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Cleveland bike patrol

Marc Lefkowitz  |  07/17/08 @ 12:07pm

Bicycle patrols-a community policing tactic that some law enforcement agencies de-emphasized in recent years-are seeing a resurgence as the price of gasoline approaches or surpasses $4 a gallon across the country, CNN reports. Pittsburgh is one city to hop on the bike trend.

When will Cleveland police hit city streets on bikes? It may not be as simple as Third District Commander Thomas McCartney and Fifth District Commander Calvin D. Williams first thought. When a small group of patrolmen under McCartney's command discovered a dozen bikes collecting dust in a storage locker, they rescued and cobbled together a half-a-dozen rideable bicycles by combining parts.

It seems like a happy ending, except the six officers aren't so much patrolling on bikes as they are "skulking around" on them, says Lois Moss, founder of Walk + Roll Cleveland, who is advocating to make Cleveland Police on bikes a legit operation.

"From what I understand, some members of the police union do not want officers riding bicycles because they want it to be a separate Unit whereby it gets special funding," Moss explains. "They also are saying that officers should get paid more to ride a bicycle as opposed to use a car or a motorcycle or a horse."

That way of thinking is behind the times, Moss says. She cites the "Bike Bill" being considered by the U.S. Senate. It lists a number of statistics regarding bicycles, including this one: Many public agencies in cities are using bicycles to deliver critical municipal services?96 percent of those serving more than 250,000 residents now have routine patrols by bicycle.

"They are not seeing the up-side, which is officers are healthier," she adds. "One cop told me he lost 40 pounds due to cycling ? plus the relationship between the police and citizens is more open."

The story began, she says, when the bicycles, a helicopter and horses were all put into storage or out to pasture by former Mayor Campbell about five years ago due to budget cuts. The helicopter and the horses are back, but bicycles are not (at least officially).

Meanwhile, Moss is talking to bike advocates in other cities to confirm whether bike cops get paid more. She's also raising funds for much-needed gear-helmets, shorts, lights, trunk bags, sirens, etc.-that a group under Williams' command needs.

"Last week, he called me and said he had officers who wanted to use bicycles," Moss says. "They have bicycles to ride and the officers were trained and are ready to go."

So far, so good. Since spreading the word to her Walk + Roll network, Moss received a $2,500 commitment today from a Cleveland Heights resident who wants to pay for the bike gear.

If you're interested in making a donation, contact Lois Moss

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