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.
Police officers adopted the bicycle late in the 19th century, initially using their own. However, they eventually became a standard issue, particularly for police in rural areas. The Kent police purchased 20 bicycles in 1896, and by 1904 129 rural police bicycle patrols were operating.
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.
The bicycles are custom designed for law enforcement use. Many manufacturers of bicycles offer police models, including Volcanic Bicycle, Trek, Cannondale, Specialized, 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. 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. NIOSH recommends that riders use a no-nose bicycle seat for workplace bicycling. 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.
The International Police Mountain Bike Association offers training as well as an annual conference called Police On Bikes. The course has its roots in John Forester's Effective Cycling. In the US the LEBA or Law Enforcement Bicycling Association help regulate standards of training for police officers. LEBA offer officers three levels of certification.
Training topics may include, but are not limited to, hazards (visual and surface), nutrition, slow speed handling, community policing, traffic law, bike nomenclature, bike maintenance, night patrol, suspect approaches, and braking.
Additional organizations, such as American Bike Patrol Services, also specialize in on-site bike patrol training for police and security bike patrols.  ABPS programs include special curricula designed for basic bike patrol and riding safety, offering one day certifications.
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- "Kent Police Museum". Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. Retrieved 2007-06-04.
- Rantatalo, Oscar (March 2016). "Using police bicycle patrols to manage social order in bicycle and pedestrian traffic networks". The Police Journal. SAGE Journals. 89 (1): 18–30. doi:10.1177/0032258X16639426.[permanent dead link]
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- "NIOSH -Bicycle Saddles and Reproductive Health". United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
- 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.
- "NIOSH Research Demonstrates the Effectiveness of No-Nose Bicycle Seats in Reducing Groin Pressure and Improving Sexual Health". CDC. October 2010.
- Petersen, Grant (2012). Just Ride. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-0-7611-5558-4.
- "Police Training: Kevin Manz Talks Mountain Bikes". Tactical Gear News. 2011-04-25.
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- Paul Sample. The History of Wiltshire Constabulary 1839–2003 (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-11.
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