APD helps launch safety initiative for bicyclists, drivers

Natalie Sullivan

The Austin Police Department launched a new bicycle safety campaign last week in an effort to decrease collisions between bicyclists and drivers in the city.

The initiative, known as WAVE, is a general safety campaign that encourages bicyclists and drivers to share the road and acknowledge each other with a passing wave. The Butler Brothers, an Austin-based branding firm, partnered with APD to advertise WAVE through a website, merchandise sales and the “WAVEMOBILE,” a car with the slogan “Roll nice” that will appear throughout the city. 

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Austin bicycle shop owners pledged to support the initiative, along with Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who announced the new initiative at a press conference in front of City Hall on Wednesday. Acevedo said he thinks WAVE has the power to save lives, and he hopes people spread the movement by posting about it on social media.

“This campaign is about being kind,” Acevedo said. “Let’s judge people based on the way they act, but, most importantly, let’s all be part of the solution — not part of the problem.” 

Adam Butler, one of the co-creators of WAVE, said the initiative may seem simple, but he hopes it will help decrease tensions between cyclists and drivers in Austin. 

“If WAVE sounds overly simple, that’s the point,” Butler said. “Ninety percent of cyclists are also motorists. We’re all people trying to get somewhere. The infrastructure improvements needed to ease tension between cars and bikes can’t happen overnight, but you can wave at someone today.”

Butler said the cost of the initiative is underwritten by merchandise sales from advertising, and, as of now, there are no plans to advertise WAVE on campus.

“Campus is a pressurized space where everyone is in a hurry — cars and bikes,” Butler said. “It’s a microcosm of the city of Austin. So if everyone, including pedestrians, can connect for even a split second, it can make the overall movements on campus safer.”

According to Butler, the campaign came about partly because of increased pedestrian and cyclist accidents in Austin over the past couple of years. 

“Visibility is a big part of traffic safety, so it’s a very practical concept — be friendly, be visible and increase safety for all,” Butler said. “There have been double the pedestrian and cyclist deaths in the last couple of years here in Austin, according to the city stats, and increased density certainly plays a role [in that].” 

Plan II sophomore James Smith, who bikes around campus, said he wasn’t sure how much of an effect the initiative would have in increasing safety. 

“I think it’s a good idea to try and raise awareness, but I don’t think just waving at somebody is really going to prevent an accident or anything,” Smith said.