The Austin Police Department is launching the first phase of a bike safety initiative today.
As Austin’s bicycling community grows – two percent of commuters are getting to work by bike – so does the need for increased education and awareness. Especially after a record year of traffic deaths.
The goals of the initiative are:
- To decrease the number of vehicle/bicycle crashes
- To increase motorists’ understanding of bicycle issues and laws
- To increase motorists’ understanding of traffic issues and laws
- To increase bicycle-motorist tolerance
- To build trust between bicycling and Public Safety communities
Beginning May 8, undercover police officers in plain clothes will be riding bicycles throughout the city. Near those officers will be chase vehicles that when someone fails to provide a safe space – three feet if you’re a car and six feet for commercial vehicles – a citation will be issued.
“The last thing cops want to do is write people tickets,” says Austin Police Commander Fred Fletcher. But, “we want to encourage voluntary compliance, and the best way to do that is through awareness. We might write five, ten, even a hundred citations. That’s not going to change behavior a much as awareness is, as much as peer pressure, as much as socialization.”
To reflect the safety initiative, APD developed enforcement guidelines to not cite a motorist going left of the double yellow line when passing a vulnerable road user, as long as they’re doing it safely.
Police Chief Art Acevedo says public safety is a shared responsibility between cyclists and motorists.
“Whether you’re a cyclist or you’re a motorist, we all have friends and people we love in both groups," Acevedo says. "And quite frankly, most people ride a bike at some point.”
“We just have to have mutual respect for one another," Acevedo adds. "We have to respect for the law. We will cite whoever breaks the law whether it’s a bicyclist or a driver and we’re not going to apologize for it because too many people are dying in our city.”