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Archived News Items

Articles listed in italics exist on another page because they're too big to put here. All other articles exist on this page.

* Kirk Watson elected as mayor; Gus Garcia re-elected to Council (5-24-97)
* Fun Fact: Bicycle Efficiency (5-24-97)
* Council Candidates interviewed about bicycling issues (5-19-97)
* City Councilmembers on Bikes (5-8-97)
* Bike-to-Work Day winners (5-8-97)
* Statewide bicycle helmet law bill dies (5-5-97)
* "Today" Show misses the boat on cycling safety (5-97)
* Tom Churchill's killer goes free (4-97)


Kirk Watson elected as mayor; Gus Garcia re-elected to Council (5-24-97)

With Ronney Reynolds dropping out of the runoff race, Kirk Watson will be the next mayor of Austin, Texas. Watson does not favor repealing the helmet ordinance, but he has promised to work to secure funding for bicycle lanes and improvement to the bicycling infrastructure. He also participated in the recent City Councilmember bike ride. (See next news item below.)

Gus Garcia was re-elected to the City Council in the same election. Garcia also does not favor repealing the helmet ordinance (in fact, he voted to enact the original ordinance), but like Watson, he has promised to improve Austin's bicycling infrastructure, and says he supports making it illegal for cars to park in bike lanes.

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Fun Fact: Biking Efficiency (5-24-97)

On 350 calories (one apple tart or a slice of your favorite pizza), a cyclist can travel 10 miles, a pedestrian 4 miles, and an automobile 100 feet.

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City Council candidates interviewed on bicycling issues (5-19-97)

I interviewed candidates for the Austin City Council about their positions on cycling issues on KOOP Radio today. In the race between Bill Spelman and Manuel Zuniga (Place 5), Spelman's representative said that he favors repealing the helmet ordinance, prohibiting cars from parking in bicycle lanes, and in general making the city more bicycle friendly. Zuniga arrived at the radio station too late to be interviewed about his cycling opinions. He also did not return the questionnaire sent to him by the League of Bicycling Voters. The League of Bicycling Voters has endorsed Bill Spelman in the Place 5 race.

In the race between Willie Lewis and Eric Mitchell (Place 6), Lewis said that he favors repealing the helmet ordinance and prohibiting cars from parking in bike lanes. Mitchell, on the other hand, said he doesn't favor repealing the helmet ordinance but instead favors amending it; he pointed to his support for a new program which will have police issuing vouchers for free helmets instead of tickets to helmetless riders. Mitchell implied that this program was for adults as well as children, but the press release we received from the Austin Police Department says that the program is good only for children, and further that it is only for disadvantaged and needy children. Regarding bicycle lanes, Mitchell said that it's already illegal for cars to park in bike lanes, so no new legislation is necessary. (Mitchell is wrong about this; there is absolutely no local ordinance prohibiting parking in bike lanes.) However, Mitchell added that if deficiencies in the law were pointed out, then they could certainly be rectified. The League of Bicycling Voters has endorsed Willie Lewis in the Place 6 race.

We don't feel that anyone should base their voting decision on one issue alone (such as the helmet ordinance), but we do feel that voters can certainly consider a candidate's position on cycling issues when forming their overall picture of the candidate. The election is on Saturday, May 31st. Vote, dammit.

City Councilmembers on Bikes! (5-24-97)

About a month ago, following the decision of a grand jury not to indict the driver who ran over and killed cyclist Tom Churchill, another local cyclist, David Foster, decided that it was important for lawmakers to demonstrate their commitment to safe cycling by participating in a bike ride. This ride would also serve to demonstrate to the public that cyclists have a legal right to the road. So, David Foster invited all the city councilmembers to participate in a short bike ride downtown, and he also invited candidates in the council race, as well as state lawmakers and the general public. He got help from Bikes Not Bombs, Bicycle Sport Shop, and Councilmember Daryl Slusher's office. The ride was held on Friday, May 8th, which happened to be Bike to Work Day, which is a part of Bike Week. Despite the rain, it's estimated that 60 riders attended. The most notable figure there was mayor-elect Kirk Watson! I have to think this is a good sign. I don't think we could have ever gotten Mayor Bruce Todd on a bike. He certainly didn't attend THIS ride. Anyway, besides Mayor-Elect Kirk Watson, three other City Councilmembers rode, including Daryl Slusher and two of his staff members, Jackie Goodman and one of her aides, Beverly Griffith, and Gus Garcia. This is notable because that's a MAJORITY of the City Council: five out of the seven councilmembers were there! And soon it could be as much as seven out of seven, or 100% of the next city council, since council candidates Bill Spelman and Willie Lewis also rode, and they may be elected to the city council in the election at the end of the month. It's certainly exciting to see this potentially unanimous support from the City Council for biking issues. It's especially notable that all these councilmembers and candidates even braved the RAIN to participate in this bike ride. And in addition to current city councilmembers and candidates, former city councilmember Brigid Shea also participated in the ride, as did former mayoral candidate Robert Singleton, and former State Representative Charles Gandy.

But unfortunately it wasn't all smiles and cupcakes on the ride. Local cyclist Scott Johnson took it upon himself to invite the police to participate in the ride, over the objection of David Foster who conceived the ride in the first place and was primarily responsible for putting it together. It wasn't just DUMB for Scott Johnson to invite the cops, it was rude, since this wasn't his ride and it wasn't his place to do so, and the person who primarily organized the ride, David Foster, told Johnson that he didn't want the cops there. But no matter, Scott Johnson invited the cops anyway. And here's how clueless Johnson is. When David Foster and Tommy Eden tried to tell Johnson that it wasn't a good idea to invite the cops, Johnson replied, "Oh, well we can always ask them to leave if they do anything we don't like." Helloooooo? So, very predictably, we saw some typical police harassment. One of the cops announced, "Anyone bicycling without a helmet is going to jail!" The police officer stood firm on this stance, even when each of the ride organizers suggested that the police officer needed an attitude adjustment. The crazed cop started spreading his crusade through the group which was assembling for the bike ride. Four of the participants were directly threatened with jail. Fortunately, some of the ride organizers managed to cool down the police officer before the ride started.

Now let's think for a moment. Sure, riding without a helmet is currently illegal, but should you expect to go to JAIL for that? If you weren't wearing your seatbelt in your car, you'd expect to get a ticket, but would you expect to go to JAIL? If you failed to signal in your car, you'd expect to get a ticket, but would you expect to go to JAIL? Well, now you know what it's like to be a cyclist in Austin, and why cyclists are so opposed to the helmet ordinance. The issue goes far beyond whether or not it's a good idea to wear a helmet -- IT IS. The point is that the helmet ordinance just gives police another opportunity to harass cyclists and throw them in jail. It's worth pointing out that 75% of the no-helmet tickets issued to those under 17 have been to minorities.

We've mentioned before that it's ironic that the helmet ordinance may be the best thing to happen to the local cycling community, because it got cyclists angry and motivated to start working to improve cycling conditions in the city, way beyond just the helmet ordinance issue. And again ironically, it may be a good thing for us that the Austin police threatened to JAIL helmetless cyclists, right in front of nearly the entire city council. So, now that our lawmakers may have seen first-hand what we have to deal with from the police, we're hopeful they may be more sympathetic to cycling concerns. Unfortunately, it's not clear how many, if any, of the councilmembers saw this police threat, since it was a large group and many of the riders had already started the ride. Anyway, assuming we now have a sympathetic city council, let's hope the first thing they do is to repeal the helmet ordinance.

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Bike-to-Work Day Winners (5-8-97)

Every year, local businesses compete to see which businesses will have the highest percentage of employees biking to work on a given day (Bike-to-Work Day), which was Friday, May 8th this year. This event is part of Bike Week. Here are this year's winner's.

2-10 employees -- 1st: 75% Clayworks Gallery
    2nd: 50% Stealth Express
    3rd: 33% WHM Transportation Engineers
   11-50 employees -- 1st: 46% Dynamic Reprographics
    2nd: 32% Upper Crust Bakery
    3rd: 7.5% Bignette Corporation
   51-100 employees -- 1st: 10% City of Austin Planning & Environmental
    Conservation Services Department
    2nd: 3% Hoovers, Inc.
    3rd: 1% Travis High School
   101-500 employees 1st: 8% City of Austin Drainage Utility
    2nd: 6% Westinghouse Motor Corp.
   500+ employees - 1st: 2.0% Radian
    2nd: 1.7% Tandem
    3rd: 1.5% Sematech

Longest Commute -- 23.25 miles: Clay Dearman of Motorola

Oldest Commuter -- 61 years old: Bill Crolley of the TX Natural Resources Conservation Commission

Longest Bus/Bike Commute -- 5.5 miles: Doug Williams of dynamic Reprographics

For a list of all companies who participated (included those who didn't place), see the Bike Week web page at:

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State Bicycle Helmet Law Defeated (5-5-97)

House Bill 797 requiring all cyclists under 18 to wear a helmet was defeated today. The vote was 77 to 56. FYI, you can check the status of any bill by going to

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"Today" Show misses the boat on cycling safety (5-97)

by Frank Krygowski, Effective Cycling Instructor (

This morning I caught the second part of the Today Show's two part series on bicycle (and rollerblade) safety. I don't know how many millions of viewers saw it, but it's obviously a very significant piece of bike safety promotion. The Tuesday issue began by saying the most

important thing was "helmets, helmets, helmets". However, Tuesday's show spent most of its time giving information on child bike carriers, trailers, plus a tidbit or two on teaching a kid to balance. I was curious to see how much time would be spent on prevention of accidents. Wednesday's show, this morning, was almost entirely on helmets, plus a bit on wrist guards, etc. for skaters. Once again, they reinforced that a helmet was THE most important bicycle safety measure - in fact, the only measure worth mentioning! And the series now appears to be finished.

The _only_ statement regarding prevention of accidents, or competence in cycling, was when Matt Lauer asked "But for riding on the street they need to know traffic rules, things like that?" and the expert physician (Mark Widome?) said "And they may have the skills, but they don't have the judgement". Again, this is absolutely typical of bike safety thinking in America: push the helmets, ignore everything else.

Given that (according to NHTSA) fatally injured children are almost all (>90%) killed by cars, in accidents almost always (>80%) caused by the children's behavior, I remain incredulous. How does one intellectually defend ignoring the _causes_ of fatal accidents, while promoting what is at _best_ a marginally useful piece of protective equipment?

Is there no way to promote the concept of educating cyclists, especially children? Is it impossible to get representatives from League of American Bicyclists on the Today show, telling the tale that kids are making fatal mistakes that foam hats won't fix? Is there no way to get out the message that we (or _somebody_) must teach kids how to ride their bikes as vehicles, that this would be the _real_ life saver? Or is the plan to wait until mandatory helmet laws are passed in all 50 states, then say "Look, it's not working, let's try something else"?

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Churchill's Killer Goes Free (4-97)

Michael Memon,who ran over and killed cyclist Tom Churchill in September, won't even be going to court! In March or April a grand jury heard the evidence and decided not to send the case to trial, for unknown reasons. So Churchill's killer (Michael Memon) gets off without even a slap on the wrist. NOT EVEN A TICKET. In this town, it's easier to go to jail if you ride without a helmet on your bike than it is if you run over and kill someone in your car.

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