Author of Blog: Daniel Day
New Post once a month.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The 1st Step of Making W Commerce into a Street

Sorry folks for the delay, but as usual my life got in the way.  Merry Christmas Everyone.

On Saturday morning December 13, a workshop was held at the Central Library by Centro San Antonio with The Urban Land Institute/ San Antonio on redesigning W Commerce from S St. Mary's to Santa Rosa. The budget for this project is $9M with options on trying to improve the entire stretch from Alazan Creek to I-37.
The room was packed (Image 30-1) and every one was asked what could be done to improve this section of  W Commerce. Many people came up with wider sidewalks, benches, the type of planters that you see on Houston St in front of the Majestic. Everyone agreed that the traffic goes by there too fast. What I found unfortunate was the fact that some said cyclist should find some other route. 

I'll be using several cross sections of the planned project area. I got these measurements in front of 345 W Commerce and all illustrations are looking east. Currently this is how W Commerce looks like along the project area. (Image 30-2)

So far the city has its own plan, take out the right side bus lane and put that space from the bus only lane to the sidewalk next to the bus lane. They'll reduce the two remaining drive lanes to 10ft. (Image 30-3) There's two problems with the city's design proposal; It doesn't solve the problem that VIA buses face everyday when they are parked picking up wheelchairs.  Commercial vehicles are 10ft wide and those 10ft lanes will complicate matters when one bus is trying to go around a parked bus. Another problem is the fact cyclist in San Antonio want a protected bicycle lane down W Commerce. Despite the city's plan for 10ft lanes, my gut feeling is that the final design will have 11ft lanes, defeating the purpose of having 10ft lanes which have shown to do a good job of slowing down the traffic. The reason for my gut feeling is the city's current law, Sec. 19-66. Conformity with state manual which by default will force the lanes to be 11ft wide.

To fix W Commerce, is to identify the problem which is that W Commerce downtown isn't a street, but a stroad. (Image 30-4) I have always used the word "stroad" and maybe some of you thought I've been misspelling the word street, but in actual fact it is a word created by Charles Marohn, a recovering traffic engineer and the founder of Strongtowns.org. to describe the problem we're faced with trying to create walkable productive places. We have the stroad because we want a road to move cars quickly, but we have places along the road to try to make it a street to capture value. It fails to provide both for if you look down the stretch of W Commerce (Image 30-4) that they want to improve, it lacks places that could be generating tax revenue for the city, meaning for the regular person, it could have businesses that people go to. In the video provided above, we learn that to make a street from a stroad, we need to slow down cars, we need to make pedestrians, cyclist, and public transit greater, MORE IMPORT than moving cars faster. This is where the city's design fails for even though it makes the lanes narrower, it fails to account that their design still keeps cars having priority over people. You have to remember, the street is a dynamic place and a place to go to, not so much a corridor for traffic.

The problems that people identify at the workshop including VIA, is that there's not enough room for the bus stop and people on the sidewalk walking by, that cars go faster as they approach Santa Rosa, and cyclist complain that there's no safe place to ride your bicycle.  Now I cannot talk about the other tables, but at the table I sat at also wanted on street parking. Despite what people might think, on street parking does provide a barrier between the moving traffic and the people on the sidewalk. But if we were to provide on street parking, we're going to have to reduce the number of drive lanes down to two.  On street parking is a cheap and easy way to provide a barrier of moving traffic for a bicycle lane.  So in my cross section illustration, I decided to include it to show that if they decide to remove a drive lane, they'll have room for both parking and a one way cycletrack. (Image 30-5) Also having on street parking has also demonstrated to slow down traffic.

At the workshop, there were two paintings from Jorge Cortez.  One showed his concept on how the riverwalk connection should have looked to Main Plaza (Image 30-6) and the other one showed a lively W Commerce St with people eating lunch, local businesses in every building and a way better sidewalk for both sides.  (Image 30-7) As I studied the painting and talked with Jorge, it reminded me that his vision for W Commerce which he dubbed "Zona Cultural" is just like that of Greenville Ave in Dallas that I wrote about in "No Need for Streetcars Down Broadway. His painting was created in 1994, and he expressed his desire to remove the problem that was being, that the cars were given all the space for he expressed that in his riverwalk painting, (Image 30-6) he didn't want to paint one car. After studying his portrait, I created this cross-section of what his vision would look like if it was ever built.  For reference, the Artesias Mexicana building in the portrait, (Image 30-7) well that building is current location of the Dollar General.  I can agree with Jorge's painting, W Commerce needs to be treated better than the stroad it is today.

Although Jorge Cortez's portrait lacks a protected bicycle lane, I couldn't help but notice that his very large sidewalk next to the people dining, (Image 13-7) that part at least to me looked a lot like the protect bicycle lane that everyone I know wants to have. It also looks like that he wanted only two lanes of traffic. I have said before that we need a law to make sure that our stroads have no more than two lanes of traffic in one direction, not these three lanes of traffic that TXDOT and the City of San Antonio likes to build.  Examples include, Broadway, Babcock, and Fredricksburg Rd.  After much work of studying the painting, I came up with this cross section showing that if his painting was ever made reality, it would look something like this without the protected bicycle lane. (Image 30-8)

Despite what I heard during the workshop that cyclist should find a different route is not what cyclist want, but shows on how San Antonio is dependent on driving to get around. People want a place to ride their bicycles safely without having an angry motorist trying to kill people while they're on a bicycle, so here's my recommendation, (Image 30-9) but don't count on this happening because we're never ever going to do this.  The reason behind it is the fact that the city values cars over people.  We see this over and over again with cars parked in the numerous bike lanes across town and the failure of the city to properly make bike lanes the needed 6ft width which is recommended by NACTO. In my recommendation, (Image 30-9) I have two 12 ft lanes to provide enough room for buses to get around a parked bus that just happens to be picking up a wheelchair and for any 18 wheeler delivery trucks that use W Commerce daily.  Now if the city or VIA is afraid that the bus lane is going to get clogged with cars, then here's my advice, issue some traffic tickets.  But don't count on it.  Through either actions or inaction, VIA and the city will will constantly show  how cars are more important than the buses trying to stay on time.  This is what I mean when I say "Keep San Antonio Lame."

Now other parts of W Commerce was also talked about such as the one way section that is west of Frio. Now if you read my other blog about the green bicycle lanes that are going to be put in, you would have come across this cross section (Image 30-9) which should be done to the one way sections of W Commerce/Buena Vista anyway regardless to prevent the problems that I highlighted before. The discussion at my table at least wanted this part to be open up for locals on foot or bicycle to be invited into Downtown, to make "Zona Cultural" not just for tourist, but a place for locals.


Other things were talked about including Market Square treating W Commerce like an alley way (Image 30-11) and how the stuff underneath I-35 needs to be more than a place for parked cars as well which I suggested a great place for a skate park, as well as uses for the abandon buildings that currently line the stroad.  The problems I heard at the workshop, at least at the table I sat at, is that we want to see a street, not the current stroad.

If you feel that you can do a better job with improving W Commerce St, I invite you to visit the cross section of 345 W Commerce Current at streetmix.net and create your own.  Remember the project with is 66ft.  (Now I'm sorry  Scott Gustafson, Centro San Antonio, but I have to do this.)  Send your recommendation to  Scott Gustafson, Centro San Antonio sgustafson@downtownsa.org.
Scott Gustafson, Centro San Antonio
210.225.3862  sgustafson@downtownsa.org
- See more at: http://sanantonio.uli.org/events/detail/reimagine-west-commerce-street-design-workshop#sthash.o2HaKceI.dpuf

What ever the city decides to do, I can only hope that they at least put in a protected bicycle lane along the route and reduce it to two lanes.  Knowing how the city continuously builds to the standards of Keep San Antonio Lame, I doubt that we'll see what cyclist want or create a place that people feel comfortable walking because if the city's current law, Sec. 19-66. Conformity with state manual is any indication, the standards are there to make sure that cars keep moving, not a place for people.

30-1: Jorge Cortez speaking for his table at the ULI W Commerce St Workshop on Saturday, Dec 13, 2014
30-2:  A cross section looking east showing the current state of W Commerce in front if 345 W Commerce which is currently in the project area.
30-3:  A cross section looking east showing the City's recommendation on how W Commerce should look like after they remove the bus lane.
30-4: A picture across the street from 345 W Commerce looking east where I did the measurements for the cross Sections I created for this blog. 
30-5: A cross section looking east showing if they were to put in parking instead of two drive lanes with a NACTO standard 6ft protected bicycle lane. 
30-6:  Jorge Cortez painting on his concept of the riverwalk connection to Main plaza.
30-7:  Jorge Cortez painting on his concept of the project area discussed at the ULI workshop
30-8:  A A cross section looking east showing if the city were to ever make Jorge's painting of W Commerce (Image 30-7) a reality
30-9:  A cross section looking east showing my recommendation on what many cyclist would like to see on W Commerce and Dolorosa as well
30-10:  A cross section looking east showing what the city should do to W Commerce St and Buena Vista.  It was featured in my last blog of "Green Lanes Aren't Enough."
30-11: A picture of the El Mercado driveway gate blocking the sidewalk on W Commerce looking west.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Streetcar IV: The Future of Rail in SA


As the year comes to a close, and the streetcar is a goner, what does the future of rail transit look like for San Antonio?  If you ask the average San Antonian on what they want to see in rail transit, they'll say that San Antonio needs a subway, or a monorail system which stretches from downtown to at least loop 410 or even 1604.  They will not say Light Rail, or Commuter rail although if you show them the plans collecting dust on the Austin/San Antonio Commuter Rail, they'll, we'll all say we need it now.  The same I've notice if you take any San Antonian for a ride on a light rail vehicle in either Houston (Image 29-1) or Dallas. (Image 29-2)  Via has plans on the books for a two route light rail system, (Image 29-3) but I doubt that we'll ever see it and recently from the latest 25 year long range meetings that the Alamo Area MPO held, they extended the North/South Study area to the Stone Oak Area. 

But guess what San Antonio, We'll never ever, and I mean ever get a subway or a monorail system here because we don't want to pay for it.  If you venture to lightrailnow.org, you come across the article called "New subway (metro) systems cost nearly 9 times as much as light rail."  In this story they site Buffalo's LRT system and how light rail vehicles are using the tunnels, not the famed subway vehicles we see on TV shows.
Quote from Story:
"But the “why not a subway?” issue keeps rearing its head — mainly reflecting the resistance of the motor-vehicle-focused mindset to having urban space, especially street space, shared or usurped by mass transit operations. Overwhelmingly, surface LRT in one type of alignment or another (from street reservations to the re-use of abandoned railway corridors) has triumphed … although there have been cases where pressure to “build it out of sight” has forced new LRT startups underground (or even canceled planned projects altogether).
The tremendous investment cost of digging a subway and installing underground stations is obviously a huge deterrent to the development of such systems — both in the initial financing, and in sopping up available resources that could otherwise be plowed into vigorous expansion of the system. Buffalo’s 6.4-mile LRT line, for example, was constructed almost entirely (81%) in subway … and hasn’t been expanded one foot since its original opening in 1985."

Dallas also has a subway tunnel too and they originally planed to build a subway line only to give up and turn it into tunnel for their 90+ mile light rail system. (Image 29-2)  But when we look to Dallas for inspiration, we forget what they had and we do not, a very friendly former US Senator named Kay Baily Hutchinson to provide federal funding.  So these stories are any indication if we ever dig a tunnel for rail in San Antonio, chances are that we'll have a light rail vehicles operating in it. Another thing Dallas has going for it was a good number of abandoned rail lines crisscrossing the city to put down the light rail tracks.  San Antonio on the other hand lacks these abandoned rail lines to put any light rail system down, so as I've stated before in other blog post that if San Antonio is to get any light rail, it will mostly go down the big stroads in San Antonio as is indicated on the planning maps.

Now we hear all the time that we want a Monorail system just like, no better than the one at the 68 Worlds Fair.  Well as I looked into monorail system on Wikipedia, I found a disturbing trend.  You see, all these monorail systems seem to be short, I mean streetcar short unless they were in China.  Out of all the systems that Wikipedia list, the longest in North America is in Las Vegas. According to the Wikipedia article, it doesn't even enter the city of Las Vegas.  The most famous one in Seattle is quite short, barely a mile. So if these three systems are any indication that if we ever build a monorail system, chances are we won't get one connecting Loop 410 to Downtown.

I could waste my time and point out the failures of Personal Rapid Transit, but here's the thing, we have such a system already in place, it's called driving your car. So if someone tries to sale it to you this, chances are they're from a think tank that gave us Obamacare, like Heritage or Cato. 

Now if we really want to see how rail transit will most likely look here in San Antonio, we have to look to the City of Weird as in Keep Austin Weird for they are the closest city to us and the most similar community when it comes to driving habits and in the number of times begging the Federal Government for transit funding.  Recently Austin, had a proposition that failed that would have brought Light Rail roughly along I-35.  Now it's funny how it died because if you were to just count the votes along the proposed rail line, it would have won.  Now not all the anti rail advocates were against it because it was rail, but because where it would have not been built along Lamar.  The same sadly will happen here in San Antonio for when it goes to the ballot, everyone except the ones that live along the proposed route, will vote against it unless the voting happens to take place during a presidential election. 

Currently Cap Metro operates a 32 mile Commuter rail (Image 29-4) from Leander to Austin's Convention Center downtown, Monday through Saturday.  In 2004, Austin voted to add rail along it's freight railroad tracked it own.  Only after much delay, it started Operations in March 2010.  Since then an average of 2,500 trips take place daily and it's full of critics from on where it's located, to it doesn't serve enough people.  My criticism on it is that it don't operates to 10 or 11PM everyday.


This is what San Antonio's future rail system is going to looks like because we don't want to slow down traffic for it, we don't want to vote yes for it, and most of all, we don't want to pay for it.  The future is sighted on Via's 25 year long range plan map called the Kerrville right-of-way Acquisition.  On this map, you'll see a grey dotted line snaking from the Westside Multimodal Center to Fiesta Texas and it's not I-10, but a railroad track currently a freight line that roughly parallels I-10 and use to go all the way north to Kerrville and Fredricksburg.  Today the Rail line dead ends at the Rim, and if you go there, you'll see a rail yard full of hopper cars.  This terminal is used by Martin Marietta Materials, the company that dug out the quarries that Fiesta Texas, the Rim are currently located in.  I don't know when they'll be finished with their digging, but it should come a close some time around 2020. Once the freight operations cease, Via has plans to buy the rail line.  Whether they choose to keep it operational as a freight line like Cap Metro is up in the air, but they'll definitely peruse an option to put some type of passenger rail on these tracks.

Whether they use the same diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) (Image 29-4) as Cap Metro is up in the air, but more than likely, they will and I cannot say how many stations there would be, but I can at least guess that the stations will probably be at the following locations:
  • The Rim/Loop 1604
  • De Zavala/Huebner/Wurzbach
  • Loop 410
  • Basse Rd/Hildebrand
  • Fredricsburg Rd
  • And finally Westside Multimodal Center

And chances have it, that they will try to expand it further south along to Blue Star and down the Railroad track that currently delivers coal to the CPS coal generators at Calaveras Lake (Image 29-5) and even down to Elmendorf.  I bet once they have it operational, there will be some talk of extending it to Beorne or even Kerrville and Floresville, but I can bet it will all be TALK for the money will never ever be available unless they change the funding of this rail line from the current begging for federal and state funding to doing something that we use to do in funding transportation, which is Land Value Added tax.  We use to use this method to fund all our transportation needs way before a gasoline tax.  When they built a electric trolley line or a new rail line the property along the way would go up in value and that added value would go towards the maintenance and operation of that rail line.  I hear this is how they currently fund transit system in Japan, but that is something I cannot confirm nor provide a link to.  By judging how we currently fund our transit which is not by bus fare, but by a 1/2 cent sales tax, it don't think it's a working for everyone believes at some level that Via Sucks. 

Union Pacific Railroad will also stand in the way like one of their freight trains blocking traffic at a railroad crossing.  They dragged their feet when it came to the linear creekway trails going underneath their railroad tracks.  I'm personally counting on Union Pacific to seal those feet in cement to prevent that train from getting next to the Westside Multimodal Center, (Image 29-6) and even further to Blue Star and Elmendorf.

It will be fun to watch as the years go by hearing the same things over and over again, how San Antonio needs a subway, and lacks the political will to get rail transit done, but I can be assured up to my death, to point this out in the years to come in future blogs that isn't the case so much as your methods of selling what could be best to the general public. Chances are they'll be naysayers will say that buses can do a better job, but if that's the case then why in my video I created that it's way easier for the wheelchair to get aboard the DART Light Rail Vehicle instead of the Via Bus?  As always work to Keep San Antonio Real, realize that we all end up Keeping San Antonio Lame by making sure cars can move faster than transit, and keeping it easier to drive an automobile than riding a bicycle or walking.

29-1:  Houston Metra Downtown Transit Station Looking north.  From the video....http://youtu.be/aQmPnTjegJ8
29-2:  DART Light Rail Garland Station Looking Southwest.  From the Video...http://youtu.be/YV2ksedrTjo
29-3:  Via's 25 long Rang Plan Map.  Originally posted in Mr Nirenberg, Ever think of Walking? as Image 20-2.  Map can be found on PDF format at http://viainfo.net/Planning/LRCTP.aspx
29-4:  Austin's CapMetro Commuter Rail DMU arriving at Highlands Station.  From the Video...http://youtu.be/PmrjyXCxqzU
29-5:  A picture of the Railroad Tracks along S Presa and Southcross where currently goes out to the CPS Energy coal plant at Lake Calaveras and Dead ends just South of Loop 1604 along Old Corpus Christi Rd right Before Saspamco.
29-6.  Picture from the W Commerce St Overpass of the Westside Multimodal Center looking north referring to a prediction that UPRR will prevent any future rail from accessing the old Train Station. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Green Lanes Aren't Enough

I've been hearing the news recently that W Commerce St out by OLLU are going to get some green painted bike lanes.(Image 28-1)  As these bike lanes are outside my map on where to live without a car, they should get the needed respect from distracting motorist, but don't count on it when you have to go around a Via bus stopped at a bus stop. (Image 28-2)  It's hard to find some data for green lanes and the only one I've found was a study in Florida a few years back.

It has been my experience that motorist do respect the green lanes more than just the white paint although the ones in Austin that I have rode in are at least 6ft wide. The problem with these lanes will not be solved by putting some green paint down, what needs to be done, is that these lanes need to wider.  Around 24th St, they're not even wide enough to be bike lanes at all.  For safe reliable bike lanes, they need to be 6ft wide, maybe 5, but these are barely 4ft which don't allow you enough room to get out of the way when a car passes. The reason why people are getting hurt using these lanes is simply because they're simply not wide enough which doesn't even provide room to maneuver out of the way of hazards that you might encounter while riding in these lanes.  Cars pass you with in 2ft as you ride in this lane, so I'm sorry to say, if you want to fix these lanes, you'll have to remove that center turn lane and put that space to the bike lane with green paint, then the bicycle lane will work properly.  

I'll give Shirley Gonzales credit for trying for she is basically the only one towards an alternative transportation future, unlike Ron Nirenberg or Diego Bernal, who claim they are but are all full of talk and lack of actions just like regular politicians.  So I say this with the rest of San Antonio Bicycling Community, thank you very much Shirley Gonzales for your hard work and may you please stay in office forever, at least one side of town will be bicycle friendly after you leave office. Although if you can, please try to change some laws, maybe some of these mistakes could be avoided in the first place.  Also the city needs to adopt NATCO standards and get rid of the law Sec. 19-66. Conformity with state manual, which forces us to use AASHTO standards, the reason why we have unsafe bicycle lanes in the first place all around San Antonio.  Keep San Antonio Lame.

Now when I first heard about the green bicycle lanes, I thought It was going to happen on the one way sections of W Commerce and Buena Vista, but for the foreseeable future, they're going to stay the same. (Image 28-3)  Now the following cross sections that I've posted (Images 28-3, 28-5, 28-7) are facing east.  I did all these measurements at the corner of W Commerce and Nueces nearby the Bazan Library.  Now the Sidewalk length isn't the same the entire stretch of W Commerce and Buena Vista, the roadway surface is.
In some of news stories I've heard, they mention Jose Carlos Macy death, but if anyone who's familiar with the circumstances of his death, will realize that is wasn't because of a stray motorist not paying attention, it was because two people were racing their cars down W Commerce, and second the tragedy was at the HEB by Zarzamora, not NW 24th St near OLLU.  Now I wrote about the tragedy that took place back in May, but I got something wrong about the size of the drive lanes which are not 14ft wide, but are actually 12ft wide. (Image 28-3)  Just by looking at the width of these lanes makes you think they're very wide and the way they manufacture cars today, it way to easy to exceed the speed limit. 
Personally, I don't ride in this bicycle lane because every time I'm crossing a major stroad like Zarzamora or Colorado, I almost get in a accident by drivers making left turns in front of me traditionally called "right hooks" which you can see the example of what almost happens to me when I ride in the left hand bike lane in the video above.  Also, it is ingrain into our society that slower traffic stays right, so somebody driving a car is more likely to expect a slow moving cyclist on the right hand side. Another thing, is the fact that these lanes don't provide much room and on any given day, you'll see someone parked in it. (Image 28-4)

Now if we're really interested in solving the problems with W Commerce and Buena Vista which is a current place where people reporting of car races, then the solution isn't painting the lane green but reducing the drive lanes to 11ft wide and putting the bicycle lane on the other side of the stroad.  Lets keep this bicycle lane on the left hand side, but instead of going with the direction of traffic, it goes against the direction of traffic.  Make this lane 6ft wide and use the two feet that we get by reducing the drive lanes by putting in a concrete median.  By doing this, anybody who has a grand ideal of using Buena Vista or W Commerce as a race way, they're in for a big surprise for when they're racing, they'll end up hitting the curb and damaging their car and hopefully, not the people who happen to be riding home on a bicycle. (Image 28-5)
One of the reasons that the bicycle lane got put on the left hand side was because Via complained about not having a place for their buses to stop.(Image 28-6)  Well, for all those who are worried about where are the buses going to stop, well here's the solution (Image 28-7) and it's nothing new for those who are frequent readers of this blog will know that the solution is a bus stop island just like the one in Austin on Guadalupe, just like the ones in the Netherlands
But don't count on this solution being built any time soon or in the foreseeable future.  You will never see this on the west side because our political leaders care nothing for the loss of life except for the person proposing the green lanes, Shirley Gonzales.  Also Via is looking at this particular Corridor for it's future light rail system which because the cars are simply more important, it will use up space for a protected bicycle lane, instead of the cars.  It is a sad fact of reality that San Antonio doesn't want a safer street, but a dangerous stroad.  The day that San Antonio sees W Commerce And Buena Vista just like the cross sections I posted is the day that pigs fly.  Keep San Antonio Lame. 

Speaking about recreation trails, there's an important petition going on right now to give people a choice in getting round town outside loop 410.  It is a petition to allow use of the Howard Peak Linear Creekways after dark.  As a person who constantly broke this law to get safely home after the buses stopped running, I can attest that the worse thing I came in contact with wasn't an ax murder, but a big ass spider with the entire web blocking the trail right underneath the Houston St Bridge by the AT&T Center.  I doubt that our city leaders will give into this because they're more serious about making sure cars have big dangerous numerous lanes instead of bike lanes, like Diego Bernal who spoke that a 1,000 miles of bike lanes where coming but when they repaved the stroads in his district, they failed to put them in or Ron Nirenberg who wants to plan for them and then leave the plan collecting dust.  I'm still going to sign it and I'm going to be publishing this petition after every story until we get a new city council in May.  I wish I wasn't right but I know for a fact that our mayor and city council will ignore this petition while people like me just go out an brake the law because I rather get a ticket, then show up on the morning news about another cyclist got hit or killed on the many stroads San Antonio.

27-1: main image for petition.https://www.change.org/p/mayor-ivy-r-taylor-repeal-code-of-ordinances-22-28-e-so-as-to-allow-use-and-access-of-leon-and-salado-creek-greenway-facilities-beyond-daylight-hours-in-accordance-with-22-28-a?utm_campaign=friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=permissions_dialog_false&share_id=JvxsaOGtXK

27-2:  The Spider Web I encountered around 3:30 AM back in July at the foot of the Houston St Bridge on Salado Creek Linear Creekway.

28-1:  W Commerce St of the bike lane next to the Valero to an entrance to OLLU looking west.
28-2:  A Via Bus stopped at the bus stop at the corner of 24th St and W Commerce showing how the buses have to invade the lane to make a stop.

28-3: A cross section of W Commerce at Nueces looking east on how it looks currently.
28-4: A picture of a car parked off the street and a car partially parked in the bike lane at Cibolo St on W Commerce looking West.
28-5:  A Cross Section of W Commerce at Nueces looking East if the bike lanes were put on either side while reducing the driving lanes.

28-6:  A Via Bus stopped at the bus stop across the stroad from the Bazan Library looking East. 
28-7:  A Cross Section of W Commerce at Nueces looking East if they had built a bus stop island. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Please, Take Off Your Bicycle Helmet

At the beginning of November, I read three stories in the Rivard Report on close calls on the Mission reach of the San Antonio River.  The complaint was that cyclist are riding too fast and passing two close to people walking. In these three stories, there was talk about removing cyclist off the off the river all together except for B-cycles while others complained that we should have invested in a separated path for cyclist.  What I find interesting is that these reports are coming in right after the City removed the bike lane on S Flores which to me sounds a little more than just a coincident.  The three stories I'm referring to are (in order) Slow Down and Share the Path, Cyclists, Sharing the San Antonio River A Growing Problem, and Where Was the Planning for Cyclists on the River?

Now we can waste some money and build a separate path or ban cyclist all together which will  solve nothing especially since District 3 Council
lady Rebecca Viagran told every one when she removed the bike lanes that the Mission Reach was a good alternative bike route to S Flores, but here's the simplest thing we cyclist can do, Don't Wear Your Bicycle Helmet.  Sound counter intuitive, but in reality, wearing a bicycle helmet increase your risk for accidents.  There's a reason why in the story, Sharing the San Antonio River A Growing Problem, they mention that the SARA is considering banning all bicycles except B-cycles on the Museum Reach.  The average b-cycle rider isn't safe because they're riding a heavy bicycle, it's because they're not wearing helmets.  I ride two 50 lbs bicycle, an Electra Townie Art 24, and a Montague Paratrooper.  Both Bicycles are equipped with my backpack, chain, U-lock, and several lights and a bell.  I have on several occasions, caught up with people on road bicycles not just on my two bicycles, but on a b-cycle as well, so I can attest that the weight of the bicycle really has nothing to do with going slow.  

When you don't wear a helmet, you slow down, and you pay more attention to whats around you. We do have some indirect evidence to support this simple solution of not wearing your helmet.  In Alberta, Canada, they passed a mandatory helmet law for kids under 18 years of age.  After the law passed, they found that the number of head injuries jumps from 5% to 10% and reduce the number of children cycling. Also helmets do nothing in protecting us while riding our bicycle on the road. In actual fact, when Ian Walker risk his own life to collect data, he found out that people pass him in cars with more room without a helmet than when he wore a helmet.  And to top it off, Bike Share system are virtually the safest way to travel and guess what the average if not the majority of these bike share riders aren't wearing while riding? 

Now I know somebody reading this story will ask, "hey, what about Bono and his head injury?"  My reply is that is just one case, not statics.  If you really want to know the damage that bicycle helmets are doing, just take time out and watch this TEDxCopenhagen talk of Mikael Colville-Andersen talking on how helmets threaten the bicycle culture worldwide.

So the next time you decide to take a ride down San Antonio River, take the helmet off.  You'll end up passing other people with more room to spare.  The addition to adding more signs or building a separate path is just a waste of money, money that could be better spent by putting a cycletrack down the entire length of Roosevelt Ave or S St Mary's.  I have constantly wrote on this blog if your going to put down separate bicycle path, put it down where it is needed for transportation, not recreation and I'll continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Speaking about recreation trails, there's an important petition going on right now to give people a choice in getting round town outside loop 410.  It is a petition to allow use of the Howard Peak Linear Creekways after dark.  As a person who constantly broke this law to get safely home after the buses stopped running, I can attest that the worse thing I came in contact with wasn't an ax murder, but a big ass spider with the entire web blocking the trail right underneath the Houston St Bridge by the AT&T Center.  I doubt that our city leaders will give into this because they're more serious about making sure cars have big dangerous numerous lanes instead of bike lanes, like Diego Bernal who spoke that a 1,000 miles of bike lanes where coming but when they repaved the stroads in his district, they failed to put them in or Ron Nirenberg who wants to plan for them and then leave the plan collecting dust.  I'm still going to sign it and I'm going to be publishing this petition after every story until we get a new city council in May.  I wish I wasn't right but I know for a fact that our mayor and city council will ignore this petition while people like me just go out an brake the law because I rather get a ticket, then show up on the morning news about another cyclist got hit or killed on the many stroads San Antonio

27-1: main image for petition.https://www.change.org/p/mayor-ivy-r-taylor-repeal-code-of-ordinances-22-28-e-so-as-to-allow-use-and-access-of-leon-and-salado-creek-greenway-facilities-beyond-daylight-hours-in-accordance-with-22-28-a?utm_campaign=friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=permissions_dialog_false&share_id=JvxsaOGtXK

27-2:  The Spider Web I encountered around 3:30 AM back in July at the foot of the Houston St Bridge on Salado Creek Linear Creekway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Halloween Highlife

It's been too long since I actually wrote about the bicycle culture here in San Antonio.  Halloween or the bike rides before Halloween bring out the costumes and the fun.  The Downtown Highlife Bicycle Club Ride always brings out the most creative costumes and this year was a treat.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Downtown Highlife Bicycle Club Ride, it is San Antonio's version of critical mass which takes place every last Friday of the Month.

From Batman, to Dinosaurs to the usual dead people, everyone on bicycles was out to play.  Our ride took us first over the Hays Street Bridge and eventually to the HEB on Houston and New Braunfels to pick up some Beer and Gatorade.  Then from there, we rode to the Eastside Grave yards specifically the one Right next to the old Fredrick building to celebrate the holiday. 

As always, people start pealing off from the ride near Midnight and our final stop lead to what is hope to be a bicycle shop behind the Furniture Warehouse that is always going out of business at the corner of Pleasanton and S Flores. 

As a Trekker, my favorite costume was that of this lovely young lady wearing TOS Science Uniform.  She look like the perfect lady from the 23rd Century.  Although personally I feel that she is from the Crew of the USS Liberty which is a Saladin-class which disappeared in the
Pinchot Expanse somewhere near the First Federation.  You can find her tragic story here on Star Trek Outpost episode 47 and Episode  52.  Warning to the wise, don't listen to the whole thing from the beginning unless you have nothing to do.  ;)   Live long and Prosper. 
The Rest of the photos taken in order can be found below here.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


It's that time of year again, then the terrible ads saying how this guy is screwing us over comes over the airwaves and barrage telling us who to vote for.  But unlike elections past, I don't own a TV.  (Ahhhhh!)  And like elections past, I really don't see anybody out there supporting a more bicycle future.  We don't live in Austin, we don't live in Oregon, where the people and the people running for office are actually running on a platform of more transit, more bicycles, more pedestrians and less cars.  No, in San Antonio, it's just another useless election voting for the same people for the same policies and all of them at some level or another saying that they're against Toll Roads. 

Currently 83 miles up I-35, Austin is having their city council election right now.  Bikeaustin.org is currently asking people to pledge to vote for bicycle and Pedestrians friendly candidates.  Judging from what I've been hearing lately there, the City council regularly votes 11-0 or 10-1 on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and laws.  Meanwhile in San Antonio, S Flores is back to the speeding stroad it use to be. 

Closer to home, District 2 elections are taking place right now to fill the spot that Ivy Taylor left as she took the reigns of mayor.  I spoken to all the candidates except one (Keith Toney) and asked them all if they would have voted for the removal of the S Flores Bicycle lanes.  All of them replied back to me as, "that was dumb" to "hell no."  I didn't ask this to Keith Toney and the reason why I didn't ask him is because he currently the Council Member for district 2 voted by the city council. Because of this, I wanted to ask him if  he knew of any thing about what I heard about the city giving bicycle racks to the council members a year ago or two.  He replied back saying he knew nothing of it.  I also asked him about putting bicycle lanes down Hackberry and told him that one of the reasons why they didn't get put down was because of the Churches along the way wanted to be able to park.  I send him an image (Image 25-1) that is above of a sign allow people to park in the bicycle lane during church hours and he ask me if this was okay and replied that this was okay.  So if any of you are registered to vote in District 2, I really have  know answer for you on who to vote for here, but all we can hope for is that these candidates don't repeat history.

At the end of the ballot, you'll come across State Proposition 1, a vote to move money recently received by the oil and Gas industry fracking their way in the Eagle Ford Shale and use that revenue to build and maintain roads.  TXDOT recently held hearing on removing dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.  Because of this, it is most likely I will not be voting for this prop.  Then again if I don't vote yes, chances are, that money will be gone entirely so damn if you do, damn if  you don't.  

Personally for me, I really don't see any local candidate that would push for the necessary change of rules that need to be changed for better infrastructure, but instead just make useless plans, plans that will not be followed and just collect dust.  I really have nothing to say about who to vote for except for the governors race.  Gregg Abbott is in a wheelchair and I personally don't trust anybody in a wheelchair that opposes great sidewalks or rules like the Safe Passing Bill.  

25-1:  Somewhere on the Eastside of Austin, there's this sign allowing church goers to park in the bike lane during church hours.  If someone has the location of this sign, please tell me. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Problems with Plans to Nowhere

At the last BMAC Bike Night meeting on October 6, I learned about several projects that wish to get priority funding like connecting the South and North Salado Creek Trails together through Fort Sam, the connections of the San Antonio Mission Reach to the Media River Trail, Via's sidewalk projects for bus stops and this one in particular caught my attention which was a Cycletrack down Floyd Curl Dr in the Medical Center which is #2 on the list. (Image 24-1)

Out of all the projects, this one is the most expensive and for one I can say, yes, it is needed down a Stroad like Floyd Curl Dr.  From what was explained to me, It would either by a one or two way protected bicycle lane like the ones you see in the Netherlands (Video below) from Huebner to Louis Pasteur.  It the most expensive of all  the projects which states it at $5.8 million.  And it's located in a place that I feel for certain will embrace the path built.  But here's my problem?  Why isn't it on Huebner, Babcock, Medical Dr, Wurzbach or Fredericksburg Rd?

It's a good question after all Huebner is a 7 lane stroad with cars that constantly speed above 50 mph; why isn't there a plan to put one there.  The Same with Babcock, a 7 lane stroad, but this one is sorta special, it goes towards town, it has an HEB, Via's Medical Center Transit Center and residential neighborhoods along it. But no, it's going here on Floyd Curl out of the way every ones way serving only about 3 or 4 hospitals and doctor offices that for the most part, the patients of these places are incapable of riding a bicycle. 

It's the same thing I wrote about in June 11 posting "San Antonio Don't Deserve Bronze," for what I stated is that for the most part, City of San Antonio considers cycling a recreational activity and fail understand that bicycling can serve everyday people shopping, paying bills, working, connecting people homes to their jobs and businesses that they go to.  When the protected bicycle lane along Floyd Curl is build, you'll still be more likely to drive your car to the HEB on Babcock, then to go there by bicycle, as is you'll still be more likely to drive to the restaurants along Fredericksburg or Wurzbach.  What it will connect is a park at the corner of Sid Katz Dr to the hospitals along Floyd Curl. 

I want to see stuff like this happening in San Antonio, but here's my beef, I want it down the stroads that are needing protection first, that connect everyday people with the ability to choose a bicycle over a car in going to the grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses along the way.  Putting bicycle infrastructure down side streets and not the main stroads sorta reminds me of separate water fountains that we learn about in school that were around for Jim Crow because lets face it, you're pretty much considered a second class citizen when you are force to live without a car in San Antonio.  Lets face it, I'm not the only one noticing the bias towards automobiles when it comes to transportation improvements.

So when I filled this MPO Pick your projects online survey, (Image 24-1) I picked three projects that I believe that is beneficial to the future of San Antonio and yes, I have every right to be criticized for picking a project that for the most part is recreational.  They are the Salado Creek connection through Fort Sam (#3), a path I've constantly used after dark breaking the law using the trail for commutting.  The other project is Via's MyLink Pedestrian Transit Plan, to build sidewalks on Fredericksburg, US 281 and Roosevelt for the purpose of providing some type of ADA accessibility between the bus stop and the near by businesses (#10).  I also picked the Safe Routes to Schools: School and Transit Pedestrian Infruxtructure Improvements (#4)  I hope that as they build these projects, they'll consider installing protected bicycle infrastructure along, but chances are, it ain't going to happen because cars are simply more important than a person choosing to help create an Ozone action day. 

I want to encourage everyone to visit this website and pick your own projects (Image 24-1) and you'll have to make sure that all the  projects you pick are under $11 million dollars.  Everyone has until October 24, 5PM to do this online survey, so please get to it. 

I have other issues such as #7 McCullough Corridor Improvements in which they're not providing any bicycle lanes along the project.  After all, that space is needed for cars to make a faster left turn and not a protection of a human being on a bicycle keeping the air clean.  Hope the other projects I pick do the same thing. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where 2 Live in SA W/O a CAR

A few years ago, I designed a map on where you should live in San Antonio if you want to live without a car and this is what I came up with. (Image 23-1)

How I came up with the map.

Back in 2008, a friend of mine asked to be a sub director of a group on meetup.com because I knew of a lot of independent place on the south side.  While a member of this group, someone told me that the to some people, they consider everything south of Hildebrand the South side.  Personally I considered this in insult, but no matter, it gave me more independent places to choose from.  As I met more people from the far north side, it became more evident on the disconnect I personally had.  There was this one vegan lady who drove a smart car, and a big supporter of PETA.  She claimed that she was being an environmentalist by not eating meat, and driving a "smart car, but  she lived over the "Environmental sensitiveness" Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone not realizing that her dog poop was ending up in our drinking water.  It's funny, I don't live over the recharge zone or produce any greenhouse gas while riding my bicycle, but she does through her internal combustion engine.  This made me realize that you should be living inside the loop (Loop 410) if you wanted to live without a car.  My short experience with her and her companions made me realize that there was a lack of culture that San Antonio is famous for out side loop 410

The more I thought about it, loop 410 was pretty large, and even then before I reached the loop, I got harassed more and more on my bicycle, like telling me to get on a non existent sidewalk or even better, telling me what I was doing was illegal for which if they ever read their drivers manual issued by DPS, it will tell you , I'm pretty much a car under the law. During that time I came to the realization that if you happen to live in a grid street area, your more able to find an alternative safer route to ride your bicycle on. It was around this time, that I realized where I got on the bus, and where I got off the bus to ride my bicycle, and then it became clear.  I would first choose a bus when I was south of Southcross, or north of Hildebrand before I decided to get on my bicycle and ride it.  By early 2010, the map came together after I realized that with in the drawn area, you can find more than one bus to get to downtown on, and thus, it formed into what you see today.  It was then I realized that if you live south of Hildebrand, north of Southcross, east of Cupples, and west of  Walters, you could comfortably live without a car in San Antonio.

Exception on the map:

Now there are some areas that are inside my little square that I really don't recommend living in like River Road, Roosevelt and Southcross area, and the neighborhood between Hackberry and I-37. Outside my little map, Government Hill, South San, and Mahncke Park just to name a few.

River Road by default of TxDOT and USDOT, decided to cut off a beautiful neighborhood with the building of US 281.  It's pretty much a gated suburban community and although it is close to downtown, I don't recommend it because the Albertsons grocery store has been replaced with a YMCA and during any given day, your nearest bus stop is either on St Mary's or Broadway. 

Again, this area of Southcross Blvd and Roosevelt Ave is an area where even though industry is nearby, there a lack of safe bicycle facilities and even though the Mission Reach is in this area, I don't include it because much of it is in a flood zone. 

Mahncke Park and Government Hill is also an area I recommend that you avoid simply because that if your unable to find a place close to Broadway, you'll be leaning to owning a car sooner rather than later.  This is due to much of the area being without frequent bus service.  Although parts of Government Hill East of N Pine is has the 20 serving it, I took it off of the area simply because the 20 is more of a cross town bus than a downtown bus and downtown buses go to the places where you can connect with the most buses.  

Relations to Bicycle Culture.

If your ever on your bicycle, you'll notice more bicyclist with in my square rather than outside of it and even better, more Frankenbikes inside my square than outside my map.  Yet there's virtually no bike lane to speak of. Now that's "sort of" changing of course, but so far what I'm seeing is trying to avoid the inevitable of putting down where they are needed the most and most of all, taking out a vehicle lane for a protected bicycle lane also known as a cycletrack.  And what I'm seeing get put  in lacks certain paint and signage to make it work. 

After talking with a naysayer of the S Flores bike lane and reading a story on little plastic thing that Starbucks gives out to some customers who are driving made me realize, we're focusing on the wrong places to put down bicycle lanes and Cycletracks.  Yes, they're needed at those places, but lets face it, if they're put in and around the Downtown area, they'll serve more of a use than ever being put on Culebra outside loop 410 or even worse, down a street that don't need it.  Since the city of San Antonio isn't serious about bicycling, but about driving, enjoy getting stuck behind a stinking car.  (Image 23-2)  It does make me wonder if there's an element high up with in the local political pyramid that don't want a role for the bicycle other than recreation.

23-1:  My map of where you should live without a car.  If you want to make one of your own, I recommend that you use yahoo maps instead of Google.  Make sure you put down that these are walking directions and they are...http://yhoo.it/1F7QFuy
Hildebrand at Broadway
Club Dr at Wilson Blvd
Cupples Rd at Brady Blvd
Brady Blvd at S Zarzamora
S Zarzamora at W Southcross
E Southcross at Gevers St
Gevers St at Walters
Walters at Sherman St
Sherman St at N Pine
N Pine at Josephine
Josephine at N Alamo
N Alamo at Broadway
Broadway at Hildebrand.

23-2:  A Family stuck behind traffic on Houston St at Presa looking East back in October 2012.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Another Useless Bicycle Lane

As I continue to write this blog, I constantly show how the City of San Antonio and it's political leaders aren't interested in providing anything in the way of transportation improvements unless it has at least 4 wheels, an internal combustion engine and helps keeps the myth going that global warming is a conspiracy. 

Back in April, I wrote the post Useless Bicycle lane, showing how three bicycle lanes in the city are completely useless in providing actual protection.  They were S Main Ave, S Pine St, and Elmendorf St on the west side.  Since my publishing of that story several things have changed and I can add two new ones to that list which are Village Parkway on the Far West Side, and Diana on the East Side. 

I think a lot of you are asking what constitutes a Useless bicycle lane, and this is how I come to figure out that conclusion.  The first thing I go by the Dutch principal which you can see below this paragraph in this video explaining when and where you put one and a quote of Jeremy of the Critical transit blog Transit Tip #14 which states: "There’s a tendency among bike advocates to champion the delineation of a “bike space” even without any actual space being created. You know, “if there’s room for a bike lane” without changing anything else on the street". When the Dutch put down a bicycle lane (and they do just like us Americans) or a cycletrack, they put them where they are needed, like places where cars go faster than 30 KM per hour. For us Americans, that roughly 20 Miles per hour.  There's a reason why nearly all school zones are 20 miles per hour, because that is the safest, fastest speed possible to prevent collisions and reduce harm when collisions occur.  The Dutch put those 20 mph zone not just in school zones, but down residential streets.  You also see 25 MPH in the neighborhoods of Terrell Hills and Alamo Heights, which makes me think they sort of get it.  

The  Improvements

Back in July, S Main Ave (Image 22-2) got a new paint job, and this time taking into account of the parking occurring on the street.  Before, they had a bicycle lane with parked cars, (Image 22-1) now there's a bicycle lane, a parking lane, and smaller drive lanes.  It's not perfect, but it's better than the last time.  I call these type of lanes, Double Edge Swords for you have a space to ride, but when a parked car and a vehicle is passing you, you have no escape route.  So if your ever riding down S Main or any other street with this type of paint job, simply ride in the parking lane when there are no parked cars and treat it like a buffered bicycle lane that is currently popping up all over Austin. Take it from me, you'll feel better in doing so, and safer. 

Elemndorf out by Woodlawn Lake also got a small improvement, that of a 25 MPH sign and as I was riding down it, I notice that most of the cars were following it too.  The bicycle lane with parked cars in it is still there, but the wasted paint it's fading day by day. 

New Useless Lanes

Village Parkway on the far west side off of Culebra Rd is one of these useless bicycle lanes. (Image 22-3) With cars not just parked in it, but it is down a residential street where cars should be traveling at 20 mph instead of the 30 mph posted. To add a touch of stupidity to this useless lane, the neckdown at the corner of Cross Springs and Village Parkway (Image 22-4) was poorly built. You would think that if the city of San Antonio is going to build a traffic calming device, they would do it right in the first place and actually calm (slow) cars, but no, they did not.  You see the ideal of having these neckdowns is to slow vehicles while making right turns. 

Now I wouldn't be complaining about the neckdown along with the bicycle lane, (Image 22-4) but since they build it with rainwater runoff being more important than having adequate protection of the cyclist.  Common sense should have told the idiot who designed it that cyclist and cars don't mix and should have had a 5ft opening through the neckdown. Or better yet, realize that the bicycle lane is useless in the first place and build the neckdown out to the place where you see the outer stripe of the bike lane, but no, they had to reroute the bike lane around it bring it into close contact with impatient drivers. The good news about all of this is the bicycle lane on Culebra and although I think removing the right traffic lane and putting down a protected cycletrack would be better, it's better than nothing. 

Diana on the East side has one of these useless bicycle lanes. (Image 22-5)  It's a very wide street and does nothing for safety of the pedestrians or cyclist.  It does however provide a small space for people walking along the east side of the street because the city felt that not having a sidewalk would help people not fall into the ditch that runs along side Diana.  There's barely enough traffic along this street to really warrant the width of the street or the bicycle lane there except when the school is ending or starting the day. This bicycle lane doesn't need to be on Diana, but should have been placed on Rigsby where the fast moving traffic on that stroad should have a least a bicycle lane or better yet, a protected cycletrack

The solutions that I come up are something that the city cannot do because that would slow down cars, and we just can't do that.  One of these solutions is changing the law that forces the CMI people to use AASHTO standards which are great for long distance interstates instead of the NATCO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) standards that were developed for urban areas and looking in there to determine how wide the street needs to be because this road surface needs to be narrowed with wide sidewalks along both sides with planted Pecan trees between the sidewalk and the street. This would do wonders for the property values and provide shade along the street along with 25 mile per hour signs would also do good.  Maybe a parking lane along the elementary school and the city park would also be good instead of a useless bicycle lane. 

Now there are others that I've been considering to be useless such as SW 19th St, Timberhill, Rittiman, and even Semlinger Rd, but I'm not yet to declare these useless because traffic volume is just enough to consider their need, but what's the point, after all people consider this space to better use by parked cars than a space for a cyclist to be.  Keep San Antonio Lame. 

22-1: A picture of S Main Ave looking north back in April, 2014
22-2: A picture of S Main Ave looking north back in August, 2014
22-3: A picture of Village Parkway looking west
22-4: A picture of the neckdown at Cross Springs and Village parkway looking east.
22-5: A picture of Diana looking north.