Thought people might be interested in thoughts I've put together with the
help of postings from Urban-Cyclist on why we think our local police ought
to have bicycles:
Keeping our streets and public spaces free of crime and the fear of crime is
vital to urban regeneration. Indeed community safety including the safety of
Handsworth Park (my local park) is widely agreed within the SRB4 area to be
a priority. For this reason the Committee and members of the Handsworth Park
Association would support a proposal for SRB4 expenditure on the purchase of
bicycles by the police.
We believe the use by the police of high quality specialist bicycle,
supported by good training in their use for law enforcement - would help
achieve greater community safety for the following reasons:
1. It is increasingly recognised by traffic experts, by commercial cycle
couriers and by cycling organisations, that in an urban setting, suffering
from growing road traffic congestion, a high quality modern bicycle in the
hands of a skilled rider can compete with, and frequently, exceed cars for
mobility and access. Indeed, we understand that in many cases police on
bicycles are even able to deal with road traffic offences involving cars in
just as effective a way and perhaps on occasion more effectively than if
they were in patrol cars.
2. In addition there is a growing awareness that reliance on high-speed
patrol cars to apprehend suspects is not always the most appropriate or even
the most effective way to catch criminals in an urban setting. Danger to
innocent bystanders may be out of proportion to the potential law
enforcement results, and a car - however fast - may be unable to access the
escape routes available to suspected criminals. Furthermore the relative
costs of bicycles - given their effectiveness as a means of enhancing
community safety - alongside the cost of motor vehicles adds to the
attractiveness of this proposal.
3. The great value of having police officers on bicycles is that it
increases their visibility and access to the public. It is easier to stop
and communicate from a bicycle. It is simpler and safer to lock a bike or
carry it indoors to inspect premises and talk to owners and others at a
crime scene and other settings where the police deal with the public.
4. Bicycles can reach the places that require a police presence but which
cannot be accessed by cars - towpaths, house backs, green lanes, pedestrian
walkways (including subways) and of course public parks and playing fields
where although police in cars may enter in hot pursuit (if they have keys)
they may be less welcome routine patrol among pedestrians and other
5. Cycle riding police officers may be especially welcome where a "soft"
approach is required in the policing of public events whether political
demonstrations such as marches or large gatherings such as Carnival or
Vaisaki or our own annual "Classroom in the Park".
6. Police on bicycles are often in a better position to enforce the law
where it is broken by cyclists riding irresponsibly and endangering the
public or damaging the environment as in the case of cyclists on pavements
or riding across flowerbeds.
7. Police credibility in this latter area will be increased in that in their
dealings with cyclists they are seen as being in a position to understand
road conditions from a cyclist's perspective. They are thus in a better
position to understand the views of cyclists reporting incidents where they
have been endangered by the behaviour of other road users.
8. Police on bicycles may also be in a far better position to catch people
committing criminal acts such as drug dealing or assault where criminals may
use bicycles to approach victims and make their escape. This applies to
apprehending people who steal people's bicycles - often the heartbreaking
experience of a youngster who has just been given a bicycle, perhaps for the
first time, as a gift.
9. Police using bicycles will have more opportunity to note and inspect
features of their surroundings that may help them to advise on crime
reduction measures, and on their bicycles they can assist in cycle crime
prevention drives at local schools and shopping areas.
10. Police trained in the use of high quality bicycles can also provide an
adult role model for young people who - in a world where car travel is
proliferating causing obesity and increased road traffic risk - may be
tempted to consider healthier and more stimulating ways of achieving
mobility. A valuable side effect of having more police officers on bicycles
is the known health benefits of cycling for the officers themselves.
The police officer on a bicycle should no longer be seen as a PR exercise -
important though that may be. We note that Strathclyde Constabulary have
recently reported favourable results from establishing a force of 'bicycle
policemen'. It is suggested that this project has been the more successful
because the Chief Constable gave officers extra internal standing by
declaring them 'vehicular officers' like the pandas, rather than beat
officers on bikes. The choice of suitable uniforms is also important, as is
high quality specialised training in cycle-craft. In this respect the
contents of the International Police Mountain Bike Association website
>) shows a growing body of interprofessional
information exchange on the valuable role of bicycles in law enforcement.
SRB4 funding would be well invested if it assists local police to take
advantage of best practice in this area and we are keen to endorse this
initiative in Handsworth and adjoining areas.
Committee Member, Handsworth Park Association
34 Beaudesert Road
Birmingham B15 2TT
0121 554 9794