Avenue B's separated bike lane, the City of San Antonio's first major investment in bicycle connectivity near the Pear Brewery complex, has left much to be desired for bike and vehicular traffic alike.
What was supposed to be a popular route from the many commercial and residential endeavors of the Pearl District to Brackenridge Park has been underutilized and under-maintained over the past few years.
Perhaps the messy construction projects nearby and the route's dead-end into Newell Street long before it reaches downtown have contributed to its stagnation.
Though the physical barrier between cars and bikes has proven to be a popular concept, the route itself is a bit of a flop. But increased safety and connectivity of our bike network is paramount as the city attempts to carry out the 2011 Bike Master Plan to increase ridership.
During the Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee (BMAC) meeting Wednesday night, plans to redirect the focus to other nearby streets were emerging.
“A bike lane that is open to car parking is not a bike lane,” said Rivard Report Director Robert Rivard of the lanes on Broadway Street which consist of a wider vehicle lane with the occasional striping, road graphic and sign. He spoke on behalf of the local cycling team, the Third Street Grackles.
"We're fine with the elimination of the city's first attempt at a cycle track," he said to the committee and audience of about 10. "But Broadway is a much bigger proposition for us."
Broadway is the main artery between an increasingly revitalized downtown and the burgeoning Pearl District that includes several high-density housing projects (completed and planned), an emerging commercial market, and cultural and educational institutions.
[Read More: Broadway Reach Launches Cultural, Creative Corridor]
The Museum Reach could have the same connectivity but the narrow, winding path is more suited for meandering pedestrians – not commuting cyclists on a deadline.
"Broadway is one of the most important spokes on that big (center city transportation) wheel," Rivard said.
Megan Wright, special projects manager for the Center City Development Office, highlighted a public online survey to collect feedback from citizens on Avenue B, Broadway and North Alamo Street as a possible bike route.
"(North Alamo) is of similar size and there is little traffic," Wright said after the meeting of the reasoning behind the street suggestion. "We're considering a few options in this area."
The quick survey will be available for the public to take through this Friday, Jan. 10 at www.surveymonkey.com and represents the very early stages of exploration into what is to be done with the bike corridor.
"It's good to get (the committee) and public feedback at meetings like this because now we can take a harder look at Broadway (as an option)," Wright said.
And so, a subcommittee is born.
BMAC Chairman and Bexar County Associate Probate Court Judge Oscar Kazen suggested that the committee form a proactive "'Broadway Subcommittee' – we talk about Broadway all the time anyway ... and every time we’ve had some issue (like the downtown bike lanes, H-E-B closure of South Main Avenue, etc.) we always seem to be responding to the crisis. We should start looking for solutions now.”
The motion carried and the subcommittee will be formed in the coming weeks.
"We are just advisors but we’re made up of people (and organizations) that make those important decisions,” Kazen said of the role of the BMAC. Nonetheless, they'll be ready to advise when Broadway's complete street projects come before City Council in the future. “Knowing full well that we don’t have the authority, we can just be the squeaky wheel.”
Funding for improvements is tight with an average allocation of $1 million from the Infrastructure Management Plan for bike facility projects per year. Such projects are divided into three priority levels. The first involves more simple bike facilities that can be achieved within the existing structure of the street. That is, the street is already wide enough to accommodate a bike lane.
The second priority involves closing one or more lanes to cars, but requires a traffic impact study. If the results show that vehicular traffic is not impaired, construction can be planned.
If the results show a significant impairment to traffic, additional funding will be required for pavement widening, utility relocation, etc. So the project is then moved to bond funding.
About 40.5 miles of bicycle facilities have been added to the network since 2011, a small dent in the 1, 718 mile total goal.
The City had first tackled easier projects across the city, but recently has run into more complicated, political territory. In 2012, 30 miles of bike facilities were installed compared to 10.5 in 2013 according to the Bike Plan Implementation update presentation made by Anthony Chukwudolue, assistant director of Transportation and Capital Improvements.
"Now we are running into the tougher issues," Kazan said. "The low-hanging fruit is out of the way."
To aid in the processes to come, San Antonio Bikes Program Manager Julia Murphy and Chukwudolue assured the committee that communications and notifications to the public and internal departments will be improved.
"Significant work needs to be done to ensure public awareness and outreach," Chukwudolue said.
It's still too early to forecast what Avenue B, Broadway and North Alamo will contribute to – or remove from – San Antonio's bicycle network. But it will be certainly be a more productive, almost enjoyable process the more informed local stakeholders are – that means you.
So here's that link to the CCDO's survey again. BMAC meetings are held every second Wednesday of the month at 8 a.m. at MPO Conference Room B at 825 South Saint Mary's St. To stay in the know about local meetings and other happenings bike project/legislation-related, check out BikeTexas.org and follow the MPO and San Antonio Bikes on Facebook.
(Word on the BMAC street is that this year's Síclovía will not be held on Broadway. Murphy declined to comment on the new location, but said San Antonio Bikes and YMCA will announce that information soon.)