- Photo by Michael Barajas
You'll finish sweatier, dirtier and smell like the receiving end of a VIA bus tailpipe. But biking is, and will remain, the best way to move in and around downtown San Antonio. Expect more of us traveling to and from work, running errands, or heading out at night on two wheels as SA continues to grow in a bike-friendly way. While navigating the traffic outside the city center remains risky, the streets in and around downtown sport ever-increasing bike lanes, and businesses continue to set up racks hoping to reel in the two-wheel traffic. Ride defensively (and with a helmet, I'm obliged to say), and the worst you'll likely face is a lame remark from some asshole motorist, like, "Get a car, hippie!" – Michael Barajas
The recently revived Hays Street Bridge has grown into a mecca of sorts for SA cyclists. Closed in 1982 and slated for demolition by 1994, preservationists helped revive Hays and re-open it in 2010, and now the bridge connects downtown to the city's woefully under-traveled East Side. For afternoon rides, fill up at nearby Boneshakers, known for good eats and killer Texas microbrews on tap. Or pack a bag to eat and booze it up on the bridge itself (my obvious preference). From Hays, cross the bridge east and explore Dignowity Hill. You can head south on Palmetto to peruse a handful of intriguing East Side cemeteries. Heading west on Commerce will loop you right back around into downtown proper.
More than just a microcosm of everything San Antonio's striving to become (a city of multi-use development, hip shops, top-notch dining, and bougie apartments), the Pearl's a good start for any fun weekend ride. Within biking distance from virtually anywhere downtown, you can stop in for a rest, or keep heading east for coffee and pastries at Bakery Lorraine. From there, head out into the East Side, or hop one street over to Josephine to catch the Museum Reach bike path. After winding through a golf course, it'll spit you out right at the south end of Brackenridge Park. Grab lunch at nearby W.D. Deli, get a good book at Half Price Books, and find a spot to read in Brackenridge Park before biking back downtown.
If you want public art, bike out to the near West Side. My preferred route from downtown is west on Martin Street, biking past the Bexar County jail and homeless shelter Haven for Hope, then heading south on Colorado until you hit Guadalupe. In and around the Guadalupe Street corridor, venerable West Side institution San Anto Cultural Arts has commissioned and catalogued over 40 murals on the sides of apartments, schools, and local businesses. Contact San Anto Cultural Arts for a list of locations, or see if you can hook up with one of the organization's Saturday morning mural bike tours.
SOUTHTOWN / MISSION REACH
So much has grown up around Southtown/King William in recent years that roaming the area is almost self-explanatory. But in case you need the help, here are some staples that are always stocked with really, really good beer: the Tap Room at the Filling Station, the Friendly Spot, or the Blue Star Brewery. From Blue Star, you can head straight out onto the newly expanded Mission Reach. Take the path down for miles along the river, or detour at any of the marked stops to see all the Spanish Colonial Missions — all, that is, except the Mission de San Antonio de Valero, or the Alamo, as it's known.
Most days, there's little reason to bike past the Alamo, except for maybe to buzz some tourists as they confusedly cross the street like a lost puppy. But the last Friday of each month cyclists from all over town converge on Alamo Plaza at 9 p.m. and ride out into the city. When it's well attended, the ride resembles a true Critical Mass-like event, with cyclists filling and shutting down streets. Each month, the route is undetermined (or at least unannounced), so come prepared for what could be a long ride. Also, the crew takes several pit stops in parks or parking lots along the way, so BYOB.