William Pieper

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.”

Biology senior Quan Nguyen tests out All-state’s Reality Rides simulator which gives users a hands-on experience with the potential dangers of texting and driving. Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash than drivers impaired after drinking four beers.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

In an effort to demonstrate the risks associated with texting while driving, students tested their abilities to multitask behind the wheel in a simulation on campus sponsored by UTPD and Allstate’s Reality Rides initiative. 

The event, held Monday, was part of Reality Rides’ nationwide tour designed to educate university communities on the life-threatening risks of distracted driving, according to Kelly Conway, co-founder of the Fleming and Conway branch for Allstate Insurance.

“The reason we are targeting college campuses is because the number one killer of people between the ages of 11 to 27 is actually auto accidents, and one of the most common things that cause these accidents is using cell phones while driving,” Conway said.

The City of Austin passed a municipal ordinance last year that made using a handheld device while driving a citable offense associated with up to $500 in fines. APD has issued nearly 1,000 citations since the ordinance came into effect on Jan. 1, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

UTPD urges students to refrain from using handheld devices in their cars, UTPD officer William Pieper said.

“[The ordinance] is not something we enforce on campus because it is a city ordinance, and the campus is state property, but we understand how serious of a problem it is, and we encourage students to dedicate themselves to not be texting while driving,” Pieper said.

The widespread and incessant use of technology has made it difficult for police departments to convince people of the risks of texting while driving, Pieper said.

“When using technology becomes such a norm to do, it always becomes a natural thing to use it while driving,” Pieper said. “So getting them to realize that this is something dangerous is challenging. No text is that important. No phone call is that important.”

A lack of education regarding vehicular risks causes many students to take distracted driving lightly, according to mathematics sophomore Joseph Garcia.

“What we students consider one of the most benign objects, [vehicles], are actually the deadliest objects we encounter on a regular basis,” Garcia said. “I feel that if this was part of freshman education, we would be more aware of the risks involved in driving.”

UTPD considers distracted driving to be as deadly as driving while intoxicated, as they can both lead to fatal consequences, Pieper said.

“Whether it’s drunk driving or texting while driving, it only takes a second of inattention to cause something that could lead to some devastating consequences,”
Pieper said.

UTPD Sgt. Ashley Griffin participates in Phi Kappa Sigma’s first Dunk A Cop event Friday afternoon. The fundraiser ben- efited the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Officers from the UT Police Department plunged into cold water Friday in an effort to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as part of Phi Kappa Sigma’s first Dunk A Cop event.

The event originated at Virginia Commonwealth University, and its ability to engage the police departments with their local communities while also raising money helped it spread to other schools, according to Zach Garcia, Phi Kappa Sigma’s vice president of philanthropy and finance senior.

“[Our campus] has a huge population of 50,000. I think it’s always cool to see students engaged with the local police department in a different way than everything you hear through campus watch,” Garcia said. “This definitely brings a different realm and energy because it allows the student body to interact with the local police in a different environment.”

Officers were happy to participate in the event for the sake of battling cancer, Garcia said.

“Cancer is a terrible disease, and it impacts people in ways you can’t even imagine, so when [Garcia] reached out to me, I said, ‘Yeah, this is something we can get behind and help,” UTPD officer William Pieper said.

Besides helping raise money for the cause, Pieper said UTPD enjoys partnering with organizations on campus for different events. 

“In addition to raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, it gives us an opportunity to get out into the public and let people see that we’re not just the law,” Pieper said. “We’re not just out there writing tickets and things of that nature. We’re concerned about community building.”

During the event, participants could buy two throws for $2, three for $5 and for $10, participants could get an automatic dunk for the officer in the tank. The fraternity raised $896 dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society during the event.

UTPD bike patrol officer Jason Rask signed up to sit in the dunk tank throughout the day, even though it was his day off.

 “I’ve been up there twice already but probably been dunked at least 20 times,” Rask said. “It’s cold — especially when you get out because they filled it up with the hose pipes coming out of the building, and that’s really cold water.”

Rask said he enjoyed watching the students’ reactions.

 “It’s just a good cause. … Cancer is a serious thing, so if we can raise money to help find cures, then I’ll donate my time any time I can,” Rask said. “[The best part has been] the interactions with all the students. I mean, they seem to like dunking us.”

 Austin visitor Will Dorrance and his friends came across the event and decided to participate.

“We just happened to stroll across [the event], and I actually have a friend who has lymphoma, so as soon as I heard the cause, I knew I wanted to participate,” Dorrance said.

After he paid for unlimited throws, Dorrance said he appreciated the event because it made donating more accessible.

“Making it easy for others to help and donate is important, and I think a lot of times people want to get involved and donate money, so I think when you bring an event like this to the masses, you can really make that money for a good cause,” Dorrance said.

Photo Credit: Crystal Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

More students are including genuine personal information when creating fake IDs for themselves, according to UT police.

“Lately, we’ve been seeing driver’s licenses that [have] the person’s picture on it, has their name on it, has their address on it, has their driver’s license number on it — has everything on it, except a different date of birth,” UTPD officer William Pieper said. “What students don’t realize is that we tend to run those driver’s license numbers, and, when we run it, the computer comes back with their correct date of birth.”

A public relations sophomore, who requested anonymity to avoid legal repercussions, said he uses his fake ID at least once a week at grocery stores and bars downtown. 

“It’s a pretty legit one — it’s not paper, it’s actually laminated — and has my name, my face, basically everything about me, except my address,” the student said.

Police officers usually encounter students with fake driver’s licenses after they stop students for other criminal activity, such as underage drinking, Pieper said. 

“When I ask to see their driver’s license, [students] hold it very close to their chest … because they don’t want me to see their drinking ID,” Pieper said.

 Pieper said officers are sworn to uphold the law, which prohibits people under 21 from drinking alcohol, but said officers can sometimes use their own discretion when deciding what charges to file. 

“If [someone is] involved in another offense — say we stop somebody for minor in possession of alcohol — and they’re also in possession of a driver’s license and a fictitious [license], we may file one charge and not the other, but we’ll just document that they were in possession of a fictitious one,” Pieper said.

Most of the time, the punishment for having a fake ID is a Class C misdemeanor involving a fine of up to $500, Pieper said. The offense can be a felony under certain circumstances, he said.

“You get into felony grade where you’re talking about producing your own [ID] or tampering with a government document, or having one to defraud or harm somebody else,” Pieper said. “Then you’re going to prison — not a local jail, prison — for at least a year,” Pieper said.

Political communications junior Sebastian Lopez, who works as a bouncer for a bar on Sixth Street, said he sees fake IDs every night.

 “Nearly one out of 20 IDs [is fake], and there could be nearly hundreds of people in and out of the bar throughout the night,” Lopez said. “The easiest way [to prove an ID is fake] is when a patron shows a picture of someone that is clearly not them.”

Lopez said he denies those with fake IDs entry into the bar and then either keeps the fake or gives it back based on the person’s attitude.

Pieper said he wants students to assess if having a fake ID is worth it in the long run.

“A big reason for that age is based on maturity levels and based on experience levels — when people are younger and drinking, they’re more like to partake in risky behavior and be a harm to [themselves],” Pieper said. 

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Fifteen out of 17 bicycles that have been reported as stolen since the semester began in January were locked using a cable lock, according to William Pieper, University of Texas Police Department officer.

“Most cable locks can be easily cut by a pair of wire cutters, which are small and easy to carry,” Pieper said. “Bicycle thieves find it easy to conceal such tools while walking up to a bike rack, cut a lock and ride off.”

Cable locks are lightweight and easy to use, which is why a lot of students prefer to use them, but Pieper said they do not provide the best security for bikes.

Jeremy Hernandez, bicycle coordinator for Parking and Transportation Services, said the more resistant U-locks are the best option for students wanting to secure their bikes on campus.

“A cable lock can simply be cut with a hand tool … but, if you use a U-lock, … [the thieves] will have to get a power tool involved, and those are very loud, cause a lot of commotion,” Hernandez said.

When securing bikes to racks or other fixtures, Hernandez said students should lock more than just the frame of the bike. Thieves will steal parts of the bike, such as the seat or a single tire, if they cannot get away with the entire thing, according to Hernandez.

“You always need to incorporate the back tire and the frame to what you’re locking it to or the front tire and the frame and what you’re locking it to,” Hernandez said. “When you just lock the frame you’re still really exposed.”

Students can purchase U-locks at any of the University parking garages. Hernandez said the University also provides more parking alternatives for students who wish to keep their bikes in bike lockers in the garages.

Chemical engineering senior Zack Dotson said he has had two of his bikes stolen during his time at UT. One of the thefts occurred on campus when the bike was secured to a pole with a cable lock in front of the Recreational Sports Center. Dotson said he decided to use a cable lock around campus for convenience and a U-lock when he locked his bike at home.

“I used to place the U-lock on the bar in between the seat and the handlebar while riding, however, that messed up the brake system, and that … significantly scratched the bike,” Dotson said. 

Hernandez said the options for students when locking their bikes is to use one of the racks provided on campus so bikes are grouped together and out of the way for pedestrians and potential thieves looking to steal one during the day.

In order to inform more students about the best practices when it comes to bike security, the BikeUT program offers bike safety courses and seminars throughout each semester, according to Hernandez.  

Instead of using a single lock, Pieper said students should consider double-locking their bike with both a U-lock and a cable lock.

“U-locks require a prying device which is long and more difficult to carry,” Pieper said. “Using a quality U-lock and a cable lock at the same time provides even better protection as a thief would need to carry two different tools and spend more time defeating two different types of locks.”

Students walk around campus every day with wires coming out of their ears, holding an iPhone or iPod as they walk to class. But, after two unrelated robberies near campus this past weekend, this scene may not be as common.

In a Tuesday Campus Watch report, William Pieper, UTPD officer and crime prevention specialist, urged students to be aware of sounds they hear while walking around campus and to wear only one earbud while listening to music. 

“You can’t hear [certain] sounds if you’re wearing both ear buds — that’s why we call earphones ‘mugger magnets,’” Pieper said in the report. “Let one ear bud dangle; you will be much safer that way.”

According to the report, one of the robberies happened near Fifth and Colorado streets. A pedestrian was approached from behind by a subject who grabbed the victim’s wallet and ran away.

In the other robbery, a UT student was walking near his apartment in West Campus when he was approached by a subject who displayed a weapon and demanded money. The report said the suspect then fled the area in a gold-colored Nissan Altima with silver rims in the shape of a five-pointed star.

The report recommended students take certain precautions to be aware of their surroundings, such as not looking at their phones while walking and looking directly at people when they pass.

“Don’t be looking at your cell phone screen or book while you are walking,” the report said. “Robbers love to attack those that do not see them coming.”

History sophomore Brianna Wilcox said she does not think earbuds impair her ability to be aware of surroundings as she walks to class.

“I turn the volume down low, so I’m pretty aware of what’s going on,” Wilcox said. “I don’t think there’s really that much of a risk that you’re going to be robbed or something.”

If students do fall victim to a robbery, they should let the robber have their property without resisting and then make a mental description of the person and report it to the police, the report said. 

The Annual Security Report shows one robbery occurred on adjacent public property to the University last year.

A bicyclist makes his way up 24th Street on Monday afternoon. UTPD and Parking and Transportation Services launched an initiative last week to promote safer transportation on campus.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

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.

History freshman Angelina Medellin “pepper sprays” UTPD Officer William Pieper during National Night Out in front of San Jacinto Hall on Wednesday evening.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Students participated in a simulation of drunken driving, tested their pepper-spraying abilities and met police officers to kick off National Night Out on the San Jacinto Residence Hall plaza Wednesday.

National Night Out is a nationwide event designed to promote community involvement in crime prevention. UTPD, the Division of Housing and Food Services and other campus organizations partnered with each other to put on the annual event, which has been held at the University for the past 10 years. The event is part of Campus Safety Week, which is hosted by Student Government each year.

“In essence, it’s to get law enforcement and the community to come out together and say, ‘We’re not going to tolerate crime,’” said William Pieper, UTPD crime prevention specialist and Campus Watch writer.  

Individual National Night Out parties take place in neighborhoods across the country every year on the first Tuesday of August. In Texas, the date is moved to October because of the heat, Pieper said.

“It started out just getting neighbors to put their porch lights on, so the bad guys knew, ‘Hey, you can’t commit a crime here,’ and then it evolved to actually coming out of your house and meeting your neighbors and getting involved with the community,”Pieper said. 

Students had the chance to practice their pepper-spraying skills with training spray and experience a simulation of drunken driving by using Fatal Vision goggles, a tool used to simulate the effects of alcohol on a person’s vision. While wearing the goggles, students practiced throwing beanbags and footballs at targets to demonstrate how hand-eye coordination is impaired when intoxicated.

“It really teaches you that drunk driving is not a good idea,” said James Rauhut, a management information systems senior who volunteered at the event. 

Business freshman Allison Walker said she felt the event was a good way to build community between students. 

“I think a lot of times people in the dorms kind of stay to themselves, but this really helps people get out and meet their neighbors and other people,” Walker said. 

Campus Safety Week will include other safety events such as Fire Safety Day, Cop Day and Law Enforcement Day for students to learn more about UTPD and community policing, Pieper said. 

Applied learning and development junior Carolina Medina, who works as a resident assistant in Prather Hall Dormitory, said she thinks the event was a good way for UTPD to build relationships with students on campus.

“It really puts a face to the police department here, and you meet them and realize that they’re really fun people,” Medina said.

Students bike through the intersection of 24th and Speedway streets Tuesday morning. Intersections with dense vehicular traffic are prone to bicycle collisions, most of which go unreported on campus.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Two hundred ninety-eight bicycle collisions happened in Austin last year, according to statistics from the Austin Police Department, but UTPD crime prevention officer William Pieper said most bicycle accidents go unreported on campus.

Pieper said people involved in bike collisions on campus usually do not report them to UTPD. 

“It has been my experience that people tend to only report a bicycle accident to the police when there is an injury or major damage,” Pieper said. “Most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.”

Pieper said UTPD is only required to file crash reports with the Texas Department of Public Safety when a motor vehicle is involved. Collisions involving only pedestrians or cyclists are documented as incident reports, which is an internal report used to document criminal offenses or any incident requiring action by the police.

“Collisions between bicyclists and pedestrians, bicyclists and other bicyclists, or bicyclist and a fixed object are not required to be documented on a crash form,” Pieper said.  

Anna Sabana, APD public information manager, said APD reported 10 bicycle collisions in West Campus last year and a total of 298 collisions citywide. APD follows similar procedures to UTPD in reporting bicycle collisions, with a crash report only being required if a motor vehicle is involved.

Pieper said most bike crashes on campus occur in areas with heavy traffic or hills.

“I would state most [crashes] occur where there is dense traffic … like 24th and Speedway, and 21st and Speedway,” Pieper said. “I have seen other collisions where bicycle speed is a factor — the 23rd Street hill, the 24th Street hill and the 21st Street hill.”

According to data from the Texas Department of Transportation, the most common streets near campus where bicycle collisions occur are Guadalupe and Speedway streets, with a combined total of 102 crashes happening on the two streets over the past four years.

Most crashes happen because of a lack of attention on the path of a cyclist, pedestrian or driver, according to Pieper.

“Typically bicycle-involved collisions happen because one party fails to observe or yield right-of-way to another. Often times, a pedestrian steps in front of a bicyclist, or a bicyclist or motor vehicle fails to stop at a stop sign,” Pieper said. 

Pieper said UTPD has partnered with the University’s Parking and Transportation Services to work on bike safety presentations and initiatives. PTS offers free online classes to improve cyclists’ traffic safety skills. 

Mathematics junior Clarissa Rodriguez said she was involved in a crash on Speedway a few months ago but did not report it to UTPD. 

“I braked really hard behind someone, and I sort of rammed into their back tire,” Rodriguez said. “Nothing too bad happened.”

Rodriguez said she thinks cyclists often do not look where they’re going or ride too fast, which could contribute to collisions.

“I’d say people on bikes are usually not as safe as pedestrians, but it should be the other way around,” Rodriguez said.

After turning a sharp corner by the Student Activity Center, I took a hard hit to the ground and ended up damaging the gears of my bike. In the melee of tests and extracurricular demands, I left my bike locked and unattended by the Gates Dell Complex over the weekend as I went out of town. I rested assured that if my bike was secured and unrideable, no one would take it — which couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

If you’re a bike rider like myself, you understand my pain. My mode of transportation was stolen; my form of stress-relief was taken. If you’re not a cyclophile, imagine the feeling of having a couple thousand dollars taken from you.

Thursday marks the first day of Bike Month, so it is only fitting to delve into how such bike losses could have been avoided.  

Austin is ranked in the top 10 worst bike theft cities, making UT students extremely susceptible. Over 1,000 bicycle thefts have been reported to UTPD in the past 7 years. In 2013 there was a 47 percent decrease in reported bike thefts, from an average of 164 a year since 2007 to only 87 last year. 

Officer William Pieper of the Crime Prevention Unit believes the implementation of the bike-bait program has made the difference, where a bike implanted with a GPS tracking device is left in hot-spots to tempt thieves. Pieper believes there are a select few individuals who repeatedly prey on bikes left on campus. This program allows for almost immediate justice against an identified perpetrator. Punishing repeat offenders repels others who consider playing with the same fire. 

Evidently, sole reliance on the police is a foolhardy move. As the timeless truism goes: Prevention is always better than cure. Woefully, the current systems in place handle the latter. When asked, Pieper’s best advice was, “At bare minimum, use a U-Lock. Double lock it with a cable for peace of mind.” UTPD has tried preventing bike theft by collaborating with professor Gloria Lee’s Design and Persuasion class to create an online tutorial of how to properly double lock your bike. It’s good to note that according to records, this method has only been reported stolen seven times in the last 20 years. Other students like myself have had to learn the hard way that individual responsibility of how and where you lock your bike is ultimately the key. 

Dominguez is a biology junior from San Antonio.