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Pedal-pushing police to patrol Castlegar

Keep your eyes peeled this Sunfest for our newest iteration of police patrols in Castlegar – the bicycle cop.

Castlegar RCMP actually has two new e-bikes now and two officers trained to use them, according to RCMP Cpl. Brett Turner. 

“We are very pleased with the decision of city council to fund these bikes, and they will be utilized in several different ways,” Turner said. “They will be very useful for locating missing or vulnerable persons in remote areas, patrolling residential and commercial areas at night, and they will provide police an opportunity to interact with the public during large community events such as Sunfest."

He said the bikes won’t be used to pull over problem drivers, per se – the members will be equipped with radios to contact other officers in the area.

“We could, I suppose – bikes can reach very high speeds for a short period of time,” he explained. “But I, personally, don’t want to try to stop a vehicle with a police bike, because we don’t have the lights and equipment to notify other motorists of what’s happening. It’s a safety issue.

“Besides, you can’t outrun a police radio.”

The expenditure for the bikes was approved by city council near the end of the summer in 2018, and the bikes were purchased in December 2018 (the winning bid came in from Castlegar’s own Cycology Bikes).

The bikes come with a power assist function (not an electric motor) that will allow for officers to cover more ground quickly when needed.  

In terms of application, the bikes provide both sides of the same patrolling coin – on the one hand, they allow officers to be more visible and approachable at public events and in public areas … while at the same time allowing significantly more stealth when patrolling for shady behaviour, particularly at night.

“It’s good for everyone to know the officers working in their community,” Turner said. “It’s awkward trying to approach an officer in his/her vehicle or when they have pulled someone over, or even at the detachment sometimes. This gives the community an opportunity to stop and chat with us, ask questions, get to know us.”

He said the bikes also allow them greater access to places you can’t reach via motorvehicle, for example the long, winding pathways along Millennium Park, or the hiking trails found throughout the city.

“It helps us in enforcing public drinking laws, fire-ban enforcement, policing confrontations – and it’s also a huge advantage in searching for missing people who may be on foot, like if someone with dementia wandered off and was on one of those trails.”

Castlegar RCMP Const. Ron George was instrumental in getting the bikes, doing a ton of leg work (no pun intended) to source and purchase the pedals (You may recognize George from a bike-related column in The Source back in 2013, click here to read).

And on the flipside, while the bikes will greatly improve police visibility during the day, they’ll also provide a much quieter, less visible option for nighttime patrols – and the officers won’t always be in uniform.

“We’ll probably be using them a lot more at nighttime than during the day – things like people scoping out cars, lurking in alleyways, casing homes or outbuildings or businesses closed for the night, graffiti and other mischief – that’s not happening at noon,” Turner said.

“This is a great way of sneaking up on them.”

Of course, the bikes are tricked out with all the required nighttime safety gear (headlights, reflectors, etc.), just not the red/blue police lights or sirens.

Finally, the officers benefit from the great exercise and are modelling fit, healthy, active lifestyles for residents.

Turner and George are currently the only two officers in town trained in bicycle patrol, but Turner said they hope to have at least six trained by the end of the summer.

If you see them at Sunfest, feel free to stop them and say hello!