Thursday, July 24, 2008

How bike cops get to be so awesome

I like the idea of cops on bikes. It makes good sense for an urban environment, where bikes are often the fastest and most versatile way to get around, and it makes the cops seem less disconnected from ordinary people than they would in an idling cruiser. (Also, gasoline costs, environment, carbon, etc.!)

One of the things I've often wondered, though, is how the departments choose their bike cops: Do the biking enthusiasts who are already on the force volunteer for bike duty, or is it a punishment ("O'Malley, because of your failure to obtain a warrant, the chicken bomber got off on a technicality! You're gettin' six months of two-wheel duty!" "OK, Sarge.")? The main reason I wonder this is because I think it would make a difference if I ever had to outrun a bike cop on my bike, something I don't recommend but always like to think about. Because if bike cops are actual bicycling enthusiasts, they might be able to catch me. But if they're just regular cops who have been obliged to ride bikes, I might have a shot.

I mention all this is because I got a rare glimpse on Tuesday into the rigorous process by which ordinary police officers are hardened into nimble, fast-moving dispensers of two-wheeled street justice. I was at the University of Bridgeport, which is right by Seaside Park, and there in the park, about twenty cops were straddling their mountain bikes while some other guy on a mountain bike (presumably some sort of bike cop expert) talked to them and showed them moves. I watched for a while, and while I was unable to discern whether the trainees were cycling aficionados (although I might hazard a guess about the guy in the orange shirt on the far left of the photo below), I did learn something important: Bike cops learn how to do some super-tough bike-to-bike grappling! Seriously - the instructor guy would ride up to his trainees and do crazy judo-style takedowns while remaining on his bike. It was very impressive, in a wow-I-really-don't-want-to-fuck-with-cops kind of way.

Here is a photo of the learning process in action. You should definitely click on it to see a larger version with more glorious detail.


chillwill said...

Hartford Cops are scared to ride in the streets!

They almost always ride on the sidewalk. On Capitol Avenue from Broad Street to Washington, I have only seen them on the sidewalk...a daily sight.

Its really not a good example for adults. They should be on the streets, taking the lane and helping drivers learn to deal with bicyclists, rather than give drivers fodder for dumb comments like, "Get on the sidewalk!"

El Presidente de China said...

Of course, cops should also do things like signal their turns, come to a complete stop at stop signs, obey the speed limit, and refrain from tailgating, so as not to give people fodder for the notion that the police see themselves as above the laws they purport to enforce.


El Presidente de China said...

(Cops in cars, I mean.)

Brendan said...

When I was the John Edwards thing, I saw a bike cop bunnyhop a curb.

I often wonder what bike cops think of other people on bikes. It's not like when they're in a car and they have N2O, they're limited by their legs. Do bike cops think they can beat me on their bikes? Can I beat a bike cop on my bike? Can you beat a bike cop on a bike? Would a bike cop beat you with his bike?

Karma said...

Well from the picture provided I doubt any of those recruits would catch you on their bikes and I doubt a Hartford cop would catch you in a street race as they are afraid to come off the curb (that and their fat tires would slow them down). The problem, as you have noted, is what happens if they happened to catch you. I think a bike would hurt more than a billy club and they would be much more likely to go after a biker than an actual criminal because I gather thats a fight they think they can win.

ben said...

I passed a Hartford bike cop the other day on Capital Ave. on my back to W. Hartford. I was waiting at the light at the I-84 ramp. He was coming off the I-84 ramp and gave a friendly wave as he passed by. I feel like he was happy to see a fellow biker. Yes, you read that right. He appeared to be coming off the highway. Are bike cops so good that they can keep pace with automobiles on the highway? Maybe these powers are obtained in Bridgeport…along with masterful jujitsu maneuvers.

Karma said...

I would imagine they would appreciate other bikers as we are all in the same plight in regards to our small place on the road. I've always felt that befriending bike cops would always be a good idea.

amy z said...

A few weeks ago I passed 2 bike cops riding slowly on S. Whitney (actually in the street) and they "jokingly" threatened to give me a speeding ticket.

Overall I feel good about bike cops. I did ask one once about riding on the sidewalks and he said something like they just ride wherever thay want to. They are often on the sidewalk - esp. in W. Hartford - and I agree that it sets a bad example for other bikers (and drivers).