09 June 2010

Field Day for Bicycle Cops

Field Day
There was a wonderful Turkish festival on the City Hall Square in Copenhagen last Sunday. Easily 10,000 people were in attendance to hear music, cultural events and to hang out in the sun.

Along one of the streets there were a long line of posh cars parked. Illegally. The MC announced that the cars should be moved and that the police were on their way.

A few moments later a couple of bicycle cops - a man and a woman - rolled up and uncerimoniously began writing tickets. Interestingly they went to work in the middle of the row of cars. Focusing on these two convertibles and not the lesser expensive cars on either side. Police officers making bitter class choices? Anyways...

Cars getting tickets from bicycle cops is always a hoot. If I ever get a traffic ticket, I hope it'll be a bicycle cop that dishes it out.

They had finished writing the two tickets for these two cars when the motorists both came sprinting up. In vain. The young guy on the right was well ready to argue but some older Turkish chaps on the sidelines told him to chill and he did. The other guy played it cool and took his ticket with a shrug.

All fascinating to regard. The show had a bit of a sour ending, though. I walked over to the male cop, when they were done, to ask him a simple question. I am, as a rule, polite and smiling. I wanted to know if the bicycle unit would continue after the one year test phase which was ending soon.

He was mumbly and vague and said he was quitting the unit soon anyway. Which wasn't an answer to my question. He told me to call his boss if I was so interested. I said I didn't need to when I was standing in front of an officer from the bicycle unit. He just laughed nervously.

So much for a bicycle unit bringing officers to street level to interact with the citizens. Putting a human face on police enforcement. Grumpy twat. Him... not me, you stupid reader.

The Smiling Blonde Cop was the focus of all the press when the Bicycle Unit launched last year. Have they all gone sour now?

20 comments:

Neil said...

Weird. Copenhagen with a 35%+ mode share only has a one year trial on a bicycle unit, while my city which might generously have a 3% mode share has had bike cops for well over a decade.

Surprises every day, I guess.

wee folding bike said...

Even Airdrie in Scotland has bike cops and one of the paddy wagons has a bike rack on the back.

Mikael said...

Yes, it's odd. :-) Although we have had police on bicycles for the better part of a century. Beat cops used to ride bicycles. We just haven't had a Baywatch-type Bicycle Unit before. :-)

Erik Sandblom said...

In a way it's not surprising. Those ugly modern uniforms and silly hats really make it look like they have an attitude problem. They should have elegant uniforms with polished gold buttons like they used to. Dave Moulton has more:

Dave Moulton's Bike Blog: Bobbies on Bicycles

Nomes said...

I love seeing the Sydney cycle police out - though it is mainly around big public events. I have always thought it would be great to see them out and about in peak hour - sort of gives a legitimacy to bicycles using the roads to masses!

NIKDOW said...

I don't share your enthusiasm for bicycle police. In Melbourne they see their role as fining cyclists for every trivial offence.

In 45 years of cycling in Melbourne I have yet to see any car pulled over by police and even spoken to after the thousands of times they have endangered my life, let alone fined.

Kevin Love said...

The Toronto Police Bicycle Unit has been around for a long time. The ambulance people also have a bicycle unit. Details at:

http://www.torontoems.ca/main-site/service/bike.html

There is an interview with Hugh Smith, who helped found the Toronto Police bicycle units (yes, the plural is not a typo) at:

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/690848

l' homme au velo said...

In reference to Erick Sandblom and David Moultons Blog. In Ireland back in the 1950ties 60ties we had the same sort of Cops on those Upright Style Bikes like Raleighs and Humbers except our Cops did not wear English Style Cork Helmets but the Flat Hat sort with nice Uniforms and Gold Buttons and they were all over 6ft.

They stopped using Bicycles around that time until recently when they brought back the Cycling unit. But it is the Judge Dredd sort unfortunately with Knobbly Wheels on their Bikes.

We have them for a few Years and it looks like they are here for good. There does not seem to be many of them however but you see them every so often on Road Checks ,Checking to see if Motor Tax and Insurance is up to date.

Sometimes they can be seen doing normal Police Work of Grabbing Pickpockets and other Malfesciants if that is the right way of spelling the word.

We had two of them accompanying us on our Latest Dublin Community Gardens Cycle for a KM or so and they were very friendly. They were very anxious to Chastize Motorists who caused problems for Cyclists and they said they got more fit and lost Weight by Cycling around on their Bikes. They were very happy to continue in the Dublin Police Bicycle Unit.

Alan said...

The Calgary Police Service (Canada) has a successful bicycle patrol. One of the oft lauded aspects of it is that the officers are out at street level, interacting with and getting to know the people, so they probably don't want to select on bicycling ability AND curbside manner!

Having been handed a traffic ticket from the bike patrol, I can say that it isn't any better an experience than getting one from the motorized police. $200 fine!

Adam said...

I think for a bicycle specific unit to be effective it has to exploit a bicycle's versatility, which means being able to easily ride down a full flight of stairs, easily traverse a hilly park, jump down an embankment, a one meter ledge or any other feature that someone on foot or bicycle can exploit to flee motorized police. The best and most versatile tool for these jobs is a mountain bike. Although I am a bit amused by those of you upset that the modern bicycle cop looks inelegant.

LGV said...

i understand the cops when they prefer give a ticket to the richest cars....

Herzog said...

Those pants are somewhat intimidating!

Anonymous said...

Back to the status quo!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iISyPz5XRyI

Edward said...

My experience in Adelaide, South Australia, is similar to Nikdow's in Melbourne. The cycle cops I have seen are all cracking down on bike crime like not having a bell, riding on an empty pavement and, horror of horrors, not wearing a helmet. I have never seen them stop a car.

Green Idea Factory said...

I like the idea of bike cops having e-bikes, and at the end of every ticket-writing they recharge them... by sucking some energy out of the car!!

My first guess is that they started ticketing in the middle because that would scare the drivers of cars parked at either end to move (so that there would tend to be a single block of ticketed cars in the middle), and/or perhaps this is when things might be most confrontational, so they could give one another assistance.

Also, perhaps before assuming they intentionally targeted the posh cars because they were posh, it would be could to know if they targeted the posh cars at a Turkish festival, because of who they thought may be the drivers.

Then again this could all be preparation for a (hopefully viral) video by the city or public transport authorities, where the ticket includes a disposable smart card, and which ends with Mukhtar from Arriva driving up in his bus and offering a ride. (Alternatively, the cops ride around with a cargo bike and leave folding bikes after the cars are towed).

There are as far as I can tell no bicycle police in Berlin (and at a national level the police are getting new uniforms and new livery on their vehicles... so I don't think funding is really the issue). I have never, ever seen police in a kind of "beat cop" style here, i.e. just walking around. Even the unarmed and minimally-trained Ordnungsamt. (Order authority?) ride around in pairs in cars in parks (protected green zones) to, e.g. give people tickets if their dogs are unleashed, rather than a warning even when the dogs are doing nothing and no one is around.

Police in some districts of Prague have bicycles, but they are not transport police and their functions are limited, e.g. they can ticket parked cars, but are not able, for example, to use their e-bikes to tazer moving cars.

Yokota Fritz said...

The tight bike shorts (and tights from your earlier post) is a bit of a surprise. Even here in the US the bike patrol people generally wear something looser fitting.

joncrel said...

Like Australia, I was very pleased to see the police bike units, but the only time I've ever seen them giving tickets has been to cyclists. As one was ticketing a fellow cyclist I stopped and asked him why he hadn't taken the number of the car that had narrowly missed me and was clearly exceeding the speed limit, driving right past him. He said he was busy...

Green Idea Factory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Green Idea Factory said...

"We are 2 Minneapolis Police Officers on bike patrol, looking for kids who wear their bike helmet. When we catch one, they could win a new bike. Oh, and if you don't have a helmet - we'll give you one. Get outside and bike!!"

Melbourne Cyclist said...

NIKDOW: I gotta disagree on your view that the Melbourne cycling police see their role as just going after cyclists. Two of the bike police (from the total dedicated unit of five, just five!) came to talk to us at my last workplace, last year, and made it very clear that they actually rather enjoy ticketing motorists, as they so often get amusing reactions (a common one is they knock on the window of someone on their mobile, that person glances and dismissively waves them off, then seconds later realises who they just 'dismissed').

They're most visible during the stupid "cyclist crackdowns", but they're still out there the rest of the time. And I've seen quite a few cars pulled over and ticketed. Granted, none by any of the five bicycle police, and not as many as I think *need* to be pulled over, but some at least!

Oh, and those "crackdowns" - why oh why can't we have something sensible such as "running red lights crackdown" or similar, where *every* vehicle breaking that gets stopped and fined?...