AUSTIN (KXAN) — About a year into a new bike safety enforcement program, the Austin Police Department’s safe biking coordinator says the department still needs to educate drivers.

The weekly patrols targeting people who get too close to cyclists are generating dozens of tickets — and that’s the problem.

APD officers set out Wednesday during the morning commute once again in patrol cars, on bicycles and on motorcycles to track down and ticket drivers coming too close to cyclists or turning in front of them.

“I would say our average is between three to six an hour,” Officer Rheannon Cunningham, the safe biking coordinator, said.

APD relies on officers like Cunningham in street clothes and on bikes, riding up and down busy roads, measuring how close cars get (in inches) with a special device, the C3FT, designed and fabricated by Codaxus, an Austin company.

Most cars have to stay more than three feet from a cyclist they’re passing; larger and commercial vehicle need to stay six feet away. Get too close, and APD can — and will — issue citations or warnings for violations of the vulnerable road user ordinance.

When the C3FT device alerts Cunningham to a too-close driver, she radios to the officers on motorcycles and in patrol cars the kind of car and the license plate. “Texas handicapped plate on a Hyundai,” she told her colleagues at one point Wednesday.

“It’s going to be 31 inches,” she read off the measuring device. GoPro cameras record those readings to use in court.

“What we found when we started doing the operations is that most people weren’t even aware of the law,” Cunningham said.

In close to 49 hours of those patrols, APD has issued 72 tickets and 83 warnings for passing too close to a cyclist or turning in front of one without enough warning. Cunningham calls that a “right hook.”

“It’s a really big collision pinch-point for us,” she said. The department also issued 49 citations or warnings for other behavior that can endanger people on bikes, including cell phone use.

The total of 204 citations or warnings includes 12 issued Wednesday. The fine for violating the vulnerable road user ordinance is $175 plus court costs.

APD isn’t stopping just at ticketing drivers; on those same patrols over the last year, officers wrote a total of 12 citations and issued 8 warnings to people on bikes for violations like running red lights or riding the wrong way.

“There has been at least one day of operation where we had zero violations,” Cunningham said, “so I consider that a huge success.”

To find more success in preventing close calls, she went on, she needs to keep giving presentations to various city groups and transportation companies, and keep handing out flyers to people informing them of the law “so that the message just keeps spreading further and further.”

In recent weeks, APD’s new Chief, Brian Manley, has updated a PSA recorded by his predecessor to spread the word.