Police on Bikes in Annapolis

September 30, 1994

Here's something new on Annapolis' streets: Police officers, wearing blue riding outfits and white helmets, are doing regular patrols, armed with guns, walkie-talkies and riding sturdy mountain bikes.

This is the law-enforcement equivalent of aerobics for the health-conscious 1990s. Many police love getting the exercise, and citizens like the sight of an officer on the beat whom they can stop and talk to.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this national trend, however. If mountain bikes prove to be more than a fad, they may become a valuable addition to departmental vehicle pools which in many cities include Cushman scooters besides motorcycles and automobiles.

The first five Annapolis bike patrols are modeled after a successful Anne Arundel County program that has existed for two years and has trained some 70 officers in the use of bicycles for law enforcement. Police forces from Los Angeles to New York City have discovered that pedaling is a cheap way to spread police presence and keep in touch with neighborhoods.

Bicycle patrolling has been done sporadically in some communities for decades. It has become all the rave today as a result of the introduction of mountain bikes, which have all-terrain tires and more gears. The ordinary 10-speed bikes that were used in the past offered mobility but their drawbacks included narrow tires and fragile wheels.

We think the Annapolis Police Department has made the right choice in not dividing the bike patrols into a separate unit. Rather, they are one more mode of normal patrols.

The start-up costs of Annapolis' program have been modest -- less than $5,000, including training of five officers and the purchase of five bikes. The plan now is to operate the patrols throughout the year, as long as roads are clear of snow and ice.

Bicycle patrols are no panacea to crime problems. But in the right circumstances, especially in close-knit communities, they have proven to be a valuable weapon in the arsenal of law enforcement.

We believe officers on bikes are particularly suited to downtown Annapolis and the historic district, where daytime traffic congestion and narrow streets hamper the mobility of other police vehicles.

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