Riding a bike for most people means fun and good exercise, but for bike officers, it means training and another tool to keep citizens safe.
WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko went out Tuesday with the new Fort Myers bike police to see how they train.
Officer Darian Lutz, on the force for a year, is learning a new beat – on two wheels.
“It’s a lot harder than what they make it look like, so I don’t know … I’m ready to eat pavement if I have to,” he said.
Lt. Shawn Yates oversees the class made up of a dozen officer volunteers. It starts with refreshing their riding skills.
“We’re taking some of our younger officers and we’re putting them through bicycle training,” Yates said.
“Bike safety, how to maneuver the bike, some little obstacles and stuff like that, things like that which they might encounter in the street and just overall safety.”
Then it quickly advances to jumping curbs, obstacle courses, and even learning how to fall safely so the officers don’t break an arm.
Officer Alan Gagnon has been a bicycle officer for more than 14 years and is the lead trainer for the class.
“Gradually go more difficult through the night. We have some cone courses. We have a scenario later on; it’s going to tie everything in together,” he said.
“Generally the public really likes it; they’re a lot more approachable on a bike,” Yates said.
Lutz also sees the benefits as she works her beat.
“If I’m on a bike or in a car, rather, I pass somebody, they wave, all I can do is wave, but on a bike, I can stop, I can chitchat for a couple of minutes.”
These bike officers will be used for routine patrols and special operations. Yates said they’re particularly helpful on burglary cases where they can go into areas cars can’t and are very quiet.
The officers will still patrol in cars but can get out on the bikes when operations call for additional bicycle officers, and when there’s an opening on the full-time squad, they can apply, but in the meantime, they can expect more stairs and more training.