By: Pamela Corbin, CAPP
Many municipalities use bicycles for parking enforcement, parking ambassador programs, and law enforcement, but they don’t all have bicycle safety training. As cities become more congested, the need for bike patrols will increase, but is bicycle training needed? Everyone learned to ride a bike as a child and you never forget how to ride a bike. This stance can be supported by studies performed by neuropsychologists that show riding a bike is stored in the procedural memory system of the brain. Maybe it is this widely accepted principle that causes such a low emphasis on bicycle safety.
Of course, everyone always wears a helmet, rides on the right side of the street and obeys all traffic laws. A recent survey conducted by AAA found that among Florida cyclists, 36 percent don’t wear helmets and 21 percent ride against the flow of traffic. In 2018, 783 cyclists were involved in fatal accidents in the U.S.
For employees performing their duties, cycling is even more complicated as they work where conditions are less than ideal—complex traffic, congested areas, and other experiences that may not have been experienced as a child or recreational rider. They may need to react quickly to avoid falling or being injured.
The City of Orlando has 12 parking enforcement specialists, and only one had been through a formal bicycle safety course—that means 83 percent had no formal training. We hosted a 16-hour Law Enforcement Bicycle Association (LEBA) bicycle safety course for our officers that included drills, training rides, and a thorough review of the bicycle and its components. Students were required to pass practical portions of the training and a written exam. The feedback received was all positive, with most stating they had no idea about the true responsibility of riding a bicycle.
You wouldn’t put an untrained or unlicensed individual behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, so why would you put someone on a bicycle without the training to operate it? The benefits derived from the training far outweigh the costs, and one of the benefits may be a life saved. Bicycle safety training should be an integral part of any program where they are used.