Community Policing on Bikes

The Bike Unit addresses the need to increase the level of service to the university community in a cost effective and environmentally-friendly manner. Bicycle patrols increase the patrol range of the officers and decreases the response time to calls in relation to foot patrol officers. They can ride through crowded areas, into isolated spots, around obstacles and generally approach criminal activity before being spotted. The Bike Unit increases the visibility of the Department of University Safety and subsequently helps to reduce crime and the fear of crime.

Officers who utilize bicycles as part of their patrol function have shown that contact with members of the Carleton community is less threatening, less authoritarian and less confrontational than with other forms of patrol. University Special Constables on bicycles are more approachable. Each day the Bicycle Unit officers are actively involved with the public, talking to the people, actively soliciting input and information from the University community while carrying out the normal duties. Bike Unit officers are visible to the community when they should be and invisible when they need to be. The bike, because of its stealth qualities and mobility, makes it an invaluable tool for patrolling the university property in areas not accessible to a motor vehicle and provides much more coverage than an officer on foot or in a vehicle.

History

The Department of University Safety began its bike patrol unit in July 1992 with the purchase of two specially equipped mountain bikes and five volunteer bike officers. Today, the Bike Unit has a total of 10 bike officers and four specially outfitted bikes. The unit consists of five full-time officers; that ride from April to October. Five part-time Officers round out our unit; the part-time officers use the bikes mainly during the summer months.

Selection / Training

Each officer must pass the Ontario Police Fitness test prior to selection for the unit; current members must maintain the standards with yearly testing. After successful completion of the fitness test, officers proceed to a basic handling test. This test requires officers to demonstrate basic riding skills. The  test includes slow riding, quick turns, riding down stairs, and a distance ride. Once the officer has completed the testing they undergo an extensive (defensive) training course with emphasis on rules of the road, bicycle handling skills, and self defence techniques. This course is taught by the Ottawa Police Service. After one year with the bike unit, officers can be sent on advanced training with either OPS or the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA). The OPS course is a one day Advanced Police Riding Course while the IPMBA course is a week-long session that is divided into 11 units: Bike Handling & Vehicular Cycling, Bike Fit, Group Riding, Hazard Recognition & Common Crashes, Obstacle Clearing & Riding Techniques, Patrol Procedures, Nighttime Patrol, Community Policing, Basic Maintenance, Legal Issues & Traffic Laws, and Fitness & Nutrition. This demanding class involves over 20 hours of on-bike time to develop and improve riding skills.

The Bike Patrol Unit is one example of how the Safety Department utilizes the Community Policing concept. Members of the Bike Patrol Unit are actively engaged with the concerns of bicycle safety by offering free bike safety inspections as well as bike registration twice per year. Members also plan and participate in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

If you would like to learn more about the Department of University Safety Bike Unit or the services we provide, please contact Kyle Gallinger, Manager of the bike unit.