Far be it from me to shy away from jumping into the middle of a controversy, but the only thing evident from last week’s take down, arrest and cuffing of Amanda Jo Stephen for jaywalking (while on a run) across 24th Street is that nothing is evident. There is so much conflicting evidence from the Austin Police Department and eyewitnesses that the only way this will get sorted out is at her court date—if this gets that far.
Still, this seems like an isolated incident in which a runner wearing Earbuds didn’t hear (or ignored) two APD officers who then reacted by doing their duty, following the letter of the law and taking her down with what may or not have been excessive force. The only thing that seems clear is that we don’t have to worry whether APD has launched a campaign to rein in the cyclists and runners who share Austin’s roads.
As someone who is firmly planted in both the cycling and running community, I would venture an educated guess that there isn’t a runner or cyclist in town who hasn’t committed the same type of crime nearly every day that Stephen is alleged to have committed.
Sticking with running, almost all of us who long run on the weekends, primarily do so either in bike lanes or on the shoulders of roads. Both are violations. By law, we have to be on the sidewalks (if available). Yet, few of us follow the letter of the law and APD has wisely chosen to ignore these minor transgressions. Clearly, APD has more important fish to fry such as catching bad guys and solving serious crimes that endanger our community.
The actual law of restricting pedestrians to sidewalks and following all traffic signals obviously makes sense. But the laissez-faire enforcement of such laws is also reasonable. When they decide to crackdown on such laws is what tends to rattle our collective cages.
I’m certainly a law-abiding citizen (never been arrested, only one speeding ticket) and yet the other day I was a one-man crime wave. On my morning run, I ran in the bike lane rather than a sidewalk, swept through 10 stop signs and crossed a highway without the benefit of a cross walk. Later that same day, I rode my bike for an hour and rolled through another dozen stop signs and made a left turn without signaling. (I stop for all red lights.)
All one needs to do is spend a few minutes on the weekend at The Rock at Austin High School underneath Mopac. There, you will see a steady stream of runners and walkers jaywalking across the street, often in plain view of some APD officers and park police monitoring the parking lot. Even our trail walking mayor—Lee Leffingwell, a familiar sight on the Lady Bird Lake—finishes his walk at The Rock and crosses the street wherever he feels like it.
Nobody cares. Nor should they.
But APD chief Art Acevedo threw some gas on the fire with a sarcastic rant directed at everyone who had concerns about how the jaywalking/runner incident was handled. Acevedo said, “…it’s kind of interesting what passes for controversy in Austin, Texas. Thank you Lord that there’s a controversy in Austin, Texas that we actually had the audacity to touch somebody by the arm and tell them, ‘Oh my goodness, Austin Police, we’re trying to get your attention.’ Whew! In other cities, cops are committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas.”
According to Acevedo, the two APD officers were working a pedestrian traffic initiative last Thursday and they stopped 28 people and issued seven citations, though he didn’t say what the citations were for.
Good for them. Still, I think we can all agree it be would be a grievous misallocation of APD resources to waste their time ticketing, much less arresting runners and cyclists (many of whom are also APD officers) for such misdemeanors as this woman now faces. If they chose to go on the offensive against miscreants like you and I, they’d have to convert the Erwin Center into a make shift jail to hold all of us.
No chance of that happening, but a little common sense on Stephen’s part as well as APD—maybe given her a warning like 21 of the other 28 people they stopped–could have avoided this entire incident. This is a tolerant town. Let’s keep it that way.
O This is a huge marathon weekend for Austinites. Some of our best marathoners will be at races in The Woodlands, Killeen (The Army Marathon), Napa, California and Little Rock, Arkansas. The weather forecast for this weekend looks fine for the Texas races (maybe a little warm), but the more than 50 members of Gilberts Gazelles who are traveling to Northern California for the Napa Marathon better bring rain gear as the Bay Area is supposed to get pummeled. Hayley Sorenson must be wondering what’s up with her marathon luck. In 2011, she ran the Dallas Marathon (then White Rock) and got drenched. In 2012, Sorenson flew to Sacramento for the California International and had to endure ankle-deep rain on the course. And now Haley’s headed back to NorCal for Napa and what could be a gully washer on Sunday.
O Last weekend, some Austin’s marathoners headed out of town to Ft. Worth for Cowtown or to El Paso for its marathons. In Cowtown, Daphne Weyand took first in her age (35-39) in 3:25:16. In the half, Trent Thurman finished fourth in his age group (45-49) in 1:31:24. Bob Hendrick placed eighth in his age group (18-24) in 1:25:29 and Kip Chemirmir was 13th in his (30-34) in 1:29:37.
O Way out west in El Paso, Rose Martinez had a terrific marathon in 3:40:10 to win her age group (45-49) and placed fifth overall among the women. In the accompanying half marathon, Jeff Glaser of Austin was eighth overall in 1:28:57 and won his age group (45-49). Letitia Fecher of San Antonio ran 1:40:22 to place second her age group (30-34). Betty Helgren of Austin won her’s (45-49) in 1:45:37.
O Huge congrats to Chris Garlington and Meredith Terranova for finishing last week’s Ultraman in Florida. Meredith, the first woman, finished the ordeal in 27:43, while Chris made it to the finish in 34:16. For the uninitiated, this three-day event kicks off with a 6.2-mile swim, followed the next day by 261.4-mile bike in two stages and is topped off with a 52.4-mile run.
O More congrats go out to my buddy Sergio Alarcon. The long-time runner and bon vivant has retired from 3M after 26 years on the job. Now, he can log more training and spending time with his granddaughter, Bowie.
O There’s a new series of races in Kyle, starting this Saturday. The Plum Creek Challenge Series will have four separate races in Kyle. The 4th Negley Elementary 5-K is this Saturday with other races on May 18 (Front Porch Days 5-K and 10-K), the 4-Mile Popsicle Run on July 4th and the finale—the Hootenanny on the Hill 5-k and 10-K– on October 11th. Says race director Jennifer Crosby, “The goal for this series is to build an active community, to get people off their couches and into this beautiful neighborhood. We want to draw elite runners and families from outside of the neighborhood because they will enjoy our closed courses and the difficulty of the courses themselves.”
O With the demise of RunTex, the Congress Avenue Mile went down the drain too. It was a great race with a particular emphasis for the past few years on the top high-school milers in Texas. Some folks in College Station are picking up the baton and are starting the Aggie Mile (and 5-K) on May 17th on a flat course through the A&M campus. The high school division of the mile will be called the Top 40 and bring the 40 fastest guy and gal high school milers in the state to College Station. For more info, go to www.aggiemile.com.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Santana 111” by Santana. A great mix of live and studio guitar solos by Carlos and Neal Schon who was 17 at the time of this recording.
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