Even if you don’t have a bike, it’ll soon be possible to pedal between the Alamo in downtown San Antonio and the four beautiful missions that stretch south of the city—thanks to a bike share program.
The city’s existing Bike Share program was the first in Texas and is part of an aggressively expanding cycling program. In just more than a year 23 bike stations offer more than 200 bikes for use around town. A Federal Transportation Grant is funding the oft-requested expansion of the system into the area of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Seven or possibly eight new bike stations will soon make it possible to pick up and drop off bicycles at or near the four beautiful 18th century missions. A 24-hour pass is only $10 and there are other plans.
The expansion has begun with one station already installed, with the rest hoped for by early to mid-October. A kick-off event is tentatively slated for November. Krista Sherwood, community planner with National Park Service's Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, says, "We're going through the compliance progress, so the implementation dates are tentative for now. In the future we hope for more funding to further enhance the program. We're excited about this opportunity to partner with the city and see all the improvements being planned for the river."
The new bike share program is just part of a major effort to further enhance the San Antonio River and make it a more important part of the city’s life. San Antonio is already known for its downtown River Walk, but recent efforts are eaimed at upgrading the river north and south of downtown. The $245 million Mission Reach Project south of the city will accomplish major habitat restoration and create recreational improvements that include more than 15 miles of trails, eight new street connections, 89 benches, 137 picnic tables, overlooks with shade structures, foot bridges and more.
It’s a very bike-friendly, 8-mile jaunt from the Alamo downtown past Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan (with the park’s visitor center), to Mission Espada. It’s no wonder further improvements for the river are planned—it has been a feature of the Mission experience for centuries. A dam, aqueducts, and irrigation are still evident as you visit the riparian environment of the Missions.
According to Julia Diana, with the city's bike program, "The most scenic and pleasant route to the Missions is to get on the paved trail that follows the San Antonio River south of town. Pick it up at Blue Star or Roosevelt Park, and then follow it to Concepcion Park, where you can pop up to street level and cut over to Mission Concepcion. Look for Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and many duck species along the way."
The area’s natural habitat is being impressively restored along this 10 mile stretch of the river. Parts of the river trail are currently being improved, so the best bet is to check the construction status at www.sanantonioriver.org.
"The San Antonio Missions are beautiful legacies of our heritage," says Diana. "Discovering them by bicycle seems appropriately gentle and creates a different experience. Approaching quietly on a bike, one gets a real sense of the scale and beauty of the colonial architecture. As living places of worship, they continue to serve the community in a very special way."
The Park Service says, “Since the NPS boundary is non-contiguous, the new bike share stations will enhance non-motorized accessibility for visitors to the park and provide greater connectivity to downtown and the surrounding community.”
Recreational improvements also include designated non-motorized trails for biking and walking. Expect upcoming construction related closures, so be sure to visit the Park’s Web site.