Police officers adopted the bicycle early in the 20th 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 dispensed with them for a time. Late in the century, urban bicycle patrols became more common, as the mobility of car-borne officers was increasingly limited by traffic congestion and pedestrianisation.
British police officers on custom Smith and Wesson bicycles
The bicycles are custom designed for law enforcement use.
Many manufacturers of bicycles offer police models, including Trek, Cannondale, Specialized and Fuji. Other companies offer police, fire and EMS specific models, including Volcanic Manufacturing in Olympia, Washington. 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 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.
A Washington State Trooper patrols the shores of Capitol Lake during Lakefair in Olympia, Washington
Utility cycling for other uses of bicycles
International Police Mountain Bike Association
Latest facts and figures on UK police on bikes
E-tailer of police bikes
Photograph of British Police bicycle in the 1960s
Paul Sample. The History of Wiltshire Constabulary 18392003. http://www.wiltshire.police.uk/publications/historybook/History_text_070803.pdf.
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^ “Kent Police Museum”. http://www.kent-police-museum.co.uk/core_pages/history.shtml. Retrieved 2007-06-04.
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