Behind the handle bars

While bicycle patrol presents a unique image, it's the same shift at the end of the day -- save the engine fumes


  •      Maneuverability: Bicycles are more maneuverable at lower speeds. "You can get the bicycle into tight places that a motorcycle can't get into," says Cohen. He explains that it's much easier to get a pedal bike through crowds rather than to get the motorcycle through.

         In his experience, Sousa agrees. "It's great in a crowd — easy to get through and you don't have to worry about traffic congestion. There are a lot of things you can do with a bicycle that you can't with a car." Examples of this include climbing up and down flights of stairs and riding in a multitude of conditions like off-road or in deep sand.

  • Keep your distance: While chasing someone, Cohen advises officers not get too close, explaining that while on foot one is trying to catch a suspect and bring him or her to the ground. Yet compared to a foot chase, a bike-riding officer is expending less energy than the running suspect — allowing the officer to have more energy later once the suspect is captured, and while the officer is on the bicycle he is less able to properly defend himself. Getting too close may allow the subject to attack the officer while he is in a vulnerable position.
  • Community relations: The bicycle, as stated before, removes the large metal door of the patrol car and slows the officer on the road — making him more approachable. "Guys tend to get to know the business owners and citizens better on bicycle rather than patrolling in cars. They get the chance to stop and talk to people," says Cohen.

     "For the most part," he says, "I don't see being on a bicycle as a disadvantage."

Training

     Two major bicycle training associations for law enforcement — the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA) and the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association (LEBA) — offer training on bicycle tactics and a variety of bike-related topics, such as:

  •      LEBA's available courses:

         Class A Certification is granted after a minimum of 32 hours or four consecutive days of mountain bike training. Courses include: nutrition for the mountain bike officer; saddle, knee, hand and foot injuries; stretching; slow speed balance drills; hypothermia and dehydration; accident prevention for the mountain bike officer; safety equipment, uniforms, and accessories; proper bicycle fit; emergency braking; gears and cadence; and police technical skills.

         Class B Certification covers the same topics as Class A certification, except for the LEBA Tactical Firearms Training course, and includes only 24 hours or three consecutive days of mountain bike training.

         Class C Certification, like Class A and B, includes much of the same information, but with a 16-hour class that is limited to units on body fuels and exercise, mountain bike nomenclature and fit, prevention of common cycling injuries, effective cycling, a minimum of two training rides, suspect contact, gears and cadence, stretching, balance drills and police technical skills. According to the LEBA Web site, "Officers attending a Class C course cannot be accepted as instructor candidates until they have passed a Class B or higher course."

         Advanced Training Courses are held throughout the country and can vary from mechanical to drug interdiction topics and typically include an off-road ride. LEBA reports that the courses are normally 24 to 32 hours in length, and can fulfill most states P.O.S.T. requirements for yearly in-service training.

         The Instructor Course requires an interested officer to have completed the Basic A course, or equivalent, and a recommendation. Subject to review by an executive board, LEBA may also accept IPMBA training or other organizations.

         LEBA also offers Public order and crowd control (response training), bicycle officer survival training, as well as bicycle mechanics/repair training.

  • IPMBA, pronounced "eye-PIM-buh," developed its courses and certifications by experts of police and EMS cycling. Formed in 1992 from the League of American Cyclists (established 1880), IPMBA now delivers bicycling education to thousands of public safety cyclists each year.

     IPMBA's available courses:

     The Police Cyclist Course — I & II is divided into 11 units: Bike handling and vehicular cycling, bike fit, group riding, hazard recognition and common crashes, obstacle clearing and riding techniques, patrol procedures, nighttime patrol, community policing, basic maintenance, legal issues and traffic laws, and fitness and nutrition. II focuses on the development of critical thinking skills and includes topics on the effective deployment of bike teams in various environments, planning routs, problem-solving and more. IPMBA requires a police, EMS or security cyclist certification or equivalent.

     The Survival Tactics and Riding Skills Course — offers the latest in bicycle training developments for those who have mastered the basic and fundamentals of cycling and handling. IPMBA divided the course into multiple segments including slow speed skills, firearms, off-road riding, offensive and defensive measures, scenarios, and crowd management and control. Only open to fully commissioned officers with arrest powers, this course also requires the certification or equivalent of IPMBA's Police Cyclist program.

     The EMS Bicycle Cyclist Course — I & II, like the Police Cyclist course, teaches basic and emergency bike-handling skills but with an EMS twist.

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