Police bicycle

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Bike Patrol in Los Angeles, Ca
Two police officers on bicycles in Bellingham, WA

A police bicycle is a land vehicle used by police departments, most commonly in the form of a mountain bicycle. They are designed to meet the requirements unique to each department.

The maneuverability of these vehicles on crowded sidewalks and their ability to navigate narrow, crowded driveways offer advantages over cars, although a bicycle's top speed is lower.

Bicycle patrols are more common in temperate urban areas where limited coverage areas are available. The use of bicycles instead of cars can make police officers more easily approachable, especially in low-crime areas. Bicycles can also be issued to police officers to enhance the mobility and range of foot patrols. Bicycles are also effective crime-fighting tools when used in densely populated urban areas. The bikes are nearly silent in operation and many criminals do not realize that an approaching person on a bike is actually a police officer. Furthermore, if the criminal attempts to flee on foot, the riding police officer has a speed advantage while able to quickly dismount if necessary. In the average hour, a patrol car would have 3.3 contacts with the public, while bicycle patrols had 7.3 contacts with the public. The average number of people in contact with the police per hour was 10.5 for motor patrols and 22.8 for bicycle patrols. This information tells us simply that the activity level of police officers on bicycles is higher than that of the officers in cars.[1]


Bicycle-mounted NYPD officer in the 1890s

Police officers began bicycling late in the 19th century, with the first department adopting boneshakers in 1869 in Illinois. British officers began using tricycles by the 1880s, around the same time, Boston, MA was patrolled by penny-farthings. Newark, NJ had established a bicycle squad in 1888. With the advent of the safety bicycle and the bike boom of the 1890s, police bicycles came into widespread use in North American cities. [2] Bicycles began to see greater adoption by rural departments around the same time. The Kent police purchased 20 bicycles in 1896, and there were 129 rural police bicycle patrols were operating by 1904 .[3]

Some countries retained the police bicycle while others replaced them with motor vehicles. In the 21st century there has been renewed interest in police bicycles, since they provide greater accessibility to bicycle and pedestrian zones and allow access when roads are congested.[4]

In the 1980s Paul Grady introduce patrols on mountain bikes in Seattle. The idea spread and by 1991 there were enough programs to create the International Police Mountain Bike Association.[5]

Bicycle characteristics[edit]

British police officers on custom Smith & Wesson bicycles

The bicycles are custom designed for law enforcement use. Many manufacturers of bicycles offer police models, including Haro, Volcanic, Trek, Cannondale, Fuji, Safariland-Kona, Force, and KHS. Other companies offer police, fire and EMS specific models. Many are equipped with a rear rack and bag to hold equipment.

Police bicycles' pedals are almost always flat pedals, sometimes outfitted with toe clips/straps, to allow for normal shoes to be worn (versus cycling-specific shoes that clip into "clipless" pedals), allowing officers to chase on foot if necessary.

They are equipped with front and rear lighting systems, with a water bottle battery. The lights can be LED, or halogen, or sometimes Xenon strobes. A headlight(s) are on the front, along with red or blue flashing lights. In the UK emergency service bicycles were allowed blue flashing lights from 21 October 2005.[6] A red light is often attached to the rear of the bike.

Tires are usually semi-slick designs with smooth centers for street riding and mild tread or knobs on the outer edges to provide some traction if the bikes are ridden off a paved surface.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has investigated the potential health effects of prolonged bicycling in police bicycle patrol units, including the possibility that some bicycle saddles exert excessive pressure on the urogenital area of cyclists, restricting blood flow to the genitals.[7] NIOSH recommends that riders use a no-nose bicycle seat for workplace bicycling.[8][9] In contrast, cycling expert Grant Petersen asserts that most modern saddles are designed to avoid excessive pressure on the urogenital area and that noseless saddles result in diminished bicycle handling capabilities.[10]

Hoover Dam Police Officer on bike patrol.

Specialized training for modern bicycle officers is provided by companies and professional organizations. American Bike Patrol Services is one of the first training organizations serving law enforcement in conjunction with Californias academies training programs since 1991. The Law Enforcement Bicycling Association (LEBA) was founded by members of the first police mountain bike patrol in the U.S. and began training colleagues from across North America in the early 1990s.[11] With roots in John Forester's Effective Cycling and the League of American Bicyclists, the International Police Mountain Bike Association provides training courses for officers and hosts an annual professional conference called Police On Bikes.[12] Common training topics include nutrition, clothing and protective equipment, bike maintenance and repair, prevention of accidents and common injuries, slow speed balance and handling, technical maneuvers, night operations, bike and patrol equipment, firearms training, patrol tactics, and unit-level formations and crowd control techniques.[13] [14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Menton, Chris (2008). "Bicycle patrols: an underutilized resource". Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management. 31 (1): 93–108. doi:10.1108/13639510810852594.
  2. ^ Petty, Ross (2006). "The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Bicycle Police" (PDF). International Police Mountain Bike Association. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  3. ^ "Kent Police Museum". Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. Retrieved 2007-06-04.
  4. ^ Rantatalo, Oscar (March 2016). "Using police bicycle patrols to manage social order in bicycle and pedestrian traffic networks". The Police Journal. 89 (1): 18–30. doi:10.1177/0032258X16639426. S2CID 147311688. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  5. ^ "IPMBA about us". Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  6. ^ "The Road Vehicles Lighting (Amendment) Regulations 2005" (PDF). legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  7. ^ "NIOSH -Bicycle Saddles and Reproductive Health". United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  8. ^ Schrader, Steven M.; Breitenstein, Michael J.; Lowe, Brian D. (2008). "Cutting off the nose to save the penis". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 5 (8): 1932–40. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.00867.x. PMID 18466268.
  9. ^ "NIOSH Research Demonstrates the Effectiveness of No-Nose Bicycle Seats in Reducing Groin Pressure and Improving Sexual Health". CDC. October 2010.
  10. ^ Petersen, Grant (2012). Just Ride. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-0-7611-5558-4.
  11. ^ "LEBA FAQs". Law Enforcement Bicycling Association. 201. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  12. ^ "About IPMBA". International Police Mountain Bike Association. 2015. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  13. ^ "Basic Course". Law Enforcement Bicycling Association. 2016. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  14. ^ "IPMBA Police Cyclist Course Fact Sheet" (PDF). International Police Mountain Bike Association. 2009. Retrieved 2020-06-06.

14. "ABPS" American Bike Patrol Services. Police training courses, 2020.

External links[edit]