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Austin Switches To Proactive Approach To Catch Bike Lane Blockers

A biker rides in a bike lane down Guadalupe Street.
Julia Reihs
The Austin Transportation Department said Tuesday it is going to more actively enforce rules that bar drivers from parking in bike lanes.

For years, the City of Austin often waited for complaints before ticketing drivers who parked in bike lanes. Now, that policy is changing: The Austin Transportation Department said Tuesday it plans to increase staffing to eventually dedicate two officers per shift to actively enforce the rules.

The city previously dispatched the closest officer after a complaint was received by Austin 311. The ATD said in a tweet that since October 2019, it had issued 70 tickets and towed 17 vehicles.

The department said it is making the change in response to community feedback and to support Vision Zero efforts to reduce traffic deaths and fatalities.

“Parking in a bike-only lane compels cyclists to enter general travel lanes, which greatly increases the chances of a deadly or serious crash,” Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar said in a statement. “Keeping our bike lanes clear makes our streets safer for both cyclists and motorists alike.”

The department said it has also made it easier for people to report bike lane violations in the Austin 311 app, something for which advocates had been pushing.

“Previously, the only way for a person riding a bike to be able to report an issue like a person parking or standing their vehicle in a bike lane was to go all the way to the bottom of the 311 app, and utilize the 'other' option,” said Katie Deolloz, founder of the nonprofit Rehumanize Mobility. “I made very clear to ATD that communicated to me that was not a priority.”

But Deolloz said more could be done to make it easier for people to report violations. She pointed to the newly available app that she was an adviser for, OurStreets, which allows users to easily share reports of dangerous conditions. In Washington, D.C., those reports go directly to a city agency.

“This matters for everybody; it’s not just for people riding bikes,” she said. “It’s how do we make this city and the transportation infrastructure, how do we make that safe for everyone using the streets.”

Violators who are found blocking bike-only lanes could be fined up to $300. Getting a vehicle back the same day it was towed is around $193, according to ATD.

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Samuel King covers transportation and mobility for KUT News.
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