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#1 2013-10-11 09:10:01

btrettel
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Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 42

Filing complaints at municipal court

I recently saw an old article about pedestrian fatalities in Austin. In the article, I read the following:

At a recent meeting of the Austin Bicycling Coalition, [Austin Police Chief Art] Acevedo urged bikers to write down license plates of offending vehicles and file complaints at municipal court. "We are responsive," he said. "We're going to continue to hammer at it."

Has anyone here done this? If so, would you mind shedding some light on the process? After nearly being hit by a distracted driver who ran a red last night (link to helmet cam video), I'm looking to do everything I can to make the roads safer, and this is one thing I haven't done yet.

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#2 2013-10-11 10:40:52

cycling74
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Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 61

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

If there's one thing I've learned bicycle commuting, it's that green does not mean go. Now I look both ways when the light turns green both while riding and while driving. Too many people get T-Boned because they didn't look.

PS - nice video

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#3 2013-10-11 11:00:58

rich00
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Registered: 2010-01-18
Posts: 166

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

The car that you said "texting while driving" to - they made it through the intersection before the light turned red - nothing wrong there.


But the next guy - that was pretty bad. Where was this?

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#4 2013-10-11 11:43:13

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,173
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Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

I think there must be some kind of mistake in your video.  Mike Dahmus says that drivers never run red lights like that.

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#5 2013-10-11 12:44:11

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

Now, that's hardly fair.

To bring up some of M1EK's actual words --

Motorists don’t run red lights the way cyclists do. Period. They “run the orange” pretty often. This is a very different violation in terms of the real, pragmatic, world we actually live in.

“running the orange” means that some impatient jerk decides to keep going even though the light just turned from yellow to red.

Now, the accuracy of this statement and the "end of discussion" "Period." aside, this driver in the video *did* run a red light that had just changed to red (about three seconds before -- certainly pushing the limit of "just changed", but probably close enough that this doesn't provide a counter example.)

(And I don't think he actually said that motorists *never* run a red light that had been red for a while, but just that he had never seen it.  I find that incredible and difficult to believe, as I've seen it plenty of times, but he would be the expert on what he's seen, not me.)

That said, this "related" video -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDFC9CEX0-0 -- probably would be the counter example you're looking for.

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#6 2013-10-11 12:58:51

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,173
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Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

I don't stand corrected.  *Entering* the intersection a full *four seconds* after a the signal changes to red isn't "running the orange", that's a very stale red light.

But, if M.D. wants to argue that this isn't a good counter-example (and by extension, that a cyclist who carefully checks cross-traffic before running a light is more of a public safety menace than the red-light-running driver in this video), he's certainly welcome to try.

Anyway, nobody has addressed what the OP asked about -- how to file complaints at municipal court.  I don't know, and presumably nobody else does either, or they would have replied.  So, I suggest calling 311 and asking to whom that kind of thing should be reported.

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#7 2013-10-11 13:34:32

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

My stopwatch says that it's about 3.3 seconds from the moment the light turns red to the moment he crosses where the crosswalk would be if it were marked and enters the intersection.

I agree, it's certainly on the high end of "the light just changed" and explicitly mentioned that, but it's close enough that it's not a very good counter example.  (And it's clearly not "a full four seconds".)  That said, really good counter examples are not hard to find -- there's no reason to stick with this iffy one.

M1EK has been pretty careful about choosing his words.  I certainly don't mind poking holes in what he says (and have done some of that, and you've done far more) but I personally prefer to stick to things they've actually said, exactly as said, and I don't recall him saying that motorists *never* run red "stale" red lights, only that he hadn't seen it.  (That said, the video I found does disprove his "Motorists don’t run red lights the way cyclists do. Period."  claim pretty effectively.  At least I think that is one of the ways that he has said that cyclists run red lights and motorists don't.)

If he wants to argue something, fine, but I'm just pointing out that I'm not aware of him saying quite what you said he said.  It doesn't mean I agree with him, or that I'm going to argue his case for him.

Going back to the original question, I have to wonder what Acevedo thinks he's going to do with any such reports.  A license plate is *not* enough identifying information to give somebody a moving violation -- it only shows who owns the car, not who was driving it.  And Texas law puts puts pretty significant restrictions on when officers can give tickets for a misdemeanor if they didn't personally witness the offense.  At best, all I think they can do is take a report and file it away somewhere and maybe it'll come up if the owner of that car gets in more serious trouble down the road.  (Such evidence was used in the case of that doctor that brake checked the cyclists, for example, but mostly he was convicted because he explicitly told the 911 operator that he wanted to "teach them a lesson".)

I guess the police could go and talk to the owner of the vehicle and tell them that such things are illegal, but I've never heard of APD doing any such thing.

But if somebody did want to follow the procedure, I'd expect the place to start would be to call 311 and file a report.  Not sure what going to the municipal court would do, but I guess if that's part of the procedure the 311 operator could tell you.

I'd say email Acevedo and ask him.  His email address is on this page.

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#8 2013-10-11 19:43:18

btrettel
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Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 42

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

Wow, I did not expect that the video would spark discussion. I'll call 311 to see what the procedure is to file a complaint. I'll also email Acevedo. Thanks.

rich00, the car that when through the yellow did nothing wrong aside from texting while driving. I've made a habit of shouting something like "texting while driving" when I see it happen. This seems to make some drivers put the phone down.

This was at the intersection of 38th and Speedway.

dougmc, this red light runner was distracted, not impatient. I followed them after what's shown in my video. When I confronted them, they admitted to not watching the road. They were very apologetic about it all, which is why I chose not to upload that part. Had they not been apologetic and/or blamed me, that part would have been included in my video.

On a related note, here's a video of one driver "running the orange" (or nearly so; the light changed to red around when they entered the intersection). Some drivers often seem to prioritize making the light over the safety of others, and I think that's pretty terrible.

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#9 2013-10-11 22:38:26

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

btrettel wrote:

dougmc, this red light runner was distracted, not impatient.

Just to be clear, I was quoting some of what M1EK really did say (since he'd gotten drug into the discussion), about a related but obviously different situation.  I was not claiming that the driver was impatient.

On a related note, here's a video of one driver "running the orange" (or nearly so; the light changed to red around when they entered the intersection). Some drivers often seem to prioritize making the light over the safety of others, and I think that's pretty terrible.

That's actually legal in Texas -- as long as you're in the intersection before the light turns red, you've satisfied the law.  (Not saying it's a good idea, and he came mighty close to not making it, but from what I saw -- that was legal, barely.)

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#10 2013-10-12 08:50:03

btrettel
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Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 42

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

Okay, thanks for clarifying that. I was confused.

I wasn't sure of the legality of that maneuver, but I guess it's good to know what is and isn't legal.

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#11 2013-10-21 11:32:40

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,173
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Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

Okay, so my wife just nearly got killed by a non-yielding driver, so we took the opportunity to test the reporting mechanism.

She was going south on Dean Keaton, just west of I-35, trying to cross the merge lane coming from the I-35 service road, by riding in the green bicycle lane crossing, where the cars in the merge lane have a Yield to Bikes sign.  She saw a white pickup approaching, and she was about to cross, when suddenly the truck ACCELERATED right through the crossing ... and then came to a screeching stop at the red light at Red River.

We called 311, the operator was sympathetic and transferred us the APD, and the APD agent dutifully took the report without blaming or questioning us.  (That was a lot different from the only other time I tried to call in something like this, about 20 years ago, when the APD agent demanded to know why I wasn't riding on the sidewalk.)  She said we had the option of an officer calling us back, or coming to us to take an official report, and we chose the callback.  I asked what realistically the police could really do in such a situation, and she answered that they'd keep an eye out for the vehicle, but she wasn't sure they'd stop tho vehicle to talk with the driver.  That's why we asked for the callback, so we could ask the officer what their protocol is.  Clearly we can't have a system where people get tickets just because someone *says* they broke the law; that would be pretty unfair.

The name pickup said [Something] Construction, the license plate number was AJ8 8765, and the driver was a Hispanic male.

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#12 2013-10-21 12:27:08

AusTexMurf
Member
From: South Austin
Registered: 2008-11-21
Posts: 439

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

cycling74 wrote:

If there's one thing I've learned bicycle commuting, it's that green does not mean go. Now I look both ways when the light turns green both while riding and while driving. Too many people get T-Boned because they didn't look.

PS - nice video

+1, well said.

"......a cyclist who carefully checks cross-traffic before running a light is more of a public safety menace than the red-light-running driver in this video."
Wow.

Treat all intersections the same, by bike and as ped ?
Regardless of the pretty and sometimes distracting christmas lights and colorful shapes.
Intersections are inherently dangerous when shared with autos.
Move through them when space and time needed are clear ?

Don't When They Are Not.
Easy enough to do.
Pay Attention.
Just like btrettel.

Very nice learning example and/or reminder for everyone.
Thank you for posting the link to vid, btrettel.

Last edited by AusTexMurf (2013-10-21 16:05:22)

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#13 2013-10-21 16:24:09

savanni
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From: Austin
Registered: 2011-04-30
Posts: 82
Website

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

MichaelBluejay wrote:

Okay, so my wife just got killed by a non-yielding driver, so we took the opportunity to test the reporting mechanism.

Umm... wait... Your wife just got killed?  Do you mean this literally or are you setting up a hypothetical?  The rest of the post doesn't match up in tone with the gravity of that event, and I have trouble understanding why *I* would be the first person to notice.

Please clarify?

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#14 2013-10-21 17:42:50

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,173
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Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

Man, what a typo.  I'm very sorry for the false alarm.  I meant to say she NEARLY got killed.  I fixed the original post.

As a lone cyclist, it was one thing when I decided to take my life in my hands by cycling.  But now that I have a family, it's nerve-wracking always worrying that my wife and kids are gonna get creamed by a car or truck -- especially when things like today happen, which are not all that rare.

My wife wants us to buy a car next year, and I'll likely oblige.

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#15 2013-10-21 22:43:37

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 42

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

AusTexMurf wrote:

Very nice learning example and/or reminder for everyone.
Thank you for posting the link to vid, btrettel.

Good to hear you appreciated the video. Please share it with others if you think it is a good example of the value of paying attention.

savanni wrote:

The rest of the post doesn't match up in tone with the gravity of that event, and I have trouble understanding why *I* would be the first person to notice.

I was thinking the same when I checked my email earlier today, but I was working at UT and couldn't reply. Really glad it was merely a typo.

MichaelBluejay, I'd be interested in hearing about whether the APD follows up. I've been too busy to take a look into this.

Last edited by btrettel (2013-10-21 22:45:00)

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#16 2013-10-22 02:01:43

AusTexMurf
Member
From: South Austin
Registered: 2008-11-21
Posts: 439

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

savanni wrote:
MichaelBluejay wrote:

Okay, so my wife just got killed by a non-yielding driver, so we took the opportunity to test the reporting mechanism.

Umm... wait... Your wife just got killed?  Do you mean this literally or are you setting up a hypothetical?  The rest of the post doesn't match up in tone with the gravity of that event, and I have trouble understanding why *I* would be the first person to notice.

Please clarify?


My thoughts, exactly. But remainder of post was non-sequitor. And I didn't have time to post a proper reply/inquiry.
Thanks for clearing that up, folks.

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#17 2013-10-22 02:03:58

AusTexMurf
Member
From: South Austin
Registered: 2008-11-21
Posts: 439

Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

MichaelBluejay wrote:

Man, what a typo.  I'm very sorry for the false alarm.  I meant to say she NEARLY got killed.  I fixed the original post.

As a lone cyclist, it was one thing when I decided to take my life in my hands by cycling.  But now that I have a family, it's nerve-wracking always worrying that my wife and kids are gonna get creamed by a car or truck -- especially when things like today happen, which are not all that rare.

My wife wants us to buy a car next year, and I'll likely oblige.

Glad to hear your wife is ok.
Know very much how you feel. Married w/ 4 kiddos, here. Very car light, given our circumstances.
Enjoy your fam. Have fun. Stay safe.
Best, Michael.

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#18 2013-10-22 20:24:05

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,173
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Re: Filing complaints at municipal court

Well, the police never called me back.  I guess they still could, but I doubt it.  I'll post if they do.

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