A police bicycle patrol is an extremely useful and effective form of law enforcement. Bikes can be economical and practical in departments, regardless of the size or type of terrain that an agency must patrol. An officer who rides a bicycle has unique abilities to see crime, stop crime, and/or arrest offenders in ways that are often more difficult in a squad car.
Mobility is a primary benefit of bike patrol. A patrolling bicyclist can travel through crowds, yards, parks, over sidewalks, pathways, into narrow passageways and easily jump curbs. During festivals and special events, a bicycle patrol is an excellent way to enforce crowd control. The officer can quickly be mobilized from anywhere in the crowd, and is then able to cover much more distance than if he or she were on foot. Additionally, in crowded situations, there is less danger or injury to pedestrians or other motorists from a bicycle if contact should occur. An officer can ride inside buildings such as shopping malls, concert arenas, exhibition halls and sporting events when indoor security involves timeliness and sizeable real estate. An important benefit for security personnel is that a bike can accompany the rider in unique interior spaces, such as elevators.
This same maneuverability gives an officer the capability to ride up to individuals in a personal, non-threatening manner. The size and appearance of a squad car are not as "friendly" as a police bike. A bike-riding officer can become a powerful influence in developing positive relationships with people who live and work in the community he or she patrols. The bicycle can be especially effective in building trust with children who may be interested in it, and its equipment. This trust and accessibility can encourage citizens to be less apprehensive about approaching law enforcement officers in times of need, or with information and tips.
Ease of mobility allows for a level of stealth that cannot be put into action in a squad car. For example, Fuji and Smith & Wesson create patrol bikes with silent hubs. An officer is therefore able to ride up behind someone, who very likely, will not know he or she is there. From a distance, police officers on bicycles blend with other cyclists. However, with the flip of a switch, an officer can turn on specially designed pursuit lights and sirens that identify him or her as law enforcement.
Smaller towns often overlook the use of bicycles for their local force. However, bikes are useful and economical police tools for less populated locales. An officer may be able to ride across town in minutes. Meanwhile, should the officer come upon a disturbance or problem, he or she can quietly approach in a low-keyed manner, without disturbing other residents.
Improved physical condition is a known health benefit to bike riding. Improved mental and physical wellbeing can promote a more positive attitude for work and life, as well as aid in reducing stress levels. This alone should be weighed as a motive for putting officers on bicycles.
Finally, the use of bicycles in law enforcement agencies and security organizations is economical! Police bicycles can save money in a department, agency or business by cutting automobile expenses and their accompanying fuel, insurances and maintenance costs. This advantage must be considered when funding is being cut and budgets are tight.
About the Author
Michael Harland is the Sales Manager for Police Bike Store, which offers Police Bikes and Accessories
for sale. His information comes from personal experience and he has been writing on the subject of law enforcement, security and bicycle related topics since 2001