Boston Police bicycle training

Are the Boston Police getting the training they need to be safe and effective on bicycles?

I don’t think so. I don’t know how they train, but I have seen how they perform.

In another post, I described how a participant in a protest march pushed a Boston bicycle patrol officer over — intentionally or not, it isn’t clear. Evidently, the officers’ task was to prevent the march from spilling out from the street onto the sidewalks. The officer who fell — and others on both sides of the phalanx of marchers — were astride their bicycles, as shown also in the photo below. For crowd control, officers should stand with the bicycles between them and the crowd.

Officers standing over bicycles at December 13, 2014 protest march. Boston Globe photo by John Tlumacki.

Officers standing over bicycles at December 13, 2014 protest march

Some of the officers in the photos have their feet up on the curb. They are sitting on the saddle, not compatible with the best astride-the-bike stopping and restarting technique. The video below shows officers’ awkwardness in basic mounting and dismounting.

Correct starting and stopping techniques are described on this Web page. The video below shows the astride-the-bike technique.

A police officer from another city describes the techniques taught in International Police Mountain Bike Association training courses:

Disengage pedal from your retention. Swing the drivetrain (right) leg across, stand on the left pedal with the left foot, the right foot tucks behind the left at the ankle. You can now coast for a ways or step forward off the bike onto the ground (right foot first) and away from the bike – that is a dismount and exit. It is simple and works whether going fast or slower, in tactical situations, suspect contacts, or normal stops. With practice the rider can use their right foot to lower and engage a rear-mounted kickstand, mounted on the rear stays instead of behind the bottom bracket. With the kickstand down, the rider can walk away from the bike leaving it upright on the stand.

Looking at the videos again it seems they had an assortment of pedal retention, but it appears a number have none at all. That makes mounts, dismounts, and starts even easier to learn and perform, but more dangerous over obstacles where pedal retention helps hold the foot securely on the pedal.

For a simple stop, swing across to the left side, stand on the left pedal and put the right foot onto the ground either in front or behind the pedal – both work. The balance needs to be centered and care used on the front brake. An endo is still possible in that position. Officers are not encouraged to stop with the bike between their legs when dealing with a suspect or an unknown person. You can’t fight or react with a bike between your legs. It is obviously seen as okay at a stop sign, traffic signal, etc. They are encouraged to move forward off the saddle, having downshifted, and put their bike into a power pedal position. We also teach a power slide to dismount. EMS mostly uses road style techniques due to the balance they have with heavily loaded bags.

For starts we  teach the technique you call the cowboy – also the road start where they swing over and straddle the bike, put bike into the power pedal and pedal away, and a modified cycle-cross. Push the bike forward, jump across the saddle and land on the saddle, perhaps not centered, power the first pedal that reaches your feet. I don’t know that we address the issue of starting on an incline unless a student brings it up. We require use of some sort of pedal retention, so that becomes in an issue early in class. Most use toe clips with straps or strapless toe clips.

There’s also the image below — found during an unrelated Google Maps expedition. Boston Police wait at a traffic light to cross into Franklin Park to go on patrol. The officers all have a foot on the low pedal, ready only for a shuffle start, not a power pedal start. An orderly and lawful stop behind the stop line and a brisk restart would have been more appropriate, more polite for the pedestrian and motorist in the photo, and a better example to citizens who ride bicycles.

Police wait in disarray at Elm Hill Avenue and Seaver Street in the Roxbury section of Boston

Police wait in disarray at Elm Hill Avenue and Seaver Street in the Roxbury section of Boston

This image in Google Maps

Here’s a Google Maps image from a few seconds earlier, showing that the pedestrian had to walk behind the group of police officers who had stopped in the crosswalk.

The pedestrian had to make her way around the police to cross in the crosswalk

The pedestrian had to make her way around the police to cross in the crosswalk.

This image in Google Maps.

Boston police also ride opposite the flow of traffic, for no evident reason, and violate the traffic law in other ways. The photo is from Congress Street, downtown Boston, November 18, 2009, 12:30 PM. I observed the officer riding a whole block opposite traffic.

Boston police officer riding opposite traffic in the door zone

Boston police officer riding opposite traffic in the door zone

There’s another example of a Boston police officer riding opposite traffic, with additional comments, on another page.

At the very least, what I have observed does not conform to best bicycling practice, or to good police practice. And it matters, for the sake of the officers’ safety and the effectiveness of their mission.

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One Response to Boston Police bicycle training

  1. Ray says:

    I have yet to see a bicycle-mounted police officer ride in city streets with any demonstrated skill. When they are together, they are even worse.
    Thank you for pointing it out.

    A week of drills and they’d probably be fine, they aren’t incapable people.
    And maybe if they knew that their own safety was at risk, or that if witnessed THEY might be the ones determined at fault, they might pay more attention.

    They ride as do most untrained cyclists – by the rules they learned as children.
    Never mind not using lights at night, wrong-way riding, blowing lights, etc.

    But then seeing how many LEOs operate their cruisers, I’m not surprised.
    Who would issue them a citation? Who but the few cyclists who know better would even notice?

    If they upheld a higher standard than the regular schmoe, then they’d be elitist.

    Don’t get me started about bicycle delivery personnel who aren’t even issued basic nighttime operating equipment but are expected to work on the streets at night.

    That’s an OSHA issue, never addressed.

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