Area Foundation Supports Making San Antonio Safer & Accessible Through Cycling

By Travis E. Poling

SAN ANTONIO — In May 2019, cyclists, civic leaders and government officials assembled for the launch of a bicycle safety awareness initiative called Live 2 Ride. While the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic slowed the rollout of fundraising and programs, the effort has gathered steam in recent months.

The undertaking is a partnership of the 80/20 Foundation, which has pledged $200,000 in matching funds raised for Live 2 Ride, the San Antonio Area Foundation and the City of San Antonio. To date, the initiative has funded two significant projects and is seeking additional proposals for ways to encourage bicycle safety from dedicated trails to better sharing the roads with cars.

The Area Foundation provides the funding mechanism, hosting Live 2 Ride as a charitable fund.

“Meaningful community change is often spurred by the sheer will of the people in that community, who create the synergy to affect policy, allocate public funding, align philanthropy and inspire a movement,” Area Foundation CEO Marjie French said when the fund was created. “Live 2 Ride is that movement and we are honored to be part of it.”

The 2019 deaths on San Antonio roads of two high-profile cycling advocates, Tito Bradshaw and Dr. Naji Kayruz, spurred the formation of the fund, said Alexandra Frey, Executive Director of the 80/20 Foundation. The foundation was created by Rackspace Hosting co-founder and former chairman Graham Weston to attract, grow and retain San Antonio’s next-generation workforce and entrepreneurs.

The lack of cycling infrastructure, especially as it relates to reliable and safe transportation to work and play, is often cited by young workers in various fields such as technology as a reason for leaving or not relocating to San Antonio, Frey said.

“Young (workforce) talent doesn’t want cars,” Frey said. “They would prefer to ride a bike” but don’t find enough protected lanes to feel safe, she said.

Two grants have been allocated thus far under Live 2 Ride. One is to ActivateSA to cover half the cost of its first full-time staff member. The other is to Austin-based Ghisallo Cycling Initiative, which was able to expand its cycling education programs to San Antonio thanks to the grant.

The programs funded by Live 2 Ride are even more important now more than ever because cycling experienced a huge uptick in San Antonio as a result of the pandemic.

The Live 2 Ride funding of half of the executive director position for ActivateSA helps mobilize the organization in helping shape city plans and policy to finish the 80 miles of greenway trails for cyclists, walkers and runners. They also are advocating for connections from communities to the greenway segments that connect much of the city,  especially those most in need for safe transportation to work, school or getting around.

“We need to be out engaging the community more so that people won’t be shocked when they hear our name,” said ActivateSA’s new Executive Director, Kari Kuwamura. “We also need to be a partner to the city to create the best Bike Network Plan for San Antonio.”

The ActivateSA effort is part of the larger Great Springs Project that aims to link San Antonio to Austin by hike and bike trails over the protected Edward Aquifer recharge zone. It will connect through four springs in four counties including San Antonio Springs, Comal Springs in New Braunfels, San Marcos and Barton Springs in Austin.

“The partnership with Live 2 Ride is great because it allowed us to focus on something full time,” Kuwamura said. “Not just to promote the greenway, but to provide equitable access.”

A $6,400 grant to Ghisallo Cycling Initiative from Live 2 Ride made it possible to put a bicycle bay made from a shipping container at South Side Lions Senior Center, said Cristina Solorzano, San Antonio programs coordinator and community educator for Ghisallo.

The organization already had programming in the senior center parking lot, but the bicycle bay will allow them to store the bicycles, helmets and other gear on the site to do events teaching children safe riding more easily. The container will hold 25 to 30 bicycles, including some without pedals for young children learning balance.

“It would have been difficult to launch this container without the 80/20 Foundation and the Live 2 Ride fund program,” Solorzano said.

An event planned for this Saturday (Dec. 4) is slated to officially open the bicycle bay for the South Side community.

Jeff Moore, founder of cycling group SATX Social Ride, said the trails for bikes are not just about fun, a point he thinks is important to make as the city council considers how much to allocate for completing greenway trails and connectivity in proposals going to the voters in the 2022 bond election.

“It’s never going to be 20 percent of people using bikes for transportation,” Moore said. Yet anything that encourages cycling is a positive for the overall health of the city, he said. 

“To me, the health benefits are the big thing because of physical, emotional and mental benefits,” Moore said. “If you get people biking, you’re going to be building up a healthier and more resilient community.”

Interested in donating to the Live 2 Ride Fund? Just click here. More information about the different types of charitable funds at the Area Foundation and our simple process to set up your own fund can be found here.

Travis E. Poling is a New Braunfels-based freelance writer and member of the San Antonio Area Foundation Marketing and Communications Department’s new Storytelling Ambassador contributor network.