advocacy Group in San Antonio

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Hundreds of bikers take off for the 22 or 14-mile bike tour of the Missions. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

Those who walk, pedal, or commute by scooter need to make clear that City Hall must respond to pedestrian and cycling fatalities with a safe-streets plan.

San Antonio needs a safe-streets advocacy group that can accomplish for vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists what Tech Bloc accomplished in 2015 for rideshare advocates in the face of a resistant taxi monopoly and its elected allies.

It’s time now to demand that elected officials make an accelerated investment in public-space safety and infrastructure to make San Antonio’s streets safe for people. Some at City Hall, I am told, do not believe many voters in San Antonio care very much about the issue. City engineers focus almost exclusively on vehicle traffic flow, and unprotected bike lanes, for example, are only introduced piecemeal rather than part of an integrated network.

The people in this city who choose to walk, pedal, or commute by scooter are going to have to demonstrate that City Hall has an obligation to respond to pedestrian and cycling fatalities with a plan to make streets safe. This is no time for elected officials or staff to be guessing at public sentiment. It’s time for leaders to lead.

Any change, however, likely will take a call to action, the formation of a social media-driven advocacy group, some funding, and crowds of people committed to showing up.

The more than 50 comments posted on my Sunday column last week, San Antonio: A City Still Unsafe for Cyclists, Pedestrians, suggest there are enough of us to start a movement. The death of cyclist Tito Bradshaw could prove to be a turning point, a moment in time when people say enough is enough: Please, no more reckless or drunk drivers killing people walking and cycling on unsafe streets.

Tito Bradshaw.

Courtesy / Tito Bradshaw Facebook

Tito Bradshaw was fatally struck by a car April 1. Police say the driver of the car was drunk.

Streets do not need to be unsafe. The solutions are evident everywhere in other U.S. cities and in Europe, where many more people safely commute on foot and by cycle. For elected officials who believe San Antonio’s cycling community is small enough to ignore, I say give people safe streets and they will surprise you with their mobility choices.

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) is normally upbeat whenever we speak, which often as not is when one or both of us find ourselves cycling the same urban streets. Gonzales and her husband, Kevin Barton, are both avid cyclists, often with their small children in tow.

After reading my column last Sunday, Gonzales told me she doesn’t think the citizens of San Antonio want the kind of change that I and others are calling for, notably an integrated network of protected bike lanes that enable people to safely navigate the urban core. Thus, she said, elected officials likely will not act in the wake of two recent  pedestrian and cycling fatalities, both the victims of allegedly drunk drivers.

In the race among cities to create attractive, livable environments that attract people and good jobs, this official indifference damages San Antonio’s national profile.

Public health advocate Amanda Merck sounded an alarm in a recent Rivard Report commentary: Among 100 metro areas ranked, San Antonio is the 21st worst for pedestrians, according to the 2019 Dangerous by Design report by Smart Growth America.

Gonzales sounded dispirited when we spoke, which is unfortunate because no elected official has shown a greater commitment to public-space safety.

Together she and her husband brought the Vision Zero strategy to San Antonio more than five years ago. You can read Barton’s call to action published here in 2014, and Gonzales’ call to make San Antonio a Vision Zero city published here in 2015. We can reach back even further to a 2013 column that I wrote then that could be republished today, demonstrating the lack of real progress in San Antonio.

Vision Zero began in Europe in the 1990s as an initiative to eliminate all traffic fatalities in cities. It then spread to the United States, where there is now a network of more than 40 cities working to eliminate all traffic fatalities.

San Antonio has lost ground since Gonzales and Barton published their calls to action. At the same time, the City has struggled to find ways to invest adequately in VIA Metropolitan Transit and attract more people to embrace public transit. San Antonio ranks last among major Texas cities in such investment and is the largest U.S. city without some form of light rail.

None of the so-called master plans, including SA Tomorrow and ConnectSA, focus resources on making San Antonio’s streets safer. Elected officials and demographers all agree that San Antonio will grow by 1 million people or more over the next 20 years, but there is a distinct absence of commitment to change how people move around the city.

It’s a complete contradiction that elected officials are talking about a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, on the one hand, while not acting to reduce vehicle traffic and speed limits and creating safe streetscapes for people.

I want the tragic loss of Tito Bradshaw to mean something. I want him to be more than a memory to friends and fellow cyclists. I am not the only one talking about this being the time for a tectonic shift in City government and how it treats public-space safety. It will take all of us working together to finally be heard.

50 thoughts on “It’s Time for a Safe-Streets Advocacy Group in San Antonio

  1. I might have added to the first graf “and the aggressive lobbying efforts of Tech Bloc on behalf of the e-scooter industry that resulted in the city’s hands-off approach to regulation.” Pedestrians are also at risk as a result of their lobbying.

  2. Wasn’t Mr. Bradshaw killed by a drunk driver? Start there.

    How many bike and pedestrian deaths were as a result of carelessness or negligence on behalf of themselves? How many people actually live within realistic distance to use biking as a method that don’t already use it? How will you get it done without using any fuel tax money?

    If you can demonstrate that what you want won’t take away any more lanes, slow down traffic or otherwise demonstrate any other negative impact, then I’m all for it.

    • *negative impact to drivers.

      Btw, SA is not laid out like many European cities. What works in one area won’t necessarily work in another.

      • My son in law is an avid cyclist. How much money are we talking about to improve our streets? Keeping the bike lanes marked properly, more policing on the streets, I don’t know? Maybe we need the cyclists to come up with suggestions and set up a meeting with the mayor and the city council To discuss. This is not about what Europe has. This is about the city of San Antonio And it’s position in providing leadership thus safe lanes for cyclists. It occurs to me a marketing campaign as well to inform the public.

        Common mayor and council members!!

        Take the time to improve this matter immediately. No study program, action now!! Hell I may want to get on a bike.

        Hector Romeu

        • It’s not just drunk drivers, it’s wreck less drivers who don’t pay attention and part of that is lack of safe routes or bike lanes on our streets. My fiancé was hit and nearly killed two years ago on Broadway street, which needs much improvement. It’s a miracle he survived. The driver wasn’t drunk, just in a hurry and and ran the stop sign. It is beyond me how we can “develop broadway” street and others, by removing bike lanes and put in extremely dangerous parking spots! There’s no safe way around some areas of our downtown, where many of us live and bike to work. Repainting most of our wide streets with safe bike/scooter lanes isn’t costly, it’s using our already paved roads more efficiently. Shared use for everyone. Bob I’m on board to help advocate for change in the right direction for us cyclists, please let me know how I can help!

    • From my perspective, San Antonio transportation is one of the weakest/most backward aspects of the city. It’s shameful that automobile transportation is considered essential to almost any activity. People drive 20 minutes to get to golds gym. Think about that. Cars are death traps, and yet we willingly enter rush hour traffic, often with our children, because we believe there is no other way. We believe this because we have been fed it by corporations who have designed our lives in order to maximize their profit. Cars are some of the poorest investments a person can make. The cost of a car is what ties most people to the check to check rat race. It is also what makes people most sedentary. Sedentary=chronic disease=massive medical bills, poor quality of life, early death. Car companies spend billions to equate new cars with sex, social standing, normality, etc. while in reality, cars kill us, cut us off from our communities, bankrupt us, turn us into obese globules teetering on worn-away joints.
      People who bike regularly to accomplish what others accomplish by car are heroes. Thank you for showing us that there is another way. Thank you for showing us that we are not slaves to the corporate blueprint. Thank you for inspiring me daily.
      Rant over.
      I think dedicated and protected bike lanes in the core of the city is absolutely essential. Thanks for the article.

      • Sam:

        Please tell me how I am supposed to get my disabled, mobility-impaired wife to/from dialysis and her many doctors appointments without a van. And my truck performs numerous duties.

        I respect bikers as long as they are obeying the rules of the road. I even work with a colleague who bikes in to work every day, rain or shine. But when they feel that they have to thumb their noses at the law and not stop at the same signal that I am forced to stop, then we have problems.

        And I agree with the poster above on texters. PUT. THE. PHONE. DOWN.

          • To that point, almost every plan for transportation reform has allowances for access for those with disabilities. Also, VIATrans and regular VIA buses have access for people with disabilities for those who do not have access to private vehicles.

          • Sam:

            ViaTrans does not service her facility which is *just* outside 1604. Less than 1/2 mile. Chafes my chaps.

        • Steven Gordon – no one is proposing that you get rid of your van. No one is proposing that cars should go away. Those are red herrings. Just because someone else’s environment improves, it does not mean that your’s will get worse. Imagine if transit options were improved so there was actually LESS traffic while you took your wife for medical care. Also, re: traffic obedience, the implications/consequences of your running a stop sign in a 3000lb van are greater than on a 30lb bike. That is an objective fact. You are putting others at risk every time you drive in a way a bicycle does not.

    • The gas tax doesn’t pay for local streets. So saying that we need to pay for this without using the gas tax is a moot point. Studies also show that taking a four lane street and changing it to a two lane street with a turn lane and bike lanes doesn’t slow down through put or average speed.

  3. One way to approach the problem is to have demonstrations by your proposed activists group demanding that drivers be fined and/or charged with a crime every time one hits or kills a biker (or a pedestrian) who is in a legal place on the road at the time. Too often, we read that “no charges will be filed.”

    • This is driving the trend in the traffic planning community to stop refering to “accidents” and start talking about “crashes.”

      Oops, you’re dead. My bad! It was an accident.

  4. I hope that something can be done to improve bike rider safety. Unfortunately, at every intersection I still see people on their cell phones, so the no texting law doesn’t seem to have been taken seriously. You simply can’t legislate or fix stupid.

    • Your right about the texters. I don’t know what the Mayor can do about that! Maybe keep them out of the bike lanes before they kill somebody.

  5. Once again the byclist have no accountability. This week stand at Grayson and Broadway and see all the cyclists that don’t obey the laws. Watch how they don’t stick to the lanes cause they want to ride side by side as they speak to one another, watch how they pass red lights taking a chance to get hit on their own doing, watch how they ignore turning signals, the list goes on and on, seriously this week stand there and write about that next Sunday. Just saying.

  6. I see both sides blaming the other here.

    Motorists: YOU need to take responsibility by STAYING OFF YOUR PHONE (yes, as a motorist I still see many drivers with the phone in their hand), not drinking and driving (it would help by banning Fiesta for one year), and obeying the laws (speeding and cutting off is a MAJOR problem).

    Cyclists: YOU need to take responsibility by obeying the same laws as we do (or do not). Stop at stop signs and signals, use hand signals for turns, and obey all other traffic laws.

    Only by doing this we can get along.

  7. Whoever starts the proposed safe-streets advocacy group, count me in. I’ve had my share of close calls, but bicycles also represent part of the overall solution to many of our city’s most persistent problems, like traffic congestion, air pollution, transportation costs, and lack of exercise. San Antonio must address pedestrian and cyclist safety directly.

  8. The Howard Peak Greenway Trail System and the River Walk Trail System are about 200 miles, and growing. These integrated nature trails, along with an integrated sidewalk system, are an excellent safe transportation option.

    The Howard Peak Greenway Trail System, when completed, will make a loop larger than Loop 410.

    See NatureTrailMaps.net for integrated maps of nature trail maps in San Antonio.

    See the official trail maps in the City Parks and Recreation website, and, in the San Antonio River Authority website.

    • Love the trails – they’re basically a non-entity from a transportation point of view though. It would be dumb luck if you could ride one to work.

    • Yes! Love love love the linnear creekway trails! Many people do! But most have to drive to get there. Protected lanes connecting the surrounding neighborhoods to the creekway s would make the picture complete. Just as connecting points of interest with protected lanes in the urban core would do. We need this in our city now.

  9. I agree with the need for more pedestrian and bike friendly sidewalks, jogging and bike lanes through out the cities and county, but there also needs to be consideration given, responsibility taken, and respect given by them for the rules of the road and safety. As a driver, it is very difficult to see a pedestrian, jogger or rider, when they wear dark clothing, do not wear reflectors, or something that distinguishes them from their surroundings. Laws require vehicles, to have all of the bells and whistles, so why not have laws which require the same for others on the road, walking or riding. There also needs to be stricter requirements for consequences when the rules or laws are not adhered to. It seems like all the responsibility seems to be one sided and not equally shared by those who feel they are at risk when an accident or event occurs. If people would have more respect for each other’s space, pay attention, be aware of their surroundings, and think safety, we would all be better off for it.

  10. Dedicated lanes for scooters and bicyclists, so neither is forced on to sidewalks even though it is illegal or should be. Incentives for bike commuting. Hello! Why not dedicate funding? Our streets are funded, but not for everyone. It may be a “build it, and they will come” situation, but it should be a priority, as we are not where we need to be in this City. Thank you, Bob, and other commenters. It is election season. Your vote matters now. Keep up the dialogue!

  11. Designated safe lanes are long overdue and much welcomed! Providing safe lanes does help in not only lowering accident rates, but can contribute to lowering traffic & parking issues, noise, & environmental impact issues in high density areas. I will help how I can. Heres’s a brief outline of TX laws:
    bikelaw.com/2014/06/texas-bicycle-laws

  12. Both sides need to be responsible and there needs to be accountability. I’ve seen policemen in their cars cover crosswalk lanes, sidewalks, etc, and I’ve seen bicyclists zoom through red lights.

    I live on Flores and I was hit by a frickin car trying to cross the street. I’m alive today because my mobility chair is awesome and didn’t tip over, but if it had? I don’t want to imagine.

    I admit it. I didn’t cross at a crosswalk. Why? Because my way to the cross walk is always barred by escooters. Does the city care? No.

    Day in and out as I “walk” to work downtown, there isn’t a second where I don’t wonder, what next. Even before my accident, I’ve always been hyper-vigilante because I’ve had that many close calls. Drivers are in such a rush that I see them speed through red lights, jump curves, block right of ways. One woman nearly hit me because she was too busy putting on her make up!

    Escooters have made it worse because people tend to leave them wherever, blocking sidewalks and making it unsafe for wheelchairs.

    No one is saying cars are bad and innovation can be a good thing. But the lack of safety for pedestrians, wheelchair users, and bicyclists is getting out of hand.

    • How does the city justify the expense for ADA compliance? Are there that many people in wheelchairs? No, but it is the right thing to do and now it is federally mandated. There are some groups that require additional protections based on their status as vulnerable users. The many benefits of dedicated bike lanes and cycle paths have been well documented.

  13. Fellow citizens, let’s all try to slow down. Recently, a paramedic mentioned that people rushing everywhere factors significantly into serious accidents. Appreciate your health and those of your fellow citizens by slowing down.

    A simple immediate action citizens can lobby for is for speed limits to be lowered on non-highway roads. Seattle lowered it’s limits to 20 and 25 mph on all streets.

    To enforce, police could install cameras and mail violations and fines to auto owner’s.

  14. Very few ride bikes in this town.I feel a money grab and more regulation.Everyone just slow down.Avoid cycling at night and during rushhour.

    • Very few had iPhones before they existed too. Very few rode down the middle of Broadway before Siclovia. Very few rode down Salado Creek before the linnear creekway was built. There are many examples of cities where protected lanes have proven to be a huge success. We just need leadership to realize this and have the courage to put them in.

  15. So many comments from car drivers who seem defensive and threatened, as if someone will take their car away if other forms of transportation are made possible. You will get to drive your car as much as you want. I promise.

  16. San Antonio needs to become a more walkable city. Subdivisions ate built near one another but they are not connected by sidewalks. Bike lanes or even a street. There is a hodge podge of Bike Lanes, but very few of them are connected to one another. More protected bike lanes are needed in San Antonio.

  17. I feel like I need to bring up the new South Alamo bike lanes. A classic example of a well intentioned project gone wrong.

    A cyclist is more likely to be slammed by a carelessly opening car door. The lanes are that close to parked cars. And to make things worse, cars park partially in the lanes or on the white stripe.

  18. We have very few continuous routes where a protected, dedicated bicycle lane can be added without impacting traffic, meaning the remaining car lanes might be traveling a little bit slower. That said, Vision Zero calls for slower speeds in downtown areas as a safety measure so as a planner I would argue that slowing traffic is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is, and we saw this with the S. Flores bike lanes, is 79% of commuters drive in San Antonio and that percentage is even higher if you consider non-commuters. So unlike rideshare, the percentage of drivers who also ride a bicycle in mixed traffic is much lower. So when you do install facilities and they have an impact on traffic, you have a public outcry about that impact. I think the answer could like in greater public engagement in the protected bike lane projects that are proposed so cyclists, residents, and drivers can discuss the pros and cons and weigh them in an open setting. We need greater empathy for the vulnerable users of our roadways – bicyclists and pedestrians – and we all need to be able to give a little. No one knows better than the city engineers what can be built and how – unfortunately this is a political issue and the majority (i.e. driving public) does not yet see the need. Advocacy groups like Bike San Antonio and others are trying to change that and we do our best to educate both drivers and cyclists on roadway safety. The problem, however, is challenging.

    • Why is the planning process reactive and not proactive? Many projects are evaluated in large part based on their ability to provide remediation for documented crashes/problem areas. The projects get more points if there have been fatalities and serious injuries!
      How many people need to be killed or injured in an area to justify an improvement?
      Also, many times adverse car/bicycle incidents are simply not reported to Police.
      Transportation bicyclists are more likely to be people of color, immigrants or from other communities with historical distrust of Police. Police often do not respect cyclists and are not trained to report these incidents correctly so that they are represented in the database.

  19. We can’t even put in SIMPLE solutions! At Broadway / Mulberry, there is a BIG sign next to the turn signal on Broadway reminding motorists to YIELD to the crosswalk on the TURN signal, YET 100 feet to the west, there is NO low level “YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS” at the crosswalk at Avenue B / Mulberry. As a pedestrian, I HAVE HAD TO YIELD TO A POLICE OFFICER HERE!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!!!! In multiple locations, the first sign (Yield on crosswalk) should be posted at EVERY intersection along Broadway! Gee whiz, that might cost like $2,000!

    • Sadly a bike lane striped on the road would likely not have prevented a death like Tito’s. But its a good place to start changing the culture with understanding and accepting different forms of transportation.

  20. You are absolutely right. I quit riding San Antonio streets after being hit by a car, bumped by a school bus (at 40 mpd!), and run off the road by a cement truck. All were in broad daylight, and I was very visible (bright clothes and a warning flag). None of those drivers were drunk, but they weren’t looking for cyclists. Only one of them stopped to see if I was okay.

    We won’t have a livable city until we make walking and cycling safe. Add a million more people and we have more fatalities, L.A.-style traffic, and smog.

  21. Perhaps flooding the streets with scooters & bicycles and promoting them wasn’t such a good idea???

    More bicycles & more scooters on streets = more accidents, unless we just eliminate all cars to accommodate. Is that what we’re leading to?

  22. I submitted a comment that appeared to have been posted and taken down. I could be wrong but I do notice the comments are not in date/time order, but this could be from review of comments before posting. I hope comments that comply with the policy but against the RR positions are not being censored.

    In essence my comment criticized the RR for its continuous partisan support of downtown living and pedestrian/bike issues. I mentioned these partisan comments are within commentaries by Bob but I guess that is what a commentary is. For a nonprofit, I don’t agree with its employees posting commentaries.

      • I see this similar to The Express News using its paper to encourage its readers to organize its readers to advocate for the ban of all bicycles on public roadways. I think and “independent” media should not take a side one way or the other. I have no problem with The RR (a nonprofit organization) publishing commentaries. I just don’t think they should publicize commentaries from its own employees. I’m certain that if I wrote a commentary that encourages the development of an advocacy group to eliminate bicycles on public roadways, the commentary would not be published by The RR. They have censored me in the past for comments I have made that certainly didn’t seem to violate their policy. I have read comments that seem in clear violation of their policy. They just are not that consistent which leads me to think they are partisan regarding issues they support.

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