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APD denying any crackdown on cyclists ever happened

Posted Jan 22 2009 5:32pm

In interesting e-mail from Austin cyclist Tom Wald is circulating about the Austin Police Department and their much reported crackdown on cyclists who break traffic laws. Tom wrote the police department a letter criticizing the program for singling out cyclists when motorists cause the vast majority of accidents that involve injury and deaths.

Regardless of whether you think the crackdown was a good idea or not, everyone should be amazed by the response of APD’s public relations officer in denying that the crackdown ever occurred. Here’s their response:

Dear Mr. Wald,

Thank you for your email to City Council expressing your concerns regarding the enforcement of bicycle and motor traffic violations.  On behalf of City Council and the Chief of Police, please allow me to respond.

I would like to take this opportunity to address your initial concern of our department advertising a campaign against bicycle traffic violations.  I have been in contact with our Public Information Manager and she has informed me that no such campaign has been implemented in the media recently. For any questions regarding our current projects, please feel free to call their office at 974-5017.

I must stress the Austin Police Department and its officers are dedicated to keeping its citizens safe.  Department cruisers should not be violating any traffic laws.  If you witness such an offense, please contact the Police Monitor’s Office immediately at 974-9090. However, I must explain that officers may be responding to emergencies including situations in which a fatality or injury has just occurred or may occur.  For these specific calls, officers are authorized to drive at speeds greater than the posted limit and proceed through traffic signals after ensuring an intersection is clear. 

I must further explicate that our department is dedicated to enforcing all traffic violations to include bicyclists’ and motorists.  We can ensure that our department in no way is emphasizing focus on any particular group.  We perform regular speed enforcement through our Strategic Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) as well as addressing complaints of traffic violations through increased patrol efforts (also called Directed Patrols). If you are aware of an intersection that is in need of immediate police enforcement, please do not hesitate in contacting me. I will refer you to the local District Representative officer for enforcement and follow-up. 

Again, thank you for bringing your concern to our attention.  Should you have any further questions, please contact me directly at 974-4711, or by email at


Lee Davila, Constituent Liaison
Austin Police Department

This is amazing as several news organizations covered the crackdown including this KVUE video which includes interviews with a police officer about the crackdown. The Austin Chronicle reported on this including a quote from APD Lt. Patrick South saying ”This is one of many initiatives conducted by the Downtown-area command to make the area safer.”

It seems like representatives of APD are willingly talking to the press about this crackdown and yet we have this denial from public relations. If these officers were speaking out of turn, where were the corrections? APD seemed happy to use the press to promote the crackdown, but when called out on it by citizen communication resorts to Orwellian double speak. 

Very strange indeed.

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