Patrolling the Downtown Beat on Bicycles
A pair of bike officers. Photo credit: Director Digital Strategies
Everyone knows bicycling is good for the environment and for one’s health, this is no secret. Even the economic benefits of bicycling are touted these days. However, one benefit of embracing bicycling that is increasingly studied and observed is the positive social impact.
In an interview with OpenFile, police officers revealed that patrolling by bicycle often has advantages over patrolling by car, especially in downtown areas. A Toronto, Canda police officer, Sargent Ferris, shared benefits she has observed while on the force as a part of the bike squad:
[Sergeant Ferris] loves the job because of the interaction with the community. She says bike officers see things you’d miss in a car, and get to know people along their routes in a way they never would behind a steering wheel. Plus, it’s way easier to bust pot smokers: you can smell them from a mile away, and can get really close to them before they even notice you.
Regional Police Constable of Halifax, Canada, Brian Palmeter also commented on the social benefits of being a bicycling officer:
“Members of the public feel inherently more comfortable around bicycle police officers than those in cars. They want to know how much they bike in a day, how hard it is to get in shape, and many other questions an average cyclist might think to ask a peer.”
Palmeter continued to say:
“If I am pulled up on the side of the road in a cruiser with my window down, people are hesitant to talk to you…you want people to talk to you.”
During the the interview Palmeter also noted:
“About five to eight years ago, our downtown core was really an issue. There were places people just wouldn’t go. The chief decided to bring back beat officers and bike officers, and… almost overnight that community has gone 180 degrees. We’re victims of our own success downtown because now we’re always looking for new things to do.”
While nobody anticipated the huge, positive impact bicycling officers would have on downtown Halifax, Palmeter is now convinced that bike squads are capable of doing anything a car crew can do. He shared,
“I’m convinced you could effectively police the downtown core with 75 per cent bikes.”
Sounds like more bicycling police officers can only be a good thing. It is perhaps good news then that Contra Costa County’s own Concord recently received a grant to pay for a downtown bike squad!