Jul 10

Market Square – Not Bike Friendly

Saturday, July 9, 2011
Dear Management of Pearl Brewery and Management of Market Square,

CC: Mayor Julian Castro, Metro Planning Organization of Bexar County and Bicycle Coordinator of the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau

Today, I was part of a group of cyclists made up of local residents and a few tourists. The group is a loose knit group of almost 900 people organized via Facebook. Each 2nd Saturday of the month there is a ride that includes tourist stops within downtown San Antonio. Today we rode from Brackenridge Park to Pearl Brewery for the Farmers Market, Market Square, Blue Star Art Complex and the Alamo.

I wanted to share my reflections about two of those stops, the Pearl Brewery and Market Square. Both locations are similar in nature. Both are tourist stops; both offer food and drinks; both house local businesses and vendors. At both the Pearl Brewery and Market Square riders bought food and drinks and other goods. Even though these locations are very similar in nature, their attitudes about cyclists as customers were drastically different.

At the Pearl Brewery Farmer’s Market (A usual stop of the Saturday ride) cyclist are treated fairly. In fact, on this particular morning the Pearl was very welcoming to the cycling group. As we approached Pearl, the Police Officer working security directed traffic so the group of 50 could safely arrive and park our bicycles. We parked our bicycles in the “fuel efficiency vehicle” spaces and within view of the shopping we conducted. We stood by our bikes eating local goods and enjoying refreshing drinks purchased from vendors at this location. We were never told that we couldn’t be there and we felt welcomed.

Unfortunately, at the Market Square the attitude was completely different. We arrived and lined our bikes in a location that was close to the vendors we wanted to see. Riders went to purchase snow cones and other goods while other enjoyed the market vendors outside near the bikes. We weren’t there more than 5 minutes when a woman in a white shirt carrying a radio came with a security guard. I assume that she is the manager as she didn’t identify herself to the riders in fact she didn’t even say anything to us directly at first but loudly told the security office “I need these out of here” as she pointed at our bikes. Eventually she came up to a few of us and told us that we can’t park here, and we must use the bike racks outside Market Square. Neither she nor the security guard was very helpful at pointing out exactly where the rack was, or even if it could hold the fifty or so bicycles that we rode in on. We only intended to be at this stop for 10-15 minutes to allow those that wished to buy some food items mainly cool refreshing drinks then we’d walk our bikes out the market and go to the next stop hardly worth taking the time to lock up fifty bikes. The woman said something to us to the effect of “we have customers here; you cyclists can’t be here”. I was offended because if she cared to notice at that moment at 10:30 am on a Saturday we were the bulk of the customers. Other than some offhand comments no serious harsh words were exchanged, but it was clear at the parading up and down and comments she made to the security officer we weren’t welcomed. Clarification wasn’t given as to the exact area we needed to park. Some moved bikes to a large opening where the lady had pointed only to be told again that they could not be there. We certainly understand that 50 bicycles can be difficult to accommodate, and that in this moment in time only a hand full of riders remained near the bikes while others purchased from vendors. We simply couldn’t move all the bikes and it did not seem that the city staff offered any accommodation. We would gladly park our bikes in the correct location if that was made clear and if all the riders were present to move their bikes. Once everyone returned to their bikes, we left altogether. Vendors tried to sell us things as we walked our bikes out of the market and we politely told them, “we’d love to do business with you, but we aren’t allowed to park our bikes here so we can’t.” One vendor remarked the woman was new and “she has been giving everyone hell”.

The contrast between these two locations is clear. We were not welcomed at Market Square yet at the Pearl Brewery we were welcomed with open arms. Obviously, we conducted more business with the vendors at Pearl than those at Market. We weren’t asking for Market to let us run the place; only please show us a place to park that is safe and easily seen so we can shop with peace of mind and some slight courtesy in doing so.

I am a disappointed by this incident as I have always brought out of town guests to Market Square as a part of the San Antonio experience. I’m sorry that on this particular ride we had many out of town guests who did not have a positive experience.

I believe the management of Market Square should take notes from Pearl Brewery and their hospitality. I don’t think the vendors at Market Square would like knowing that the management ran off 50 paying customers on a seemingly slow Saturday morning. It saddens me that Market Square which is operated by the city was not open to cyclists on this day especially in front of out of town guests. All city departments need to realize Mayor Castro’s goals in making San Antonio a bike friendly community as evidenced by the purple signs downtown declaring “San Antonio Bicycle Friendly Community”.

NOTE: Typo in photo will be corrected.