On the road

A pothole and a rough shoulder on North St. Mary's Street represents common road conditions that local cyclists encounter in San Antonio. A 30-year plan aims to make the City's transportation infrastructure more friendly and accessible to cyclists and pedestrians. (Photo by Julie Barnett)

Bikes included in 30-year transportation plan

Many experienced and amateur cyclists who navigate the streets of San Antonio can tell you that the conditions are pathetic. There are few dedicated bike lanes, but plenty of rough shoulders, potholes, and broken glass, all dangerous to anyone traveling under pedal power.

"While traffic in urban San Antonio is relatively benign and it is possible to get around in the inner city and the major tourist attractions quite easily, there are very few specific routes," says William Hudson, president of San Antonio Wheelmen, a cycling group that was organized in the 1970s.

Hudson says that for an experienced cyclist like himself, the city is "not that bad," for biking. "Traffic in San Antonio is fairly slow and relatively well-behaved."

Yet, there is a long way to go, according to a Bicycle Master Plan to be included in the city's Metropolitan Transportation Plan 2030; it will be unveiled during an open house next week.

The MTP 2030 includes citizen input on roadway, transit, rideshare, bike, and pedestrian facilities in the region. A Bicycle Mobility Task Force researched the bicycle portion of the master plan.

According to comments received for the MTP 2030, there is a "desire for a greater sense of community, a transportation system that offers people the choice or option to bicycle." If local agencies follow through, "bicycling will be a pleasant, safe transportation alternative for trips of all kinds and for all segments of the population."

Goals include arranging safe and direct access for bicyclists to travel, a network of facilities, and "quiet streets." Bicycles would be integrated into the existing transportation system, and there would need to be outreach to educate motorists and bicyclists about road rules.

"We have a vested interest in cycling in San Antonio for a slew of reasons," says Hudson. "Most of our rides are out of town because it is safer. If it was safer in San Antonio, we would have more bike rides in the city. If motorists see more cyclists, they would be more aware of them."

The 1990 Census reported that cycling activity in San Antonio and Bexar County accounted for between .1 and .2 percent of "journey to work trips," about half the national average for metropolitan areas. Similar numbers were reported for commuting trips and biking to school and other venues, the majority of which was done by elementary school students.

Aside from the chance of being hit by a car, people can improve their health from biking. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "state and local collaboration in designing communities can improve public health by increasing opportunities for more active lifestyles."

The local bicycle mobility plan sets goals to double the percentage of bicycle trips, and to "reduce the number of bicycle-related traffic accidents by 10 percent by 2005, and continue to reduce bicycle accidents through the 25-year life of the plan."

Funding for the plan would come from a portion of the proposed 1/4 cent-sales tax that includes an Advanced Transportation District and VIA funding. Fifty percent of the revenue from the sales tax would go toward improvements on regional streets and highways. •

By Michael Cary

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