The Austin Police Department is patrolling city streets to enforce city’s “Vulnerable Road User” ordinance. Passed in 2009, it says drivers have to stay a certain distance from cyclists, three feet for cars, and six feet for trucks.
In 2013, APD launched their “Safe Passage Program”. APD officers riding on their bicycles to educate drivers and enforce the ordinance.
In late July, the non-profit Bike Austin donated two kits to help APD enforce the ordinance even more efficiently. The kits, which cost $1400 are comprised of a digital distance meter and a Go Pro camera.
APD says they patrol areas where there are a lot of cyclists combined with vehicle congestion. “Downtown is obviously a big focus,” says Senior Officer Rheannon Cunningham, adding, “maybe the couple of miles outside the downtown radius where we have a high concentration of traffic and bicyclists is where we see the most problems.”
And she says they patrol weekly, during morning and afternoon rush hours, as well as lunchtime.
Cunningham says the goal is to make people see just how dangerous getting too close to a cyclist can be. “If you see a cyclist,” Cunningham says, “have a little patience, if you need to slow down and look for an opportunity to get around then do that just make sure you give plenty of room and look for the opportunity to pass.”
She says while they are focused on drivers, they do still stops and cite cyclists who break the law. APD plans to continue their Safe Passage Operation every week for the foreseeable future.