Mayor Calls for More Protected Bike Lanes as Broadway Corridor Remains Under Review

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A woman rides her bike down to Mahncke Park along Broadway Street. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

A woman rides her bike down to Mahncke Park along Broadway Street.

City of San Antonio officials continue to meet with stakeholders to discuss how to use the narrowest sections of a redeveloped Broadway Street, but as of Wednesday, the plan remains to divert bicycle infrastructure to side streets to allow for more vehicular and pedestrian use.

Public input meetings on Broadway’s design were slated to take place earlier this year, pending City staff conversations with area property owners and developers, but now the City expects to host one during the summer, a City spokeswoman said.

It’s unclear if that will delay the scheduled fall 2019 groundbreaking of the first phase and completion of the larger $42 million Broadway bond project approved by voters in 2016. The lower, narrower section of Broadway was slated for completion in 2021.

This map shows proposed bike facilities on North Alamo, Avenue B, and Broadway Street.

Courtesy / City of San Antonio

This map shows proposed bike facilities on North Alamo, Avenue B, and Broadway Street.

Cycling advocacy group Bike San Antonio would prefer a protected bike lane – or at least separated lane – to use space currently reserved for wider sidewalks and vehicular drop-off and pickup points, but gave a cautious, preliminary nod of approval for a plan that would provide such lanes on streets one block on either side of Broadway. Pearl developer Silver Ventures is collaborating with GrayStreet Partners, which also owns several properties around Broadway, on enhancing Avenue B’s bike infrastructure.

“We’d be okay with having protected bike lanes on Avenue B – if they can guarantee that it would be funded and finished at the same time as Broadway,” said Janel Sterbentz, founder and director of Bike San Antonio. 

If the public meeting this summer is truly meant to inform the design, Sterbentz said, then construction delays could occur while that design is adjusted and finalized.

A cyclist travels along Avenue B heading North parallel to Broadway.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Commuter David Bibbs travels north on Avenue B that runs parallel with Broadway, the current proposed route for cyclists in the redesign of Broadway Street.

“We are still reviewing options and continuing discussions with various stakeholders for the Broadway corridor,” said Art Reinhardt, interim deputy director of the City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements department.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said future bike infrastructure projects should prioritize protected bike lanes.

“We need to take a more focused approach to a safe bicycle master plan for the city and that includes hardened barriers for bicycle paths and vehicular traffic,” he said.

Conversations surrounding lack of infrastructure and cycling safety in San Antonio have become louder in recent weeks following the death of cycling advocate Tito Bradshaw, who was struck by an alleged drunk driver on Houston Street earlier this month.

“I have just recently directed ConnectSA to make sure that we’re underscoring [protected bike lanes],” Nirenberg said. “Enough is enough. We don’t need any more cyclists dying because they’ve been hit by cars.”

ConnectSA, the task force created to formulate a comprehensive multimodal transportation plan for San Antonio, is in the early stages of collecting input from residents, businesses, and other groups. Click here to view Nirenberg’s letter to the ConnectSA board.

As for the Broadway project, he said later via text, “We need to do everything we can to make San Antonio a safe city for cyclists. I want to find a way to make that work on Broadway as well.”

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who is challenging Nirenberg for his seat in the May 4 election, shared the Mayor’s sentiment but noted his first priority would be toward pedestrians and then cyclists.

“We have to have a real conversation about protected bike lanes. I’ve learned that striping is not going to cut it. Frankly, people are parking their cars right in the middle of those striped protected bike lanes,” Brockhouse said during a mayoral debate hosted by the Rivard Report Wednesday night.

Many developers and business owners want to see wide sidewalks and vehicular pull-off points maintained in the plan to promote more commercial activity.

Removing all other street amenities for bike lanes would deny patrons the use of streets and sidewalks, said Bill Shown, Silver Ventures’ managing director of real estate, in February.

“In an effort to try to accommodate bikes in those narrow parts of Broadway, we’ll wind up with a street that pleases no one,” he said. “This is not pro-bike or anti-bike, this is pro good design.”

While Broadway is the north-south corridor for north of downtown, South Alamo Street is considered a similar thoroughfare from downtown to points south. From Commerce Street to south to César E. Chávez Street, a multimodal boulevard is planned to enhance the offerings of Hemisfair’s Civic Park.

This map shows the various activity zones in Yanaguana and Civic parks in Hemisfair while outlining the next phase: Tower Park.

Courtesy / Hemisfair

This map shows the various activity zones in Yanaguana and Civic parks in Hemisfair.

“For many decades, traffic engineers have driven the configuration of street infrastructure [based on the needs of cars], but starting with the South Alamo Street design surrounding Hemisfair, the City has begun to capture a level of service for all users of the right of way,” said Andres Andujar, CEO of Hemisfair. “That’s an important calculation because it’s a question of equity in the use of public space.”

While South Alamo Street is much wider than Broadway as it approaches downtown, features like car pull-offs and extra-wide sidewalks should not take precedent, Andujar said.

“Motorists have more flexibility,” he said, and can drop people off on side streets. 

Once completed in 2021 or 2022 alongside Civic Park’s opening, South Alamo can “serve as an example for what is possible in public right-of-ways.”

A petition launched by Bike San Antonio to establish a memorial “bikeway” on Houston Street in honor of Bradshaw has received more than 3,000 digital and paper signatures, Sterbentz said.

Sterbentz encouraged those who want to see additional investment in safer streets for all users to participate in the City’s budget input process. The City is currently collecting input for the fiscal year 2020 budget through an online survey and there will be more events and engagement planned throughout this year. 

18 thoughts on “Mayor Calls for More Protected Bike Lanes as Broadway Corridor Remains Under Review

  1. “We don’t need anymore cyclists dying because they’re hit by cars”. Are there autonomous vehicles on the road already? The car isn’t the problem Ron. By that logic, the street is the real culprit.

    • There is absolutely nothing wrong with that statement.

      He isn’t saying a car became sentient and decided to homicidal and kill a bicyclist. But, it was the cars speed, weight and impact that caused the death.

      A human didn’t run into Bradshaw. A car ran into Bradshaw.

        • I agree with your clarification Troy but I think everyone realizes that even a dedicated bike lane with a normal sized barrier wouldn’t have stopped a drunk driver from running over a cyclist in that dedicated lane. I’ve seen similar barriers, street curbs and sidewalks jumped by drunk drivers that led to injury of someone outside of the vehicle. But no matter how much we improve drunk driving prevention, there will always be that one and all it takes is one to cause a death. Seriously, the lady was drunk on a Tuesday by 4 PM so unless you have an idea on how to prevent that type of behavior from every happening again, your comment doesn’t really serve any purpose.

          Those barriers would save lives of cyclist dealing with sober yet aggressive drivers though.

  2. Cyclists, the well intentions of diverting bicycle traffic to side streets has NOTHING to do with pedestrian traffic safety and it has MUCH TO DO with raising additional bind funds to build cyclist lanes (that tax payers already paid the first time around on BROADWAY and which the city later turn around and granted business street parking to apartment developers. SEE CORNER OR BROADWAY AND JONES and ALL ALONG BROADWAY CORRIDOR WHERE BIKE LANES WHERE ALREADY MARKED AND THEY MYSTERIOUSLY GET LOST AND OVER RUN BY SIDEWALK, STREET PARKING AND PLANTERS! So the plant to divert bicycle traffic to ALAMO and to AVENUE B, has more to do with freeing up current segments of bike lanes for future grant of street parking to developers. Also, once MAJOR development continues to expand to Alamo and Avenue B as we already see it, those bike lanes will disappear as well, mark my words. We need to fight to keep a decent and necessary bike lane, wherever that is now and for which tax payers already approve and are paying with bonds.

  3. There is sense of scarcity that’s making it hard for the city to make bigger leaps on bike infrastructure, and making it hard for cycling advocates to give the city some leeway on a project like Broadway. The bike system is so deficient, and there are so few improvement opportunities on offer by the city, that bicyclists naturally feel a pretty huge sense of urgency and weight with the Broadway project.

    If the city were making more progress on more streets every year, it would be easier to find middle ground on any given project. Every year the city repaves and restripes hundreds of miles of streets, and should invest a marginal extra amount in upfront design to stripe buffered bike lanes into a fraction of these projects while the crews are already out there.

    Doing that is actually hard, because the City’s official policy to invest in a multi-modal transportation system hasn’t sunk into the budgets, the traditional engineering culture, the performance measures that guide decision-making, and the culture of city council who have to fear a backlash from a tiny minority of the tiny minority of people who actually vote every two years. So its hard, but not even close to impossible. Engineers and administrators, implement the city policy in your recommendations and decisions. City Council, demonstrate courage and integrity. In five short years, by the time the next bike master plan is just starting to get implemented, you can already have gotten a lot done.

  4. Two pictures accompany this article. In neither photo is the bicyclist wearing a helmet. Please screen future photos and publish only those in which riders are wearing helmets. This could be a first step in safety awareness. Thank you.

    • Nice point. I have not read any articles about wearing of safety equipment and bicyclists’ injuries. Might make an interesting story.

    • The debate over helmet use in bicyclists is a diversion tactic ungrounded in facts. The vast majority of crashes where a driver injures or kills someone on a bicycle would not have ended differently had the cyclist been wearing a helmet. Furthermore, studies show that drivers act more aggressively toward bicyclists that wear helmets than toward those who don’t, and helmet requirements also deter people from riding altogether. Pretending that bicyclists are the culprits who need better behavior is simply not based in reality. The common tropes about cyclists “breaking the law” deflect from the thousands of drivers around our city who, on the daily, speed, fail to come to complete stops, fail to signal when changing lanes or turning, use their cellphones, tailgate, blow through red lights, fail to yield, and on and on. So, if we’re gonna talk “safety awareness,” we could probably start there.

  5. My opinion is the city should not devote millions of dollars to support a few hundred periodic cyclists. However, the move to delay the meeting until summer is an interesting decision. I suspect the mayor hopes the recent peak in interest in this issue will have died down by summer and the issue quietly goes away.

    • We could have a lot more cyclists if we planned for them. People in the comments section here on the Rivard Report are always complaining that we are a small city that doesn’t think big enough. If the city actually followed through on infrastructure improvements around cyclists and pedestrians, we would see more biking and walking, which would theoretically lead to a healthier city with fewer emissions.

      But yeah, let’s act like nothing can or should change from the way it was in 2009 or 1999 or 1989 or…

  6. The city’s proposal to designate Ave. B as the more appropriate bike route (instead of Broadway) makes a LOT of sense.. as long as the city makes long-tern and unrevokable assurances that development along B will not be allowed to degrade it as a safe and pleasant north-south cycling route between downtown and the Brackenridge Park area. North Alamo is another good alternate route, if plans are made now to make sure it stays a safe alternative.

    Ave. B is already a much safer and more pleasant and bike-friendly route, and always has been. I’m sure that many cyclists are like us, and would still prefer Ave. B, even if there were protected bike lanes on Broadway. We take Broadway when driving, of course, but we don’t feel the need to take the same route when cycling.

  7. Even though I agree that Ave B would be a safer and smarter bike route, the truth of the matter, many cyclists are not going to see a diversion sign and follow it. Many will think that the most direct route is their current path on Broadway and continue down that path. That’s truth because any cyclist who truly feels it is dangerous riding down Broadway is already choosing on their own to take a side street route such as Ave B.

    I’m a cyclist near Helotes. I know if I choose to cycle down Bandera that I’m taking a risk. I also know I can take Braun instead for a few miles instead for a safer trip or cycle the Leon Creek greenbelt instead where I won’t encounter any motorized vehicles. I don’t need the city/county telling me to divert myself to Braun for the safer route.

    If cyclists currently aren’t taking the safer Ave B route right now, they are just as unlikely to do it once a dedicated bike lane is built. So the questions then becomes, if my theory is right, are we wasting tax dollars building a dedicated bike lane on Ave B that won’t be utilized by cyclists as much as is currently hoped for?

  8. Is this the more important business the Mayor said we should address instead of Due diligence over the CFA decision that has made us known as an intolerant city…because we don’t have HUGE issues to address?

    Also…per reply above just wait for bike lanes to be in a bond issue…and I’m done with bonds in SA.

  9. Promoting a drunk-fest known as Fiesta doesn’t help cyclist who have had two outstanding cycling-citizens murdered by drunks this year. I’m headed out of town until this excuse to over imbibe is over.

  10. Go visit summit county Colorado. They have paths about 10 feet wide that work for both pedestrian runners / walkers and bike riders at the same time. They are separated from the road way with a median of 10 feet or more. I don’t think dedicated lanes are the ultimate solution, although they are better than what we have. But we could do a few things that I with Rivard Report would help push that would improve safety immediately!

    For one, at Broadway and Mulberry, there are signs up next to the stop light that you must yield to pedestrians on the crosswalk when turning. Why is that the only place I see that between Broadway / Basse and the Alamo ???? Why don’t they have that sign up at Broadway / Hildebrand? Why not at the protected turn at Central Market? And for traffic heading north having to yield to southbound traffic, how about a similar sign next to the light reminding them to yield to someone on the cross walk so I don’t have to almost roll onto some guy’s hood who then yells at me for being in his way?

    Also, I have visited towns around Cape Cod where they have a lot of cross walks on a pedestrian and bike friendly community. At every one, they have ground level flexible to getting hit yield signs, reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians on the crosswalk (Go to Mulberry and Avenue B as a great place for these!). I have actually had to yield to a SA Park Police officer to avoid getting hit while I was already on the crosswalk at that location!!! Even our law enforcement officers don’t know the traffic laws.

    So many simple things we could do before June 1st if we really gave a crap. Perhaps organize a town hall? Before someone get’s killed again?

  11. Brockhouse won’t do anything for bike lanes, he is all talk…he said there wasn’t a need for bike lanes, much less protected bike lanes, on Enrique Barrera, a street bond project in his district, even though there is plenty of room for them and folks bike out of necessity in that area.

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