The UT Police Department began heavier cycling education and enforcement techniques this semester following construction on Speedway that resulted in several crashes between cyclists and pedestrians.
The Speedway Mall Renovation, an extensive construction project in central campus, has resulted in three cyclist and pedestrian crashes, one of which required the victim to be transported to the hospital. UTPD has received an influx of calls and emails about reckless cyclists in the area from concerned UT community members, another major reason to ramp up the bike education and enforcement program this semester.
“If the community says they have a concern, we’re going to respond,” Assistant Chief Peter Scheets said. “We’re monitoring the amount of incidents and accidents and phone calls that we get, and once we see that our education and enforcement efforts have had a positive effect … we’ll (ease up).”
Currently, UTPD officers approach bike enforcement on three fronts: education, compliance and enforcement. The first time an officer stops a cyclist, the individual will receive a warning and be asked to comply with the traffic law they violated. If an officer stops the individual again, they will receive a UT Parking and Transportation Services citation, which does not appear on the individual’s driving record but results in a fine that usually doesn’t exceed $25, said Corp. Le’Patrick Moore, one of UTPD’s main bicycle officers.
“Our two biggest areas are 24th and Speedway and then 21st and University,” Moore said. “Not only do we have cyclists going through those stop signs, but we’ve had a few reports of mopeds going through them, too.”
In recent months, UTPD has utilized four main bike officers who focus on patrolling Speedway, Inner Campus Drive and Guadalupe Street, both for bicycle violations and other
UTPD gives out citations to cyclists who commit traffic violations such as speeding, failing to yield to a stop sign and failing to signal when turning. UTPD can also give citations to individuals who do not obey the bike dismount zone that exists along a large stretch of Speedway.
Officers only issue cyclists a criminal citation in incidents of a crash resulting in an injury. Otherwise, UTPD uses PTS citations, which are handled by the University, Scheets said.
Music performance sophomore Cullen King was given a warning for speeding through 24th Street and University Avenue last week when he was riding his bike to class.
“He told me that I was cycling dangerously fast and that I could hit a student or car if I didn’t stop at a stop sign,” King said. “He said if he had to stop me again he would write a citation. I can see the importance of both (cars and bikes) obeying traffic laws to keep everyone safe … but it didn’t seem necessary to me … since I was coming to a natural speed based on the curve of the road.”
Moore said the department will continue their bike enforcement operation until they stop receiving concerned reports from the community.
“So far, we have not had any habitual offenders,” Moore said. “Usually we tell someone once and we don’t get any other involvement with them. For cyclists, we’re more concerned about education than writing tickets.”