PTS, UTPD launch new campus safety initiative

Natalie Sullivan

UTPD and Parking and Transportation Services are looking to promote cooperation between different modes of transportation on campus with a new safety initiative. 

The initiative, launched last week with help from Student Government and the Office of the Dean of Students, aims to raise awareness of campus safety issues for pedestrians, bikers, carts, buses and vehicles. The campaign includes a website, safety booklets for bicyclists and signs encouraging students to share the road around campus.

Blanca Gamez, alternative transportation manager for PTS, said the department has been working on developing the initiative since early summer. 

“It’s really about being aware of everything happening around you, instead of just being on your phone all the time,” Gamez said. “Everyone is traveling here in a different way — skateboards, bikes, pedestrians, cars — and we’re trying to promote safety and awareness among all those students.”

The initiative — which comes on the heels of the Austin Police Department’s WAVE campaign, which encourages drivers and cyclists to share the road — is part of a growing focus on traffic and pedestrian control in Austin. 

Gamez said the reason behind the initiative is a general concern for safety on campus because of increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic, not because of any specific increase in accidents.

“[The campaign] is more of a ‘Let’s see what else we can do to promote safety’ effort,” Gamez said.  “A lot of these pedestrian and cycling incidents [on campus] go unreported, which means we don’t have a good estimate of them. But if we can help save someone from being in an accident or prevent even one bike from being stolen, it’s worth it.”

UTPD and PTS have also partnered with resident assistants in on-campus dorms to hold presentations on pedestrian and bicycle safety. The presentations feature topics such as how to properly lock one’s bike, rules of the road and how to protect oneself in dangerous situations, such as a robbery or assault. 

William Pieper, UTPD officer and crime prevention specialist who runs the safety presentations on campus, said there are many simple steps bicyclists can take to protect themselves on campus. 

“If you’re riding down the road, please, share the road,” Pieper said. “If you see a crosswalk, slow down just a little bit — it will make a big difference. Obey the traffic laws because you are a moving vehicle.”

Blake Kappel, an international relations and global studies sophomore who attended one of the safety presentations, said he appreciated the campaign’s focus on traffic safety, especially because of congestion on campus when he walks to class. 

“I liked how they got into stressing traffic safety because I know that a lot of people and a lot of bikers don’t stop at stop signs, and I think that’s important to get out there — that it’s the law,” Kappel said.

Gamez said she hopes the campaign will lead to more visible awareness of safety on campus.

“It helps give our department and UTPD a face and helps build that community,” Gamez said.