Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
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.
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.
“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.
“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.