02

Blog

Educating the Police about Bicycling

NC bike advocate Dr. Steven Goodridge explains how.

In her August blog post Police & Cyclists, Ann Groninger described some of the problems faced by cyclists when police don’t understand or respect bicyclists’ legal rights. Because most police obtain no special training about bicycling, they share many of the same misconceptions and biases as the general public. So what can be done about it?

One possibility would be for the North Carolina Justice Academy to enhance the very basic bicycle information that appears in the traffic curriculum they set for Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) . This way, all new officers in the state would be better educated. Unfortunately, many important subjects and skill sets compete for inclusion in the dense BLET curriculum. It will be difficult to get a nuanced discussion of cycling laws and best bicycling practices included in BLET when other potentially life-or-death knowledge doesn’t make the cut.

Police officers receive in-service training continuously throughout their careers. Such training provides the opportunity for deeper coverage of special topics, and is an ideal way to introduce better bicycling information to officers. BikeWalk NC has developed an in-service training program called “Bicyclist Safety and Law Enforcement” to cover bicyclists’ legal rights and responsibilities, defensive bicycling practices, types and causes of common crashes, and effective enforcement activities to promote bicyclist safety. This training program was originally developed as an online Moodle course in cooperation with the Raleigh Police Department and the Raleigh Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission. All sworn officers in the Raleigh Police Department were required to complete the course on RPDnet as of May 2011. Since then, BikeWalk NC has delivered customized versions of the course to the Town of Cary PD and NC State University PD, and has made a generic state-wide version available on its web site.

The Bicyclist Safety and Law Enforcement program was developed to provide all officers with essential background information about traffic bicycling. The primary goals include:

• Empathizing police officers to bicyclists’ concerns;
• Spreading awareness of bicyclists’ roadway rights as fully entitled drivers of vehicles under the law;
• Familiarizing police officers with defensive, legal bicycling practices such as lane control;
• Associating common crash types with the moving violations that cause them;
• Prioritizing violations for enforcement based on risk (for motorists: drunk driving, failure to yield, unsafe passing, and failure to reduce speed; for bicyclists: wrong way cycling, unlighted night cycling, and failure to yield).

Feedback from police has been that the program increased awareness of bicycling issues and improved the handling of car-bike collision investigations.

Local police departments can incorporate this program into their in-service training in a number of ways, including setting it up as an online course, viewing the narrated video, or teaching it in-person based on the lesson plan, which follows the instructional design format used by the NC Justice Academy. Different departments have different needs for instruction format, which is why BikeWalk NC provides it in multiple forms. The biggest challenge to getting the training into a local department is finding a local champion in the department or city government who will make it happen. As outsiders to the police department, local bicyclist advocates cannot make police prioritize bicycling education. It is essential for advocates to develop a strong relationship with local government representatives such as city council, transportation planners, and the traffic enforcement division in order to convince them that the training program is worthwhile. A local bicycle/pedestrian advisory commission is an ideal route for developing police involvement.

Some cities in NC are conducting targeted education and enforcement activities to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The Watch for Me NC campaign deployed by the NCDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Division provides police training on how to conduct targeted safety efforts such as crosswalk stings, where officers walk through crosswalks to detect drivers who fail to yield, and follow up with warnings or tickets. Although the Watch for Me campaign involves small teams of officers rather than educating the entire department, it nevertheless provides a useful way to increase local subject matter knowledge. Municipalities that wish to participate in the Watch for Me NC campaign and obtain training, materials and other assistance should apply via the process detailed on the website. Partners will be selected through a competitive application process. The application will be available January 26 and will be due March 27, 2015.

Like BikeWalk NC’s in-service training, bringing the Watch for Me NC campaign to your community requires motivated government representatives. Local advocates must network with their local police, transportation planners, and elected officials. The reality is that enforcement priorities are often political, and as they say, all politics is local.

****

Steven Goodridge, Ph.D. contributed heavily to the content and editing of Bike Law Books # 1, the Ride Guide to North Carolina Bicycle Laws. Steve is an avid utility and recreational bicyclist who lives and works in Cary, North Carolina. An advocate for bicyclists since 1999, he is currently a board member of BikeWalk NC and is a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor. In his professional work as an electrical engineer, Steven develops digital audio, video and communications technologies for law enforcement and defense applications. Steven enjoys doing volunteer work with local police departments, cycling organizations and schools to promote better understanding of traffic laws, best bicycling practices, and effective enforcement techniques to support safer cycling.

Comments

Fairhope Bike Shop
Peter Wilborn Sep 16, 2019

Katie Bolton and her husband Joseph are the proud owners of Fairhope Cycle and Tri in Fairhope, Alabama – the eastern shore.  Their shop has been open for 8 years now and in addition to selling and servicing bicycles, the shop often is a “hub” for cycling events in the Fairhope area.   Katie grew up in […]

Read More
Rick Bernardi Sep 13, 2019

Stop as Yield. It was the legislative Holy Grail for Oregon cyclists. Idaho had pioneered the Stop As Yield concept—allowing cyclists to treat a stop sign as if it’s a yield sign—in 1982, and for decades, Idaho remained the only state where Stop as Yield was legal for cyclists, despite the actual practice being widespread, […]

Read More
Peter Wilborn Aug 20, 2019

A camera is necessary kit for every ride. But finding the right camera has been a challenge, until now. My rebuttable presumption: the Ricoh GR III is the best cycling camera of all time. Read on, and if you can prove there’s a better one, let me know. The Ideal Cycling Camera To find the […]

Read More
Human Shield Bike Lane
Bruce Hagen Jul 29, 2019

If you ride bikes around Atlanta, chances are that you know Niklas Vollmer and Andreas Wolfe.  They’re some of the many people in town who seem to live on their bikes and can be seen riding everywhere.  While they both have their “day jobs,” folks in the cycling world know them for their place in […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Jul 19, 2019

This is a time when advocacy efforts are crucial to making our streets safer for everyone. Within 24 hours from the Two Wheel Tuesday gathering we suffered two more casualties.  On Wednesday morning, Marten Bijvank was on his way to work on his bicycle when he was struck and killed by an unlicensed DUI driver […]

Read More
AJ's Bicycle Shop in Iowa
Jim Freeman Jul 15, 2019

Bicycling Magazine recently published an article titled, “Hey, Bike Shops; Stop Treating Customers Like Garbage.”  The story follows a heavy-set 59 year old’s sad tale of how he was treated poorly from a number of local bike shops.   First and foremost, I would be clear that bikes are for almost everyone.  If you are big, […]

Read More
Bike accident scene
Rick Bernardi Jul 12, 2019

The big bike news out of the Oregon legislature this year was the passage of a Stop as Yield law. This was an enormous legislative victory for Oregon cyclists, the culmination of over a decade of advocacy. But it wasn’t the only legislative victory for Oregon cyclists this legislative session. A less glamorous but equally […]

Read More
Uber Biking Escort
Charlie Thomas Jul 11, 2019

I often find myself wanting to ride on a roadway corridor that doesn’t want me there. At best, I could make it across alive with some close calls and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. At worst, I wouldn’t be around to write this blog post.  Of course, a safer, alternate route […]

Read More
Cycling Without Age Bike Law
Brian Weiss Jul 11, 2019

The founder of the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team loves his life on two wheels. Gary Harty was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and raised in Colorado – Denver Metro area, and now makes bicycling in Lakewood, Colorado safe and fun.  Gary is part of the baby boomer generation. He attended Colorado State University (CSU) and […]

Read More
Rachael Maney Bike Law
Rachael Maney Jul 10, 2019

Outrage.  It is what drives action and engagement on the interwebs these days. If it’s not outrageous, it’s boring. The Election of 2018 proved that outrage increases TOS (“time on site”) more than friendship, sympathy, desire, or anything else.  Judgment. By definition it is necessary to reach any conclusion about anything. But passing it on […]

Read More
Stop as Yield for Cyclists
Rick Bernardi Jul 09, 2019

The Oregon Legislature made national news this past week, for all the wrong reasons. The State Senate, with a super-majority of Democrats in control, had been working on climate legislation which would have Oregon join a cap-and-trade market with California and Quebec. Unable to stop the legislation, Republican Senators fled the state en masse, preventing […]

Read More
Bike Law Alps
Charlie Thomas Jul 07, 2019

It’s Tour de France time. I follow the racing daily through the footage on TV feed and still photos. But I hadn’t ever considered what’s happening on the other side of the camera lens. Like, what actually goes into snapping these pictures that we see documenting the Tour’s happenings? I started to care more about […]

Read More
Load More