Nirenberg, Treviño on Opposite Sides of Broadway Bike Lane Debate as Design Nears Completion

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Cyclists head to the Broadway Corridor Public Meeting held by the City of San Antonio Transportation & Capitol Improvements at Central Catholic High School on June 27, 2019.

Stephanie Marquez / Rivard Report

Cyclists cross Broadway as they head to the public meeting held at Central Catholic High School by the City's Transportation and Capital Improvements department.

Despite months of pleas by cycling advocates wanting protected bike lanes to be included in plans for Lower Broadway’s major redevelopment, City officials again presented a plan Thursday that instead diverts bike infrastructure to two, less-traveled parallel streets.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg threw his support behind those cyclists Thursday afternoon.

I believe that if we are going to properly address mobility for the future, then it needs to be a priority,” Nirenberg told the Rivard Report in a phone interview before a public meeting about the project Thursday. “Broadway is a main artery into downtown. It needs to be safe, it needs to be multimodal. … We need to have a continuous, safe, separated bike lane the entire route.”

This map shows in green where separated bike lanes are proposed to be continued on Avenue B and North Alamo Street south of Interstate 35.

Courtesy / City of San Antonio

This map shows proposed separated bike lanes in green on Avenue B and North Alamo Street south of Interstate 35.

Traveling south from Hildebrand Avenue on Broadway to Houston Street, public right-of-way narrows from seven to three lanes of vehicular traffic today and has minimal, broken sidewalks and trees. The 3-mile street project will reduce vehicular lanes in most sections, widen sidewalks, add landscaping and shade, improve lighting, and include on-street parking in some sections, said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1).

On the narrower lower mile of Broadway, from Houston Street to the Interstate 35 overpass, there’s just not enough room for all of that as well as a safe bike lane, Treviño and project designers said.

“I don’t buy it,” Nirenberg told the Rivard Report. “If we’re going to make a walkable, multimodel-friendly urban core of San Antonio, then this is our first test.”

If a bike lane were squeezed into Lower Broadway, Treviño said during and after the meeting, it would be a substandard one. “The No. 1 thing we should always adhere to is good design principles … keeping the public as safe as possible and account for all types of cyclists.”

Narrow, in-road bike lanes delineated by paint simply aren’t as safe for the novice or intermediate cyclists as the wide, protected lanes that the City will find funding for on Avenue B and North Alamo Street, said Treviño, whose district includes the project.

A cyclist rides in the bike lane on Saint Mary's Street.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A cyclist rides in a striped bike lane on St. Mary’s Street.

Voters approved $42 million “complete street” bond project to improve a 3-mile stretch of Broadway as part of the $850 million 2017 municipal bond package. An additional $14 million will come from state and federal sources for the southern, first phase, but the remaining $41 million in funding for the northern, second phase portion of the project from Mulberry to Burr Road has yet to be identified. The second phase will feature protected bike lanes separated from traffic.

Because the project was voter-approved and City Council has approved the design-build contractors for it, Council approval is not required for the design of the project to move forward as planned by the City’s department of Transportation and Capital Improvements (TCI), officials said.

Funding for the separated bike lanes on Avenue B and North Alamo Street is not yet identified, but the City is “committed to finding funding for that,” said Art Reinhardt, interim deputy director of TCI.

The area tax increment reinvestment zone and annual City budget are possible sources, he said. Large area property owners – GrayStreet Partners and Silver Ventures, which developed the Pearl – have committed to installing special traffic lights and assisting in some separated bike lanes on Avenue B.

According to TCI, the Lower Broadway section is slated for completion in December 2021. Work on Avenue B and North Alamo Street should be done by fall 2021.

Brian Martin, vice president of Bike San Antonio, a local cycling advocacy group, said the proposed bike lanes on Avenue B are a great start. “These sidewalks [on Broadway] are great, but people are going to ride their bikes and scooters on them,” Martin said.

Ultimately the Lower Broadway design favors vehicles over bicycles, he added, and “you’re going to have more fatalities.”

The design includes space for sporadic street parking or drop-off locations for valet or rideshare, Martin noted. That is space that could instead be used for a bike lane.

This rendering shows the City's plan to install on-street parking on lower Broadway Street.

Courtesy / City of San Antonio

This rendering shows the City’s plan to install on-street parking on Lower Broadway.

That’s not wide enough for a separated lane, Reinhardt said, adding that Avenue B has a tenth of the vehicular traffic that Broadway has.

Martin, and other cyclists at the meeting, disagreed that there isn’t room for meaningful bike infrastructure on Broadway.

“Something is better than nothing,” he said. While the narrow section of Broadway presents challenges, it’s not an engineering problem – it’s a “lack of political will.”

What was presented to the roughly 75 people that attended the meeting at Central Catholic High School on Thursday is essentially the same plan presented late last year to stakeholders. Some cyclists had hoped Thursday’s meeting would be an input session – an opportunity to change the proposed design, but it was a meeting to inform the community about the final design – not inform the design.

That doesn’t mean TCI isn’t listening, Reinhardt said. The design is 40 percent complete.

After developing plans for separated bike lanes on Avenue B and North Alamo with bike advocacy groups such as Bike San Antonio, the City decided not to host a larger public input meeting, a TCI spokesman said.

Before he was reelected for a second term this month, Nirenberg said installing more separated bike lanes was a priority for him and for Connect SA, a nonprofit quasi-governmental organization that is formulating a comprehensive multimodal transportation plan.

“If it hasn’t broken ground yet, then I would expect the voices of the community will provide for meaningful decision-making before a mistake is made,” he told the Rivard Report“I’m certainly sharing my thoughts on that with [City] staff.”

After the meeting, Treviño weighed in on Nirenberg’s concerns.

“I think it’s unfortunate that I have to learn this from you and not from the mayor himself,” Treviño told the Rivard Report. “This is a project that I have worked on, that the bond committee that we carefully selected worked on and many people invested their time on. … I think the mistake is not recognizing that,”

“I, too, am listening to the bicycling community and believe that we are doing the right thing,” he said. “We’ve got our priorities right, and one of the most important things when it comes to our infrastructure is to make sure that we’re not inserting politics into well-designed projects.”

51 thoughts on “Nirenberg, Treviño on Opposite Sides of Broadway Bike Lane Debate as Design Nears Completion

  1. Ensuring 10 feet wide car lanes and bike lanes is priority, parking should be the added bonus when possible. Narrow corners of Broadway should sacrifice parking rather than the safety of more vulnerable users of the road. Without protected bike lanes on the lower segment of Broadway, the project will be a complete disaster as the upper segments near Mulberry will have no safe connection to downtown.

  2. Broadway is fine for cyclists who don’t mind the 45 mph traffic, dodging trucks, buses, debris, drainage grates, etc.

    Cyclists who enjoy a safer, more peaceful and bike-friendly north-south route between downtown and Hildebrand ride one block west on Avenue B.

    Put google maps on your phone– then take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the area and find the routes that are ALREADY more bike-friendly. You might decide that your cycling route does not always have to be the same as your driving route.

    For this particular area, the priority should NOT be on transforming Broadway, but rather on making sure that Ave. B REMAINS a safe cycling route.

  3. How many people actually walk in this city for any meaningful distance? Not many. Wide sidewalks make no sense, and parking on Broadway for what? There is currently hardly any businesses there, let’s hope this incredibly expensive road project attracts more development. I see way more people use scooters and bikes. Why not evolve the plan with where technology has taken us with the scooters. When this plan was devised I’m sure the scooter craze had not hit SA yet, and we hadn’t lost several very valuable community bike members to car related crashes. Think of the future here, UIW will most likely announce huge expansions soon with the acquisition of the (AT&T building) and at some point UTSA will put shovels in the ground for a long anticipated build out of the downtown campus. With that in mind, the generation that lives downtownish will continue to be more young and more bike / scooter focused. The apts downtown already attract young professionals and college aged students, let’s make sure we build the area around downtown for this population that will actually live there.

    • Maybe people don’t walk because there aren’t wide, comfortable sidewalks. Investing in quality sidewalks is one of the best things a city can do to increase public health and equity. Encouraging a more vibrant street life increases economic development which increases vibrancy creating a positive feedback loop. If the City is redoing the street anyways, we should take this opportunity to improve walkability at the same time. Good sidewalks increase quality of life for all residents.

    • More people (seemingly) bike in the near-downtown area because the distances between points of interest appear insurmountable to a pedestrian, the surrounds unpleasant, and the sidewalk/crosswalk infrastructure too poor. At least on a bike or scooter you’re recognized as a legitimate form of transport. If you look at Broadway’s pedestrian infrastructure now, you wouldn’t think that walking was even legal. I drive (or bus) Broadway every single day and haven’t once experienced anything resembling urban traffic and we’ve been down 1-2 lanes for months now due to construction. We can afford to lose 1-2 lanes for wider (than proposed) pedestrian infrastructure. Scooters, while great for the last 1/2 mile, will be obsolete or out of style someday, walking will not.

  4. Broadway is the quick direct route downtown. Avenue B is not. Cyclist will continue to ride down Broadway – the only question is whether or not the city is willing to put in infrastructure to protect those cyclists along all of Broadway.

  5. The fact that we are arguing over which street the protected lanes should go on shows that we’ve already come a long way. Personally, I’m torn. The point is safe, protected bike facilities — safe enough that my kids can ride the route. Seeing the nice renderings of Ave B makes me think maybe it’s not critical that they actually be ON Broadway.

  6. I agree with Nirenberg. Broadway should be multimodal. Cyclist & vehicles can still use Avenue B and Avenue B would benefit from that.

  7. Go forth and examine what other cities have done, COPY THEIR SUCCESSES, and move forward. Stop looking at the problem in the same old way. The city needs to change perspective, and they need to stop planning with fear as their primary driver.

  8. One thing about the bump outs that they should have said during the presentation was that they aren’t just for parking or ride share, they are designed for delivery trucks to the businesses along that part of Broadway. Without the bump outs, the trucks would have to stop in a travel lane to unload. So the bump outs seem to be necessary but not necessarily for parking. And I think bikers are going to use Broadway (at their peril) until they don’t–they ultimately may find that Ave B is the better safer choice.

  9. Broadway is a busy street and congested as it is. Narrowing it even more 8s not safe for anyone. Bicycles don’t belong on busy streets.

    • Ann, at least your first sentence is correct. That could be solved with a change to a future outlook, leaving cars at home. Imagine a Broadway that is the land version of the river walks and reaches…and also solving commuter traffic problems. We’d really be on the national map of great places to live. Let the persistent old and sedentary people insisting on cars take the other routes. We’ve got to stop promoting and subsidizing automobile infrastructure. It’s choking us and we don’t even have those extra million people they’re talking about.

    • Broadways right of way of 100 feet has plenty of space to be reconfigured for several modes of transportation accessible to all. The planners should extend more effort in finding these appropriate designs for a complete street.

      Maybe we should study similar right of way streets in world class cities and learn from them.
      -Pennsylvania Ave. – DC
      -Broadway- NYC

  10. Nirenberg:
    You may not have won a mandate, but you won the election. Now, do the right thing: Insist on safe bike lanes and don’t listen to Treviño. Let’s not have another S. Flores debacle. What an embarrassment there!

  11. Sadly, this meeting occurred at the same time of the Eastside SAPD Captains Meeting. Current crime and shootings is a priority which includes Broadway. I hope the city provides residents living in this area another opportunity to attend. Creating obstacles for residents to drive home should be considered, we have lived here for decades before the coolness of cyclist and have solutions to keep ourselves safe.The new Alamo college office will also need to be considered. What does our CC D2 say, we share Broadway and Alamo st. Sits in our District.

  12. Trevino has his feet firmly planted in the past. He needs to open his mind or move on and let this city evolve as it should. We can no longer afford to keep people in office who are not willing to embrace the kind of change we need to make this city amazing. Our culture is changing whether he likes it or not.

    • Spot on. For being the D1 representative, he is doing the yoeman’s work for suburban interests. Broadway redesign is just the latest example. New restrictions and constraints to IDZ is another example. Downtown parking garages and anti-scooter ordinance are still more examples. Perhaps Treviño believes D1 is another D10, just missing the zero.

      • John & Kevin and all San Antonio voters,
        Trevino is looking to run for mayor next go round. He is not concerned with downtown residents but the business community and north side voters. He doesn’t need our votes and will not do the right thing.

    • Well the professional designers and engineers seem to agree with Trevino for the same reason – safety. Better to build out a proper bike line that every level of cyclist can navigate than to cram it within a narrow, crowded corridor.

      Plus, our “changing culture” nearly voted Nirenberg out. Maybe we can’t afford to keep a wishy-washy Mayor with a poorly defined vision.

  13. I ride my bike on Avenue B.It sure is a lot safer then going down Broadway.It is wise to avoid traffic because you wont win in an accident versus a vehicle.You can then ride down N. Alamo or Austin street to downtown.Another alternative is to ride down St. Marys street.

  14. The constraint is not that there is not enough space for protected bike lanes, but that there is not enough space for 4+ lanes and protected bike lanes. So, reduce lanes and build the protected bike lanes. Downtown, and lower Broadway, are adding housing and jobs. This area is becoming increasingly walkable, thru-traffic degrades that walkability. Prioritize walkability and cycling over driver interests. That is in sync with climate action, multimodal, and the comprehensive plan. Treviño’s work to maintain a suburban car culture downtown is out of sync.

    • It’s almost as though developers and private sector interests are always occupying part of Treviño’s head. Or maybe it’s the lobbyists in his office.

  15. Why not give Broadway completely to bikes and make all the cars take the highway into downtown? I jest but the point is why do we make it less convenient to bike and more convenient to drive when biking has so many positive externalities (pollution, congestion, public health) and driving has so many negatives? And how do I take Avenue B to a business on Broadway? Most of the businesses that exist now and will grow in the future are on Broadway. People, not cars, go into businesses. Bike lanes can get more people into those businesses than parking can, and we should encourage that, because it helps the businesses and also helps our city. It’s not only about a route into and out of downtown, it’s also about providing sustainable transportation options to a major corridor where people work, live, and play. Why should people who drive get priority there while people who bike have to go out of their way and take back roads?

    • Ave. B is exactly one (pretty short) block (30 yards?) away from Broadway. Most businesses on the west side of Broadway even have entrances on the Ave. B side. Personally, when I am out to bike a few miles, I don’t mind a 30-yard detour, especially if the route is much safer and more pleasant. Bike around and familiarize yourself with the area. I think part of the problem is that too few of the people making the decisions are cyclists themselves, and few are really familiar with the area.

  16. Alamo terminates north of 35 by several blocks. Is Alamo a viable route for bikes with appropriate lanes ? I noticed that the plan has Ave. B traffic diverted to Alamo by crossing Broadway on McCullogh to Alamo so you end up on Alamo close to downtown. I have made this bike trip many times without problems.

  17. Good point Anne bicycles dont belong on busy streets.There are many alternative routes.Really bicyclists are just a small percentage of the population.I also ride a bike.

  18. I am with Brian Martin of Bike San Antonio and the Mayor in that it is a lack of will and foresight that keeps the lane off Broadway. Councilwoman Gonzales is also right in that until we change the culture from automobile to something that helps us going into the future, we’re going to remain a 2nd rate city.

  19. The simplest thing to do would be to split North and South bound traffic on Broadway between Travis or Houston steet to Cunningham Ave. Southbound traffic would remain on Broadway while northbound traffic would be on Alamo from Travis or Houston St all the way to Cunningham Ave where Alamo already ends on Broadway. This way you could have class ‘A’ bike lanes and expanded sidewalks for cafe and restaurants and trees. Everybody wins plus the city gets an expanded tax base from new development on Alamo.

  20. Dear Rivard Report,

    Could you please provide a comprehensive report to your readers on the actual official daily traffic count of the number of bicycles being ridden on Broadway.

    Thank you.

    • This is like the study the city will do on pedestrian traffic to determine if better pedestrian access is needed.
      In many places, people don’t cycle/walk currently because it’s unsafe. But if better complete streets are in place, the cycle and foot traffic would increase exponentially. I don’t currently cycle on Broadway because I don’t feel safe. If there was a protected bike lane, I would do it in a heartbeat.

  21. Apparently, part of the dilemma is that few of the people making the decisions are cyclists themselves, and too few are actually familiar with the area.

    People familiar with the neighborhood know that Ave. B and North Alamo are already safe and pleasant cycling routes that are PARALLEL to Broadway, which is dangerous for cyclists. Tip: put google maps on your phone and take a few minutes to find the safer alternate routes. I don’t understand why so many people feel that their driving route and their cycling route MUST be the same.

  22. Trevino implies that Nirenberg is inserting politics into well-designed projects. Maybe, but at least he is not dismissing the views of many within our cycling community and by doing so, compromising the safety of cyclists and I’ll
    call them…scooterists. If Nirenberg is inserting politics, then Trevino is inserting selfishness. IMO, his comments about this being a project “I” have worked on, is indicative of this selfishness. We get it. Yes, Trevino is an architect by trade. For him, designing projects is orgasmic. Regardless of how great he thinks his designs are, they do not supercede the concerns of citizens. A similar scenario is Trevino’s dismissal of many San Antonians’ concerns regarding the redevelopment of the Alamo complex. Trevino has been involved in the planning for the Alamo project as well. Long story short, Trevino needs to lose the ego.
    It’s already been said, and I agree, that cyclists will continue to use Broadway because it is the quickest route. Motorists use the same logic, drive the shortest route to reach a destination. What this design amounts to is the prioritization of parked cars over cyclists and scooterists.

    • “What this design amounts to is the prioritization of parked cars over cyclists and scooterists.”

      This is exactly the point. and I would add prioritizing 45mph traffic. If Broadway is to be a complete street, traffic must be forced to slow down, bike/scooter lanes and narrowing the street help.

  23. Your cycling route does not necessarily have to be the same as your driving route, especially when there is a safe and pleasant alternate parallel route (like Ave. B and/or North Alamo).

    It would be WAY more cost effective to make concrete, long-term plans to KEEP Ave. B and North Alamo safe and bike-friendly, and to designate and mark those as designated cycling routes. This is the practice I have seen in places like the UK, Denmark and Sweden, where cycling is taken pretty seriously.

    I agree that north of Hildebrand there needs to be a safe bike route on Broadway.

    Considering all of the money and political capital needed to implement safe and separate bike lanes, all of that money and capital could be better spent on corridors where there does not already exist safe and parallel alternate routes, like on South Flores, West Commerce, etc.

    The downtown/Tobin-Center-to-Pearl-and-Brackenridge-Park corridor ALREADY has a very safe and bike-friendly parallel alternate route: Ave. B and/or North Alamo. People who cycle/walk regularly in that area know this already, but apparently some people who may be judging only from looking at maps have difficulty seeing it for what it is, or think it is not straight enough or short enough. For most folks, whether they are cycling for fitness, pleasure or commuting, making a 1-block detour is WAY better than risking your safety inches from 45 mph traffic. Try it.

    Along Ave. B, we like to hear the frogs, enjoy the greenery of the golf course, and we often see hawks, owls, and sometimes even raccoons and foxes.

    I understand that the Pearl area is the hot-and-trendy area now, and so the city planners and developers want to direct EVERYBODY in that direction.

    We ride Ave. B from the Tobin Center to the Witte Museum, and then through Brackenridge park and on to the Quarry… all without having to be on high-traffic streets (except for that one 50-yard section on Broadway at Newell, to get under the freeway).

  24. Broadway is congested. No one has mentioned safe senior citizen drop off. That is the only community that cannot walk an additional street. We are residents all along Broadway.

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