Aware­ness cited af­ter few tick­ets for new or­di­nances

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - James Brosher By Isadora Vail

Court records show that just three ci­ta­tions have been is­sued since a 2009 or­di­nance was en­acted re­quir­ing a three-foot buf­fer be­tween mo­tor ve­hi­cles and other road users. This cy­clist was on Barton Springs Road headed to­ward La­mar Boule­vard.

Two hot-but­ton city or­di­nances may have gen­er­ated a lot of con­ver­sa­tion last year, but they have not gen­er­ated a lot of ci­ta­tions in the months they’ve been in place.

A tex­ting-while-driv­ing ban took ef­fect Jan. 1, and court records show 43 ci­ta­tions have been handed out through July 14.

For the rule re­quir­ing three feet be­tween ve­hi­cles and other road users, such as cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans, three ci­ta­tions have been is­sued since its in­cep­tion in Novem­ber.

City lead­ers and ad­vo­cates say the num­ber of tick­ets is not as im­por­tant as mak­ing driv­ers more aware.

There is “some value in hav­ing peo­ple think more care­fully about their ac­tions,” City Coun­cil Mem­ber Chris Ri­ley said. “I think the pas­sage of the or­di­nance has raised peo­ple’s aware­ness of the is­sues as far as vul­ner­a­ble road users as well as tex­ting while driv­ing.”

Austin po­lice said there were no ma­jor ini­tia­tives to en­force the two or­di­nances — of­fi­cers write ci­ta­tions as they ob­serve them — but that

Con­tin­ued from B sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion by the city and the depart­ment has helped in­form driv­ers.

“I can’t say that we’ve seen a de­crease in crashes, but what I do know is that cit­i­zens are more aware, and I think the ma­jor­ity of them com­ply with these rules,” Cmdr. Stephen Baker said.

Baker said crashes re­lated to the new or­di­nances are hard to track be­cause not many driv­ers will ad­mit to fault or in­crim­i­nate them­selves if they were at fault.

In the first six months of this year, there were 147 wrecks in­volv­ing cars and bi­cy­cles, com­pared with 168 dur­ing the same pe­riod last year. In the first six months of 2008, there were 157 such wrecks.

The tex­ting-while-driv­ing and the three-foot­dis­tance vi­o­la­tions are Class C mis­de­meanors, which carry a fine of up to $500 and can be ap­pealed in Mu­nic­i­pal Court.

For the most part, cy­cling ad­vo­cates agreed the or­di­nances are help­ing.

“In work­ing with the Leg­is­la­ture last year, the most valu­able com­po­nent is the ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent,” said Mark Stine of the statewide ad­vo­cacy group BikeTexas. “While there still are prob­lems and is­sues, I see more aware­ness as time goes on.”

Stine said even a few ci­ta­tions for both or­di­nances are steps in the right di­rec­tion to­ward safer roads for cy­clists.

Gil­bert Martinez, pres­i­dent of the Austin Cy­cling As­so­ci­a­tion, said he hopes the en­force­ment would help change driv­ers’ be­hav­ior.

“We like that they en­force the law and are all in fa­vor of see­ing more of that,” Martinez said. “I think that the vast ma­jor­ity of mo­torists are at­ten­tive, but some­times you have a col­li­sion or tragedy that hap­pens, and those things, of course, add to the ten­sion” be­tween driv­ers and

By 2003, Gil­bert Schroeder had al­ready put in 56 years at the grill in Schroeder’s Place in Thorn­dale. ‘That’s all he be­lieved in do­ing was work­ing,’ said his daugh­ter, Ju­laine Grimm.

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