APD to launch bike safety initiative - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

APD to launch bike safety initiative

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Austin police are launching a safe bike initiative, which will target both drivers and cyclists in hopes to decrease the number of vehicle-bicycle crashes.

It's called the Vulnerable Road Users Ordinance. It's meant to protect defenseless road users not only cyclists but runners, construction workers and pedestrians.

It will take cooperation from both sides for it to be effective and with it a promise from Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.

Chief Acevedo didn't mince words about this safe pass initiative.

"This is your warning. Starting on the 8th we will have undercover officers... if you are stopped by a member of APD under this initiative for failure to obey the passing rule you will be cited," Acevedo said.

Austin police will have plain clothes officers on bikes to catch law breakers with chase vehicles at the ready.

"So when we're citing, warning somebody, everybody driving by is well aware of what's happened and we can leverage, magnify the effect of our activity. We would prefer to write anybody, we'd prefer to have compliance," said APD Commander Fred Fletcher.

APD and the city worked up a public service announcement to help motorist and cyclists understand what safe passing' means.

"Passenger cars and light trucks must give at least three feet while commercial vehicles and other trucks must give six feet."

In theory, this rule is to protect all road users. But there is concern about enforcement and you'll see this reminder on the back of several patrol cars around the city.

"We are going to see some new strides in enforcing it consistent with other measures that have been taken in other cities, as everyone recognizes that we really need to make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable users of the road out there," said Bill Riley of Austin City Council.

Some drivers may wonder why APD is picking on them, but the department did cite nearly 550 cyclists a year ago for breaking road laws. That was up considerably from the year before.

"The problem is segments of both communities do not respect the rules of the road, that's why we have so many fatalities in this city and we're not picking one over the other," Acevedo said.

FOX 7 put a camera downtown on Congress around lunchtime to observe riders and motorists to see how they co-exist. Many of the bike rides we saw weren't wearing helmets. One opted to ride into traffic on 9th Street and thru a cross walk.

Others choose to ride in the far lane. One rolled along the bus lane and one guy decided he'd direct traffic at an intersection.

Long time cyclist and advocate Stanton Truxillo says he likes the safe pass initiative. His defensive cycling class, one of only a few offered in U.S. cities goes to full capacity twice a month for cyclists who are given traffic tickets.

"The benefit of that is they come out of the class not just angry because they got a ticket but having learned something that it is partly my fault and I have to obey the rules of the road," Truxillo said.

The safe pass initiative begins next Wednesday, May 8.

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