Cops on bikes: a good thing!

Cycling patrols part of a global trend.

Whether they're fining red light jumpers, or turning a blind eye when a driver is in the wrong, police officers of aren't always a cyclist's best friend.

Now police in Dorset in the UK are seeing the other side, by taking to two wheels themselves. The cycling patrols are part of a growing trend which has spread through police forces around the world.

While their primary aim is usually to target pedestrianised areas, or cut through traffic faster than a car, bike patrols also give police first hand knowledge of the dangers and difficulties cyclists face on the roads.

The Dorset force has already run a trial scheme and now will provide 12 bikes for officers, complete with sirens and flashing blue lights.

Police community support officer Dave Hill, said: "The bikes have proven extremely successful as they allow officers to be easily accessible to members of the public in the street and in some circumstances can offer faster response times than police cars in the town centre."

Cycle patrols are already a regular sight in UK cities including London and Bristol. In the United States a mountain bike patrol in Bedford, Virginia announced its expansion on the same day as the one across the pond in Dorset.

The Bedford patrol has been running since March this year and there are now nine officers trained up to use mountain bikes as part of their duties.

"When [bicycling] became a part of my job, I jumped right on the chance."

Local policeman Joe Dooley is part of the bike patrol team: "It was just something I've always enjoyed as a hobby and when it became a part of my job, or an availability for my job, I jumped right on the chance."

The bikes save the department about $300 a month on petrol costs, and two more officers are to be trained up for the new year. As with many other bike patrol schemes, part of the funding from the project has come from local businesses, in this case Bedford Ready Mix, Bedford Automotive, Bedford Wal-Mart, and Bedford Memorial Hospital Emergency Room.

In the Canadian city of Vernon in British Columbia bike officers patrol parks where normal police cars would be unable to enter. South of the border police have been patroling Niagara Falls on two wheels since 1995, and in Huntingdon, Ohio, where drug dealers have told officers they hate the bikes because they can't hear them coming. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the trend has come full circle, and veteran bike patrol officers now hold special days when they pass on safety tips to other cyclists.

© BikeRadar 2007

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