03 April 2009

Copenhagen Police Bicycle Unit

As strange as it may sound, Copenhagen just got a police bicycle unit last week. Why we haven't had one before is beyond me. There was a media frenzy about it and the 8 officers paraded about town in the sunshine, showing themselves off.

Many other cities in Europe have had bike units for ages and ages, so it it about time that we joined the crowd.

My mate Theis saw them and snapped these photos. The cyclist above ran a red light. Boy, did he pick a bad day to do that. Two of the cops, including the blonde, set out after him and pulled him over.

They didn't give him a ticket - you can't hand out tickets on your first day for heaven's sake, that's just not cricket - but instead let him off with a smile.

The photo reminds me of a passage in a travel writing book by Bill Bryson called Neither Here Nor There, where he travels through Europe. He loved Copenhagen, and was convinced that we send our elderly and ugly people away during the summer. On the City Hall Square he saw some rowdy, drunk teens get apprehended by the police, including a sweet, blonde officer. He went over and asked the cop what would happen to the kids.

She said they'd take them to the station and call their parents, who would take care of it. "We were all young once", she added with a smile. That left an impression on Bill Bryson.

It'll be cool to see the bicycle cops - cykelstrisser - on the streets this summer. At time of going to press, there was no word on whether the beat cops and those driving in cars would ALSO be required to wear helmets, but that would be logical considering the risk of head injury for pedestrians and motorists.

Of course, of course, in Holland, where common sense prevails, the police on bicycles look a bit different. Thanks to Marc from Amsterdamize.

The bicycle cops here in Copenhagen will patrol in the city centre and the Vesterbro neighbourhood for a year, after which there will be a review to decide if they will continue.


lehommeaulevelo said...

We have A Bicycle Unit in our Police Force for a few Years in Ireland,there is not many of them but they can be seen every so often on the Streets of Dublin.

Although we have a Pathetic Cycling Infrastructure of mostly very narrow Cycle Lanes and very very few Dedicated Segregated Cycle Paths.
Motorists Park and Drive on these Cycle Lanes and the Police do not even try to stop them or Ticket them ,it is all just very Token.
The Government thought it was a good Idea at the time to put in Cycle Lanes because it is good Propaganda for them to give the Impression it is somehow doing a good Service for Cyclists but it is just all Token. They give in to much to the Motoring Lobby.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for cops-on-wheels but the two we have in our municipality are assigned with the sole responsibility of deterring crimes against autos!

Strange but true. They ride around a large parking lot on mountain bikes on knobby tires to prevent thievery that will harm the autocentric. They do not police the streets or neighborhoods. We care about sales tax revenues more than petty crimes around homes.

If we had the bike police on the streets we may become too European and too likely to have road laws enforced.

Anonymous said...

funny how the bikes do not have the required reflectors.

and why mountainbikes I wonder? Will they be going off road a lot, or are they just hoping they won't have to catch up with anyone on a fast bike?

Is is because a fast road racer does not project enough strength and authority?


nathan_h said...

Perhaps they'll be pursuing terrorists down steps or through a park trail, rushing to stop a time bomb from going off in a school? In reality they would do just fine on a three-speed city bicycle. Riding *any* bicycle is faster than running, so either we are wasting our money paying police to walk around or there is policing to be done that doesn't require constantly chasing down the public and looking agressive. Appearing on a tricked out mountain bike with a special uniform and top of the line helmet is giving in to the same impulse that fetishizes swat teams and body armor. It's not really the kind of policing that, as a law abiding tax payer, I want or need. Let's have the police tool around with us on slow bicycles, keeping isolated bicycle paths safe. If they're occasionally escaped by a fast cyclist that committed some infraction, I don't really give a damn. I'd just rather not get mugged on the Manhattan Bridge.

Kris said...

Seattle has bike cops too. I have seen some slightly tubby ones, but most are in great shape. Most Seattle disputes can be settled easily by flashing a badge and having a word; and because they're on bikes and nobody would be foolish enough to steal a bicycle marked "police", they get around much faster than their car driving counterparts. In the man vs. machine battles, man has this one in the bag.

That being said, there is another side of this: the human side. These guys are some of the nicest cops I've ever met; they're always helpful, whenever I've been lost they've been able to give me good directions quickly, and because they're not wrapped in a metal cage people find them more approachable.

For the record, cops here also use MTBs, presumably because the robustness of the bike and gearing that makes for low speed cruising easy regardless of the hills they may have to ride up (although really, in downtown Seattle even a single speed is enough).

melancholic optimist said...

We also have bicycle police in Portland, and, though helmets are not required by law for anyone above age 16 in Oregon, they are required to wear them. They also, in contrast to the Copenhagen police, have neon yellow uniforms. At least you can always spot them :)

Brent said...

Los Angeles is light years behind Copenhagen in overall bicycle usage, but we've had a bicycle division since the 1970s. Ironic!

Jan said...

I friend of mine got pulled over by a lady cycle-officer in CPH last night for driving on a bus only street.

She let him off with a warning and a smile. He's in love. Thousands of kr worth of PR for the police instead of a 500 kr fine. Bill would have been pleased.

Anonymous said...

Even had here in Edinburgh for a few years. 27 speeds though are justified with the hills in city.

Question is why don't traffic wardens use bikes? Is this because the motorists two biggest hates would merge into one? At moment they drive about on scooters adding to pollution.

Anonymous said...

The British police cyclists are trained to cycled down stairs (pic) so that explains their mountain bikes and (IMO) helmets.

There are also cycling paramedics.

Son of Shaft said...

Not all dutch police bikers are helmetless.
Although all the police I see biking in Breda and Amsterdam usually don't wear them.
There are also cycling paramedics and firemen. Looks like that military forces around the world are reintroducing the military bike. Or have already done so.

Adrienne Johnson said...

Well, you could look at it this way- If the cops are wearing helmets, no one else will want to.

lagatta à montréal said...

I'm rather taken aback that there weren't bicycle police before in Copenhagen - always assumed there were, like the cycling postmen and postwomen.

They are also very effective in deterring crime in neighbourhoods.

Traffic wardens on bicycles would be a great idea - they'd keep in shape too. Of course police who cycle all days look fitter than their counterparts who sit in cars, but I think there is also a pre-selection.

I've also seen bicycle unit police doing crowd control at a (peaceful) demonstration, keeping two opposing factions apart. I don't think this is the "riot squad" (anti-émeute) who are always dressed as robocops.

JPTwins said...

Boston is just about to lose funding for it's police bicycle unit, which is sad. Like any bike traveler knows, you can actually interact with people while cycling, but not while cruising in your very-protected police car.

Kiwehtin said...

To add to my fellow Montrealer LaGatta's comments, we have had bike police for close on two decades in Montreal if not more; I also remember them from Ottawa before I moved (back) to Montreal in 1989. They patrol the main bike paths and parks mostly but can be found in other places where using big patrol cars wouldn't be appropriate.

I also remember there being a very few in Washington DC when I lived down there in 2003-2005, though very few. I was amused once, while riding down one of the main avenues, to see one going into a shop (a coffee shop? I don't remember) after handcuffing his bike's frame to a signpost. By the time I had come back up the other side of the street to take a picture, he had already come back out and left, unfortunately.

Glenn said...

I am somewhat amused at the lycra tights on the female officer with the long blonde braid. In Port Townsend WA, not far from where I live, the bike police wear shorts in the summer and long pants with cycle clips in the winter or, BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) style tucked into high combat boots. Nice guys though.
IMO, she _does_ have the legs and rear end to carry off the cycling tights well...

Glenn, Dirty Old Man on an Island

Anonymous said...

I am broken up inside about the prospect of a cute lycra wearing bicycle riding blonde putting me in cuffs.