Pedestrians warned not to walk on bike lanes


by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News and photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 26 at 7:21 PM

AUSTIN -- Forrest Preece and Linda Ball walk about 25 miles a week in downtown Austin. Even when they have the right of way they have learned to yield to cars and bikes.

"We've had them run stop signs, red lights, make right turns, make right turns on red without stopping, which is inconvenient if you are about to step into the road," Ball said.

Taking that extra caution could save your life.

Lieutenant Troy Officer with APD's Vehicular Homicide Unit says there are higher odds of being killed in a car or by a car, in Austin, than being killed intentionally by another person.

Last year, there were 77 traffic fatalities in Austin and 16 involved pedestrians. That's compared to 32 homicides.

One thing some pedestrians don't realize is that it's illegal to walk in a bike lane if there is a sidewalk on either side.

Unfortunately, there have been some high-profile cases of people hit and killed while walking in the bike lanes, including the death of 30-year-old Courtney Griffin in May 2011.

In 2008, Linda O'Brien was hit and killed by a hit-and-run driver while waking in the bike lane along Steck Avenue in Northwest Austin. O'Brien's husband told KVUE she avoided the sidewalk because she didn't feel safe. He said she thought someone might jump out from the overgrown bushes.

Others say they choose the bike lane over sidewalks because of the conditions of Austin sidewalks.

"I would rather walk on a crumbly cracked sidewalk than walk in a roadway with 4,000 pound vehicles," Lt. Officer said.

You never know when a driver might be distracted, something walkers say they witness too often.

Walkers are encouraged to stop, pause and make sure the cars see them before they walk out into the street.