CONTACT: GEORGE McCRORY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0012; fax (319) 384-0024
Bike patrol officers serve as college ambassadors on wheels
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa department of public safety
has a new bike patrol unit that not only enforces laws and regulations,
but also serves as ambassadors for the university.
The bike patrol was formed to not only patrol where cars can't go --
such as sidewalks and lawns, but as a way to promote greater contact with
The six-person unit began operation during the first week of school
in August, assisting students during the dorm move-in period and handing
out information about being safe on campus and precautions about theft
Students liked the presence of the bike patrol. "The officers were
helpful, and this is a good idea as it will allow the officer to have more
contact with people," said student Kimberly Hepler who was moving
into Mayflower Hall.
The bike patrol can do just about anything a patrol car officer can,
except transport suspects to jail. They are flexible in their duties, and
have the option to patrol on bikes or in their cars, depending on the nature
of their assignment for the day.
"Having the bike unit takes down that steel wall between an officer
in a patrol car and the public. People see the bicycles and are curious
-- they are willing to talk to the officers," said Chuck Green, director
of public safety.
On a routine basis, students and others ask bike officers for directions,
while faculty and staff contact the unit for unlocking rooms, responding
to alarms, and receiving found property. Other duties include responding
to traffic accidents, enforcing liquor and drug laws, taking theft reports,
and taking suspicious person reports.
Bicycles can go where squad cars can't, such as sidewalks along the
Iowa River and courtyards near dorms, according to Sgt. Mike Hanks, unit
leader for the bike patrol. The unit emphasizes safety education for bike
riders on trails and streets, but will not hesitate to cite reckless riders.
At any one time, there may be two to four officers on bike patrol, with
the most assigned during football games and other large events. They work
all shifts, except from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., but Green hopes to expand the
unit to include this period.
Bike patrol officers include Hanks, Sgt. Cindy Heick, and officers Joe
Lang, Ross Stuckey, Brian Meyer and Brad Allison.
The group had to apply for and make a two-year commitment to the unit.
They received certification through the International Police Mountain Bike
Association after four days of training at the East Moline, Ill. police
There is now a waiting list of public safety officers who want to join
the unit. This program has boosted officer morale by offering incentives
for new training and experience, according to Green.
"The bike training helps the enthusiasm level here. After the training
in East Moline, our bike officers were pumped up and ready to ride,"
Prior to training, the UI officers must have been in good physical condition
and have ample experience on a bicycle. During their training they learned
how to handle their bicycles in traffic, make traffic stops, and pursue
suspects who flee on foot. Training exercises included riding up and down
steps, jumping over objects (three wood pallets were used as sample obstacles),
and making a sliding stop to dismount the bike quickly.
Green said each officer rides a $650 Trek bike, outfitted with $250
of equipment, including lights, speedometer, mileage counter, helmets,
a special fender, and an equipment bag containing a repair kit and first
The officers wear uniforms that allow flexibility and comfort; shirts
are made from breathable Supplex nylon and the bike shorts are padded.
They wear sunglasses for eye protection and a modified equipment belt that
includes a collapsible baton, pepper spray, handcuffs, a mini flashlight
and other items.
The officers enjoy working in the unit and like the variety and flexibility
of working on a bike.
"We can meet people face-to-face, instead of meeting in the car,"
said Sgt. Hanks. "I hope the Bike Patrol will continue to enhance
our contacts with faculty, staff and students."