Councilmembers pass first reading of safe cyclist passing ordinance

News Reporter

San Marcos city councilmembers unanimously approved the first of two readings of an ordinance aimed at keeping cyclists safe on roads Tuesday evening.

The Safe Passing Ordinance, if enacted by the city council, will require all vehicles to give at least three feet of clearance when passing “vulnerable road users” on the roadways. These users include pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, skateboarders, equestrians, physically disabled people, construction and maintenance workers, tow truck operators, stranded motorists and farm equipment operators, according to a Jan. 22 University Star article.

Commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks would have to give at least six feet of clearance as part of the ordinance. The ordinance, which applies to pedestrians and cyclists, already exists in 22 Texas cities including Austin, New Braunfels and San Antonio, according to the same article.  

Fire Chief Les Stephens said at the city council meeting that law enforcement would only give out warnings to violators during the first 30 days after the ordinance is passed. After this time, police will start giving out citations.

“People might not get the word,” Stephens said. “We don’t want it to be a surprise.”

Only police officers who witness the violation will be able to write tickets, Stephens said. Tickets could be up to $50 and are classified as a level three driving violation.

Councilmembers want to answer questions or concerns the citizens may have, said Councilman John Thomaides, Place 3. Thomaides said he hopes city staff have plans for educational outreach regarding the ordinance.

“Other cities have done this. We should communicate with them,” Thomaides said. “There could also be important outreach with Texas State because there are a lot of students benefitting from this law.”

The educational outreach for the safe passing stipulations could be very similar to what the city has done in the past for other ordinances, said Mayor Daniel Guerrero.

Councilman Shane Scott, Place 6, said the city could educate the community through a commercial on television. New funds could be provided to the city’s video engineer to help him film a commercial, Guerrero said. Councilman Jude Prather, Place 2, said notices could be sent out with utility bills.

City Manager Jared Miller said the staff will consider each idea.

“We’ll have everything for you to see,” Miller said. “Social media, utility bills, the website, a laundry list of ideas.”
Councilwoman Lisa Prewitt, Place 1, asked Miller if roadside billboards with ordinance information could be built. Miller said billboards could just end up being a distraction for drivers.

The final vote on the ordinance will take place in city council’s Feb. 18 meeting. The ordinance will be enacted if it is approved by councilmembers that day.