Left: Myself Right: Steve Bode
Friday morning I checked my email and was surprised to see a message from Steve Bode the director of sales for Yuba bicycles, makers of the new Boda Boda Cruiser and my beloved Yuba Mundo long tail cargo bicycle. Steve was going to be in San Antonio to talk with a bicycle shop that wanted to possibly start carrying Yuba bicycles. He wanted to know if I wanted to possibly go on a ride with him or if we could sit down and have a beer together. We did both! I was equally excited at the idea of a local shop carrying Yuba products!
Steve Bode of Yuba Bicycles in San Antonio
Currently, the nearest dealers (off the top of my head are) Rocket Electric in Austin which carries the electric versions of Yuba bicycles, and Trinity Bikes up in Ft. Worth. I’ve not dealt with Rocket Electric in Austin; however, I’ve been a fan of Rocket Electrics facebook page for sometime and they seem to be doing very well with rentals and sales of e-bikes in the “weird” city to the North. I have however, conducted business with Trinity bicycles in Fort Worth and really dug the vibe of Trinity. They hold rides in the area, have a great collection of bicycles and if you are looking for something chances are they have it! In my case they had two of the Go-Getter Bags for my Yuba Mundo. I’m excited about the possibility of a dealer right here my city. I’ve got the version 1 Yuba which I think is completely awesome but it is a heavy old girl compared to its younger sister, the version 4, and someday might upgrade.
The simple fact that bike shops in San Antonio are thinking of bringing cargo bicycles into the show room is encouraging. Recently, Bike World San Antonio on Broadway has started carrying the Christiania Cargo Trikes but last time I was in there they told me they only sold one since they’ve been carrying them. Bike World is also a Trek dealer and can carry the Trek Transport in their showrooms but I’ve yet to see one on a show room in San Antonio. In San Antonio we need a little Yuba in the mix. I look forward to a mass craze of cargo bikes like the 10-speed craze or the mountain bike craze of past times in the US history of cycling.
Steve and I planned to ride Friday night but some miscalculation on his part about the number of time zones he needed to cross made him delayed and also when I did catch up with him Friday he was still wheeling and dealing with the local bike shop (LBS). I know the people that run this bike shop (as in that I’ve been rides with them before) so it wasn’t too awkward being the third wheel on a bicycle business deal. I think that it also was good for the LBS to chat with a Yuba Mundo owner. Steve and I grabbed a beer and chatted a little Friday night and decided to post pone the ride until Saturday morning.
Saturday morning came with sunny chilly weather but I was able to meet up with Steve and the iconic Yuba Van at his hotel just after sunrise and we took off on our Yuba Mundos and headed for downtown San Antonio. The next hour or two were great as we pedaled cargo bike goodness and chatted about how much San Antonio is changing and accepting the bicycle as a valid form of transportation and about the cargo bike industry in America. I explained that the city still has a long way to go and that building a great network of bike facilities is a challenge due to the layout of the city especially these track housing neighborhoods where they create huge sections of the city that are essentially blocked off to through traffic weather it be walking, cycling or driving by automobile.
First stop was Main Plaza. A small plaza but a great place that is akin to what one might find in a European city. It’s a beautiful location with central cathedral as the anchor for the plaza and court house on one side and the river walk on the other. There are tables and chairs for people to sit and play chess or listen to live bands (usually jazz) that frequent the plaza.
Steve rides down Houston Street
After looking around Steve and I left Main Plaza and headed to City Hall, the Spanish Governors Palace and Market Square. Along the way Steve was super excited to see San Antonio’s bike share program B-Cycle. I thought for sure he’d seen these in his work travels throughout the US before but he was utterly amazed and wanted to take some photos. I proudly let him know that San Antonio was the first city in Texas to have a bike share program such as this one with stations all over the town. As we circled Milam Square, I explained the Bike Waiter business to him and also that the pizza store across from Milam Square has it’s own bicycle delivery bikes. I thought it is neat that food by bicycle in San Antonio (at least downtown) was taking off.
We continued down Houston Street past the famous Majestic Theater. The city at this hour was almost empty of cars – a true cyclist’s delight. We made a quick stop at the Alamo for a photo of the two Yuba Mundos in front of this iconic symbol.
From the Alamo we headed to the Pearl Brewery Farmers Market which takes place every Saturday. Along the way we made brief stops at the VFW post 76 (the oldest post in Texas but also not very bike friendly at all I might add) and then rode the river walk from behind the San Antonio Museum of Art to Pearl Brewery.
Photo Steve took as we rode along Riverwalk
Yuba Mundo's at the Farmers Market at Pearl Brewery
While at the Pearl we had a breakfast taco and chatted about the cargo bicycle industry and some new products that are in the design phases at Yuba Bicycles. (sorry no spoilers here) Steve and I also chatted with people who happened to be shopping at the farmers market and were excited about the utility of our bicycles. This is something that Steve and I are no strangers to.
Although I’m not an employee for Yuba, my Mundo does draw attention at every farmers market and on every shopping trip I go on. So today we chatted with people about cargo bicycles and the Mundos then headed off to the Hayes Street Bridge.
While riding there, I explained that sometimes bicycle progress in the city is too focused on recreation rather that transportation. This conversation took place as we road down the separated bike line on Avenue B which is slowly being torn out and a winding path is being put in. That it might be fun to ride on it’s just not practical for a commuter.
My shirt from Siclovia screams recreation rather than transportation.
San Antonio needs straight bike paths to get people moving on bicycles. One only needs to look at the Midtown green-way of Minneapolis for a great example of a good straight commuter path. Earlier on the ride I was telling Steve that I’ve been wanting to commute to work and I could utilize the city’s Leon Creek Green Way system for a major part of my commute to the elementary school where I teach but since I have to be at work early in the day it would be before sunrise and I’ve been told by park police I’d be issued a ticket if I was on the Green Way before dawn. This is when Steve had a rather great idea. He said just do it and if you get a ticket go to the news media and ask the mayor why in the world are we discouraging bicycle commuters when his office and the city is actively trying to encourage cycling as transportation.
That gave me something to think about… what will it take to effect change and get the city out of the recreational mindset and into the transportational one when it comes to cycling… Bike shops carrying cargo bikes is one step in that direction.
Downtown is much better for cycling than the rest of San Antonio but even Steve made comments on the ride like “Hey, the bike lane just ends without warning” (on Broadway at E Jones St.).
I explained that sometimes things around here are huge steps backwards (in my view) for cycling as transportation like the removal of the bike lane on Broadway North of Downtown to E. Jones. The city put sharrows on there when they took out the bike lane but didn’t calm traffic at all! Also the curve right at E. Jones on Broadway makes it suicidal to just hop into the lane of traffic when coming from the bike line north of if you are heading South on Broadway. We once had a bike lane that went south past E Jones… this might have seemed like a step in the right direction but to this cyclist it was a dumb move. Why not officially make E. Jones more bike friendly and divert bicycle traffic to Avenue B or N. Alamo because a sharrow on Boardway with high speed limits four lanes plus a turn lane just doesn’t make sense. I’d rather have the lane back…enough of that soap box.
Hayes Street Bridge
From the Hayes Street Bridge we rode to Sunset Station, the Alamo Dome, then Hemisphere park. Steve and I stopped in at Bcycle HQ to take a photo and say hello.
From the Bcycle HQ we rode through King William district back to his Hotel South of downtown. It was a great morning and a great 11 mile ride through the heart of San Antonio a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community according the 2012′s League of American cyclists levels.
Hopefully, with more local dealers carrying cargo bikes like the Yuba, Trek Transport, Christiania, etc. San Antonio will be a new Gold Level city in the next decades to come! The key to this, I believe, is a need for the city to shift from thinking of cycling as only a recreational activity to a valid means of transportation.
Thankfully, I believe this shift has begun and It’s an exciting time to be a cyclist in San Antonio!