Speedway plaza

Preston Glace, radio-televison-film freshman and first-year representative of Texas Cycling, helps fix bikes during the annual Bike to UT event Friday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Campus organizations and students filled Speedway Plaza on Friday for Bike to UT Day, an event for promoting bicycle safety and appreciation on campus. 

Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) hosted the annual event to connect students with cycling organizations, show appreciation for bike riders and encourage more students to bike to campus, according to Jeremy Hernandez, bike coordinator for PTS.

The University benefits in several ways from increased biking to campus, which reduces motor vehicle traffic, Hernandez said.

“We care that they are riding their bike on campus,” Hernandez said. “It decreases the amount of driving traffic on campus and frees up some parking spaces for maybe some commuters who aren’t able to ride their bike.” 

On Bike to UT Day last year, APD issued 47 tickets to cyclists in North Campus. UTPD officer William Pieper said he was not aware of any increased law enforcement initiatives to issue tickets to cyclists.

“We have not heard of any increased enforcement on cycling or step enforcement,” Pieper said. “That being said, if a police officer sees someone violating a traffic law, be a cyclist [or] a motor vehicle driver, they’re probably going to take action.” 

PTS is tentatively organizing a initiative to have bike-safety educators stand near stop signs around campus and encourage fellow cyclists to follow road laws, according to Hernandez.

“We hope to have some groups, maybe next semester, be near stop signs,” Hernandez said. “What we hopefully plan to do is to bring more awareness to students near stop signs and things of that nature in an educational way.” 

In order to reduce bike thefts, UTPD officers at Bike to UT Day demonstrated how thieves circumvent cable locks and U-locks to steal bikes.

“There are a lot of thieves that can cut off a cable quickly,” Pieper said. “[Cyclists] are really subjecting their bike to bike theft. We want to encourage people to use a U-lock as a minimum degree of security for their bicycle.” 

Biking is a way for students to lose weight and gain lean muscle, according to Lindsay Wilson, registered dietician with the Division of Housing and Food Service.

“Even though you are pedaling a lot, you are using your arms to support yourself,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely a full-body activity.”

Advertising junior Joe Welbes said he bikes around campus for environmental and practical reasons. 

“The environmental aspect appeals to me too because I’m not using my car as much,” Welbes said. “[There is] more freedom than taking a bus.”

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Wednesday, as part of Cop Day on Speedway plaza, students climbed into a SWAT vehicle, practiced their Taser skills and learned about fingerprinting. 

As a part of UT’s Safety Week, UTPD, the Division of Recreational Sports and Student Government hosted Cop Day. The event brings law enforcement agencies from Central Texas together to help students get to know law enforcement and learn what they do on a day-to-day basis. 

“Our goal is to allow students to come out and interact with the officers and … get to know them a little bit so they understand we’re not just out there to get them — we’re actually here to help the community and be a part of the community,” said William Pieper, UTPD Crime Prevention specialist and author of Campus Watch.

Students had the chance to view equipment from UTPD’s Criminal Investigation Unit and see a Taser demonstration put on by UTPD officers. While using training Tasers, students fired at a cardboard target of a suspect and tried to hit certain body regions. Detective Michael Riojas said the Tasers work best in close range when officers have a wider area of a suspect’s body to aim at. 

“On the inside, there’s some probes, and it’s like a little, tiny harpoon to catch onto the body or the clothing,” Riojas said. “If some people aren’t affected by it, it means you didn’t get a good spread on it, and it didn’t stick onto the clothing.” 

Deputies from the Travis County SWAT response team also attended the event and explained their job to students. Deputy Joseph Zahn said the SWAT vehicle, which carries 10 to 14 officers and goes on 60 to 80 operations per year, is used in search warrants, barricades and other high-risk situations. 

“It pretty much goes out for everything, unless it’s too big of a vehicle to get out in certain areas,” Zahn said. 

Undeclared sophomore Anggie Atocha said seeing the SWAT truck allowed her to learn about something she would not normally experience.

“It’s something that you only see on TV, but when you see it for real, and all the equipment that they have, and what they do, it’s pretty cool,” Atocha said. 

Kinesiology graduate student Donald Robinson said he was surprised by how relaxed and open the officers were compared to his previous experiences around police. 

“At my old school, I worked as an RA, and … calling the police there, I always just felt kind of edgy and uncomfortable, but here, people seemed a little bit more friendly than I would expect,” Robinson said. 

Atocha said the event made her more aware of what UTPD and other law enforcement agencies do on campus. 

“I think it’s a good thing to see the security on campus, even though you don’t see them all the time,” Atocha said. “It’s nice to know that they’re watching out for students.”