Local Advocacy Group Calls for Protected Bikeways on Broadway

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A cyclist heading North on Broadway near Brooklyn Avenue checks backward for vehicles.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

A cyclist heading north on Broadway near Brooklyn Avenue looks back to check for vehicles.

Bike San Antonio, a new local nonprofit advocacy group working to improve the city's bicycle environment, has kicked off its campaign to install bike lanes with a physical barrier on Broadway Street.

A major cyclist corridor, the Broadway route must be made safe for the 8- to 80-year-old cyclists who frequent it. According to Bike San Antonio’s surveys, this is cyclists’ most requested project.

Proposition 1 of the City's 2017 bond package allocates $42 million to redevelop the Broadway Street Corridor from East Hildebrand Avenue to East Houston Street. The plan is currently in the design phase, but preliminary ideas include improved lighting, buried utilities, and more trees, among others.

The most recent design of the three-mile project only allocates unspecified bike amenities to less than a half-mile south of Hildebrand. In contrast, Bike San Antonio envisions a complete street that accommodates all modes of transportation equally.

Broadway has the potential to develop into a true main street backbone of the city, and as such could become a symbolic representation of San Antonio’s character. The Broadway redevelopment is an excellent opportunity to showcase San Antonio as a city of the future that cares about the safety of its citizens and understands that more bikes on the roads is a good thing.

Therefore, designs for new developments must keep in mind how they will fit into the future fabric of the city and how they will serve future residents, not just current needs. It’s time for San Antonio to show it’s serious about improving air quality and the well-being of its residents.

We consistently hear that San Antonio wants more people to use bicycles, but the City has yet to build anything significant that shows it’s serious about Vision Zero and promoting bicycling.

Investing in bicycle infrastructure is beneficial for the city in many ways: Bicycling has been shown to improve people’s mental well-being and self-esteem, and can potentially be as effective as psychotherapy. Additionally, a new study found that cycling just 30 miles per week cuts the risks for heart disease and cancer in half. It also decreases air pollution and wear on the roads, which reduces municipal costs in the long run.

Broadway Street is a popular street for vehicles, cyclists, small businesses, and pedestrians.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

A cyclists shares the road with vehicles on Broadway Street.

Among cities with more than 1 million residents, San Antonio scores lowest on walk and bike scores. With 100 being the best, we have a walk score of 38 and a bike score of 42. Especially for low-income citizens, commuting by bicycle may be the only option. Auto-oriented, car-dependent cities put those who can’t drive or afford a car at a disadvantage, and all citizens deserve safe, comfortable, and convenient ways to get around.

Installing a safe and connected bike network would increase bike usage, thereby decreasing auto traffic. Fifty-three percent of people surveyed for a recent study said they would like to bike more, but are concerned about their safety due to car traffic.

Broadway Street is a popular street for vehicles, cyclists, small businesses, and pedestrians.The current design calls for the bikeway to divert to Avenue B, but many cyclists prefer to bike on Broadway because it’s more direct. The majority of business entrances face Broadway, not Avenue B – which is essentially an alleyway where the dumpsters are kept and where the delivery trucks park to unload their goods.

A total of 247 people took Bike SA's survey on cyclist safety in San Antonio. Respondents gave the city 49 out of 100 points, with 0 being "unsafe" and 100 meaning they feel "very safe" biking in the city. More than one-third of respondents reported having been in a crash while cycling. Seventy-seven percent of those crashes were auto-related, with 16 percent due to poor infrastructureOverall, a majority of respondents – 64 percent – want more bike paths and lanes. In a Facebook poll, Broadway was a top pick for a protected bikeway. See all results here.

The final public input meeting on the Boradway redesign will take place this fall, and Bike San Antonio will send out a message to those who have signed up once details are made public. To get updates about the plans, click here or visit Bike San Antonio on Facebook.

 

This article includes contributions from Daniel Day, a long haul truck driver who has commuted by bicycle in San Antonio since 2001. He's the author of the blog Bicycle San Antonio.

46 thoughts on “Local Advocacy Group Calls for Protected Bikeways on Broadway

  1. I would 100% support protected bikelanes on broadway. Would be great for tourists to get around, especially if it connects all the way down to the CBD one day. A good means of transportation, would allow them to easily and safely navigate from downtown amenities to shops at the Pearl and the Doseum and Witte

  2. I drive Broadway 6 days a week and would hate to see fewer lanes for vehicles. This is a very busy street with a lot of high density and low density housing and businesses. This isn’t just a tourist area. I strongly support better protection for bicyclists and am sorry to hear that they find using Avenue B less convenient. The survey is fine for getting input from bicyclist but how about those who must use cars on a daily basis?

    • To be honest, the debate really isn’t about whether Broadway will be going down to 2 lanes per direction. In all likelihood, that is going to happen as Broadway once served as US81, a role that was superseded by I-35 50 years ago. I may be wrong about you having to worry about your commute times, but can we try just once to give bike commuters equal concern. If your commute times are lengthened let Google reroute you there’s New Braunfels, N. Alamo, 281, Ave. B. As you mentioned, it’s a vital commercial district, so why route commuter cars through it, and bikes away from it?

      • Ave B was designed as a bike lane in both directions back in the 90’s when it was a 2 lane road, but people trying to get to the on ramp to 281 north at Josephine still drove in both lanes thus hitting cyclist that rode this route, till the mid 2000 period when the city removed vehicle traffic north of there till 2012 from 2 ways to one way. but it will take several years to do a impact study to determine what can be done to Broadway from Wetmore to Houston street downtown and some may want to think of this there are 2 sub-townships along Broadway that have a say in the widening or taking away traffic thru these areas. also, there are many shops and business owners that will complain on changing Broadway.

  3. Many cities have installed protected bikeways on similar streets with similar volumes as Broadway and found little to no increased delay for autos.

  4. I don’t see where the room is going to come from? Ever driven Broadway? It’s bumper to bumper. “calming” techniques don’t do anything but irritate. Tourists aren’t going to ride a bike down Broadway 7-8 months out of the year. I’m sorry that they find Avenue B “inconvenient”. I find all the potholes, poor road maintenance, and crappy pothole repairs to be inconvenient, too, and my taxes are supposed to be paying for that.

    • Actually, I live near the area and have to take Broadway on a daily basis to get to work. I can’t afford a car and all I have is a bike. Broadway used to have a bike lane but as you said the city doesnt maintain the road. If we had protective bike lanes, it would mean one less thing to maintain because the barrier would last for years compare to a white line drawn on the road. Also about taxes, they’re supposed to pay for everything, not just what you and only you want to pay for them.

    • The bumper to bumper I think you’re referring to is North of Hildebrand and part of Alamo Hts jurisdiction-this article is talking about Broadway south of Hildebrand. In fact, in many ways SA is going for some (NOT ALL) of the same effects. The traffic calming measures that cause the high traffic are, in fact, very intentional. The timing and speed limits give left turns and cross streets more than usual. This is not ideal for through traffic but it’s great for business and is one of the ingredients that makes that section of Broadway such a success-if you’re not a through commuter. Really, contrast this with Austin Hwy. The lights are fewer and timed for the 45 MPH speed limts. Has more of a suburban feel, doesn’t it?

      Also, let’s keep proportion in mind when talking about where our taxes are going. By definition, every street in SA has car lanes, it’s not like anybody’s realistically suggesting a protected bike lane on every street.

    • So let me get this straight, traffic is bad down Broadway and slowing down is going to make it worse even though they plan to to reduce the Number of travel lanes.
      Sounds like from your comment that you don’t really like driving. Imagine that you didn’t have to drive to your destination, but you could use walking or even ride your a bicycle down a protected area bike lane. But we can’t do that, because offering other competitive options, that’s nonsense.
      Oh and I drive an 18 wheeler for a living, and traffic on Broadway is okay. I suggest that you move to Austin, Atlanta, or my favorite, Washington DC. Then you will find out about that’s Broadway isn’t bad, but really nice.

  5. Although Avenue B may be a slight diversion it will take very little time off a total commute to downtown. I have ridden both hundreds of times and actually prefer the Avenue B route since it usually carries less vehicular traffic.The best time to ride Broadway is on Sunday morning otherwise it is congested. I do agree that (except for some of the newer trail systems) the city has done very little to enhance cycling in town and the city could be a wonderful cycle friendly location if the public attitude and will was behind the effort.

  6. Saying that Broadway doesn’t have enough room for bike lanes is silly. North of Newell, it’s 3 lanes both directions plus a turning lane. Plenty of room for protected bike lanes. I think once a month half of Broadway should be closed “Siclovia Style” for weekday commuters. Us bikers are forced to use an unsafe Broadway, unlike the cars which have a choice – 281 is right there, ready to take you north | south.

    • How is getting onto 281 to go one or two exits for an auto driver any less inconvenient than asking bicyclists to use Avenue B? 281 is brutally busy and only going to get more so. North of Newell there is a huge increase in housing density and busy businesses, the extra lane makes sense not because of space but because of traffic load. Turning lanes make sense. Having to take a right turn across a dedicated bike lane is going to be very dangerous for all involved. Not all weekday commuters have the option to use a bicyclist.

      • Because Avenue B doesn’t really go that far. And most of us who actually live in the area actually ride our bikes to get to work to save money. Hell I can’t even afford to buy a car. And your telling me you can’t pay and additional 5 seconds to pay attention to avoid someone who is either walking across the turning lane of a cross walk or ridding their bike on a bike lane, then maybe you shouldn’t be driving at all.

        • I’ve had bicyclists try to pass me on my right while I’m making a right handed turn, at a stop sign. I’ve had cyclists pull around and in front of me while I’m at a red light. I’ve seen cyclists sail through red lights forcing automobiles to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting them. Since you ask, I’m always pay attention to cross walks AND I both live and work in the area and MUST drive a car. You are right on one point, Avenue B really should be extended and well maintained if that is going to be the solution.

  7. Many cities are re-invisioning what have been bike only lanes to include other items, like those mini-scooters that have no place in a pedestrian environment.

    I wonder if the real issue is enforcement of the bike lanes rather than dedicating a lane to bicycles that hardly make up enough volume to deserve an entire lane to themselves.

    Good conversation that could provoke an official community engagement process that actually works…there is not one presently that the city uses…each department is on their own!

    • Your comments reminded me of something I saw last week. In the Tobin Hill area there are some dedicated (but unprotected) bike lanes. Those markings are so pale on the street that unless you drive there regularly you may not notice them. I saw someone driving on the bike lane as if it weren’t even there. So yes, enforcement and maintenance (really, it can’t cost much to re-stripe a few streets) is sorely needed.

  8. I’ve ridden my bike down Broadway many times and it never feels safe. The worst is when you’re trying to be courteous of autos by riding only in the far right lane and a bus plants itself right in front of you at a stop. Cars will not let you go around as they have just done, or have any patience with you. So you either wait behind the bus breathing the fumes and killing your momentum or risk your life trying to get around it. I often opt for the second option because it’s also really dangerous to kill your momentum on a busy street like Broadway. I think this is also the reason why you see many cyclists running red lights. Not just because they feel cool or like they can get away with it…but when you come to a complete stop it takes you longer to regain pace of traffic and you have to hope people will give you time to regain speed (they won’t) instead of weaving around you in the same lane (they will). I don’t like to ride on sidewalks but I will if I feel like I’m at a greater risk of being clipped by an unsympathetic driver. We all get that way, myself included, not one to judge, just a fact around here.

    I’ve taken alternative routes (New Braunfels) but would support access to businesses along Broadway and a straight shot to down town. After a few bad times I’ve pretty much just stopped riding my bike since I’ve been in some major bike accidents before and it’s no longer worth the risk to me to try and make it to the river and ride along that. I find pedestrians hate that too so it leaves bikes with fewer safe options and a lot of navigating through neighborhoods getting turned around and wasting time trying to find your way, to the point of making it more worthwhile to just Uber.

    • Well said Richard. Anyone who rides the main streets in San Antonio does so at great risk. A protected bike lane along Broadway would be great for both bikers and drivers. When driving it is very stressful to me to pass bikers because I don’t want to get too close to them. As a biker I would love to be able to ride all the way downtown safely, as is possible in other cities.

    • I find that Avenue B is an excellent, parallel, and pretty bike-friendly alternative to Broadway. I recommend trying it. From the Tobin Center to the Witte Museum/Brackenridge Park/Tuleta, there is often little or no traffic, and certainly no high-speed traffic or buses or trucks, as on Broadway. I regularly bike from southtown/Blue Star area to Brackenridge Park via Ave. B and then on to The Quarry via Devine Road. Whatever money people are intending to spend on Broadway bike lanes.. I’d rather see that money spent on designating Ave. B as an official bike route, and on making sure it stays bike-friendly. If bike lanes impede traffic on Broadway, the result will be that more people will be against bike lanes in the future for corridors that really do NOT have good parallel alternative routes (like S. St. Marys, S. Presa, S. Flores, etc.)

  9. The Rivard Report states “Especially for low-income citizens, commuting by bicycle may be the only option.”

    Especially for large City improvements projects, we should implement integrated transportation solutions which include nature trails, side walks, VIA bus routes and other options- for facilitating safe walking and biking.

    See NatureTrailMaps.net for one way to help integrate nature trails with VIA bus routes.

  10. Many of us, myself included, have appear to enjoy playing the role of armchair traffic engineer/planner. In all honesty, I think we ought to be giving cyclists exactly WHAT THEY WANT, without compromise, FOR ONCE. And this is very clearly the leading priority for SA’s activist bike community. To the city’s credit and to the voters’ credit, the interests of the cycling community are finally gaining some traction. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But we are at a critical point where the city needs to make good on it’s implied promises and political good will and they need to recognize just how much the cycling community wants to start here, and say “All RIGHT, we hear you loud and clear! YOU WIN!” And I realize that I’m just focusing on this as a symbolic gesture of good faith, but that’s REALLY IMPORTANT in politics and part of what sets us apart from other cities. So for once, give them a non-watered-down version of what they want and put the interests of cars and mass transit second. (Disclaimer: I myself am an avid cyclist and a huge proponent of public transit).

    • And I don’t think that every big political decision should be a grand gesture. But when was the last time commuting cyclists got something at the expense of other interests? And the Greenways are great but they’re for recreation.

  11. I support bike lanes with a physical barrier on Broadway. Many San Antonio residents and visitors have cycled along the street for years despite it being unsafe. It’s true Broadway is busy, that buses and turn lanes present hazards, and it will annoy some motorists, but in order for San Antonio to be bicycle-friendly, people should be able to commute around the city by bike at any time–not just occasionally, or for leisure. If the protected lanes are there, people who haven’t cycled before or thought about it from that perspective may be more likely to try it.

  12. I ride from Broadway and Lawndale all the way south on Broadway to the Downtown about once a week for the last 4 Years.
    This is about a 8mile commute. Things start to get tricky after Central Market. Crossing Hildebrand can be a nightmare. And Avenue B does not allow you access to many of the business on Broadway. A protected bike lane would greatly improve my commute and would allow more potential cyclists to feel safe on the road. 6 lanes for cars is unnecessary and cyclist deserve their own space as well. Siclovia is an amazing event but with protected bike lanes Siclovia could be everyday. I whole heartedly endorse a protected bike lane on Broadway!!!

    • I bike Ave. B between downtown and Tuleta (Brackenridge Park) regulary. From Ave. B, you have easy access to any business on Broadway. In fact, most of the businesses on the west side of the street have entries on Ave. B. I don’t understand people who think business access is a problem from Ave. B.

  13. This is not Japan/China/Europe/New York………………….. this is TEXAS, get the bicycles off the streets, keep them in the hoods

    • I’m very proud to call myself a native Texan and I’ve only lived elsewhere for two years…but I would never think we’re so good that we can’t learn a thing or two from other places.

  14. If you think about what features make this city great, it’s about people and people-oriented public spaces, not automobiles and freeways. Think about the river walk. Public space dedicated to people (walking and biking) should be given priority to ensure a healthier, sustainable and more prosperous future for this city. It’s not hard to envision how successful protected lanes could be when you look at the great success of Siclovia and the precedent set by other cities with great biking infrastructure (Amsterdam, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, etc.). Our linear creekways are another example of how people love these spaces. Hildebrand to Houston would be a great start. I would love to see it go further each direction to connect with more people in the neighborhoods to the north of Hildebrand and south of downtown along S Alamo and S St Marys / Mission Rd. Biking is a viable sustainable people oriented alternative to automobiles which have been given too much of our public space.

  15. You know what? Most of the bicyclist I see on broadway are all decked out like they’re training for le tour de France with their spandex clothing and all. They don’t look like they’re commuting to work. They need to use the bike trails at parks instead of using Broadway st. as their place of training or workout. Hardly ever see any tourists or commuters riding their bikes down there. No point in making a designated bike lane.

    • I would imagine that many tourists would take advantage of protected cycling lanes if they were available. Many tourists & locals avoid the Broadway corridor because they would feel unsafe.

  16. After reading what everyone had to say, I think it would be a good idea would to turn North Alamo into a one way street northbound and Broadway into a one way southbound from Houston street to Cunningham Avenue. This would provide ample room for expansion of sidewalks for cafe and eatery tables and bicycle lanes on Broadway while also allowing pehaps an additional lane on Broadway. This would also allow for retail and eateries and other businesses to expand onto Alamo street and not just be limited to Broadway. Win-Win!

  17. I moved to San Antonio a year ago and while I have been surprised by the lack of bike friendly streets, I’ve also been impressed with the developing greenways, new multi-use paths up near UTSA and thriving cycling clubs. Making this road bike friendly would be a great stride forward for this city.

  18. The real issue is cost. Everyone wants safer streets. A simple curb between automobiles and a dedicated bike lane can cost $200,000 A BLOCK. No kidding. Where should we advocate for THAT kind of money?

    • What about the indirect costs of pollution on our health and environment? The costs of obesity on our health systems? The costs of crashes due to streets designed to get autos from a to b quickly, without consideration of accommodating other modes. The safer the streets are for pedestrians and cyclists, the more they will get out and exercise, walk around and meet one another, visit local shops and inject life into the local economy.

  19. I wish I would see more from SA Vision Zero is with the bike Broadway initiative. This seems right up their wheelhouse. To me personally, I feel they are not doing enough.

  20. I’d say you are correct. We found these facts:

    The City of San Antonio signed onto the Vision Zero initiative in September 2015, becoming part of a nationwide effort to eliminate all traffic fatalities.

    San Antonio is not projected to reach its Vision Zero and SA Tomorrow SA2020 goal of zero pedestrian/cyclist fatalities and injuries by 2020. As of 2016, there were 2,912 pedestrian/cyclist injuries and fatalities. Traffic fatalities are actually increasing.

    San Antonio’s SA2020 goal for Complete Streets is 6,465 miles by 2020. Yet, as of 2016, there were only 2,370 miles of Complete Streets.

    In San Antonio, 80 percent of severe or fatal crashes occur on main arterial roads with speeds posted at more than 35 mph.

    Motorists regularly drive far over the posted 35 mph speed limit on Broadway Street.

    Protected bikeways decrease traffic crashes. After New York City installed a protected green bike lane, bicycling increased 56 percent on weekdays, crashes decreased 34 percent, speeding decreased, sidewalk riding decreased and traffic flow remained similar.

    The SA2020 Green Dividend (2014) shows that if every person in San Antonio MSA drove one mile less per day, we could see a decrease in annual driving expenses of $453 million.

    1. http://dashboard.sa2020.org/progress_type/transportation/136/
    2. http://dashboard.sa2020.org/progress_type/transportation/125/
    3. https://therivardreport.com/vision-zero-initiative-calls-for-reduced-speed-limits-is-san-antonio-ready/
    4. http://www.ecwrpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Bike-Lane-Quick-Facts.pdf
    5. https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2188&context=urban_facpub

  21. Protected bike lanes on Broadway would be awesome, but Avenue B is already an excellent alternative route that is already safe, low-traffic, very pleasant, very bike-friendly and reasonably direct. I bike Ave. B from downtown (Houston St.) to Tuleta (Brackeridge Park) several times a week. Where good alternative routes DO exist (like Ave. B), the FIRST priority should be to make sure that those alternative routes remain safe and bike-friendly, with good road surfaces, good lighting, etc

    Why should efforts to get bike lanes on major corridors such as Broadway require dissuading people from biking on existing, safe and bike-friendly alternative routes? It makes absolutely no sense to me.
    I support bike lanes, but making a strong case for bike lanes on Broadway should NOT require making spurious and obtuse arguments that there are dumpsters, problems accessing businesses on Broadway, that it is not a perfectly straight route, etc. I expect those arguments are meant to sway people (like city council members?) who are unfamiliar with the area or who have never biked that corridor.

    There are other major corridors where bike lanes would increase safety and quality of life to a MUCH greater degree for a MUCH larger number of people, for example South Flores, South St. Mary’s, South Presa, etc. For those major corridors (S. Flores, S. St. Mary’s, S. Presa), there is no reasonably direct, low-traffic, safe and bike-friendly alternative. The major East-West corridors (East and West Commerce, E. Houston, Woodlawn, etc.) already have good alternative routes through the residential neighborhoods (and I have biked them many times). Before putting bike lanes on any major corridor, I think it makes sense for a city to first begin by officially designating an appropriate and bike-friendly alternative route, if one exists. The first priority should be to make sure those alternative routes remain safe and bike-friendly by improving road-surface quality, improving lighting, enforcing existing ordinances re. loose dogs, etc.

    Designating good alternative bike routes is much more of a win-win solution; cyclists are happy because they get safe, bike-friendly routes along major corridors, and drivers are happy that car/truck/bus traffic is not impeded. When vehicular traffic is impeded by bike lanes, it just increases the resistance to future bike lanes. Sad but true in this culture.

    • We are asking for the Broadway bike lane because this is where the money is set to go right now. We are generating interest and even with these disagreements, some attention to the fact cyclists don’t have adequate infrastructure. Broadway can be a great street, and more bikes/scooters/share bikes will improve business. It has also been proven that when people see bikeways, when they are more visible, especially safe ones, people are more likely to try biking. So having bikes on Ave B rather than Broadway may actually be a disservice to increasing cycling.

  22. A few random thoughts.
    -Avenue B near downtown is going to get a lot busier with all the new housing being built and there will be more car vs bike situations, I don’t think Avenue B will feel quite like it does now anymore. I’m currently a big Avenue B fan but if there was a good protected bike lane on Broadway I’d switch for a longer stretch of riding instead of scooting around in the weird route I take downtown now (yes I even hop on the Museum Reach River Walk for a short section, which isn’t always the best place for biking, though beautiful!)
    -Protected Bike Lanes are a joy to ride in and people who are nervous riders or less experienced are likely to use them more often and faster vehicle traffic like them too because there are less conflicts/riders rolling around cars on the left etc (yes I’ve seen some really terrible-harmful to your life bike behaviors SA!)
    -When Vancouver Canada hosted the Olympics they invested in long stretches of protected bike lanes. Oh my goodness getting around by bike was sweet my last visit and great because I didn’t know the city but felt very safe riding and a great use of money they had that can be used and enjoyed for years to come.
    -Putting more commuter bikes on Broadway instead of faster/exercise time riders will show that San Antonio Bikes!
    -I agree with sentiments of Janette Sadik-Khan, former transportation commissioner in NYC in the video posted above. If she can make biking win-win in NYC, she knows a thing or too and I think it shows our foresight as a growing city that we have to try some new things and adjust our streets to meet those new needs.

  23. I think the mission trail curfew should be repealed as long as there is sufficient lighting along the river. I live on the Southside and use it as a safe option to ride to the bluestar and downtown.
    Southside is so under developed that its the only real safe option for riders

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