Training Law Enforcers
Law enforcement officers are the only ones who can enforce laws, both for bicyclists and motorists to improve bicycle safety. They also come in contact with bicyclists and motorists on a daily basis. This puts law enforcement officers in a unique position to assist with and add credibility to community efforts to encourage bicycling and improve bicycle safety. However, most officers do not possess the bicycle safety knowledge or the community assessment skills necessary to do this job. Heightened awareness among law enforcement officers of these rules can lead to better enforcement of laws, modeling of good behaviors, and recognizing and taking advantage of teachable moments with both bicycles and motorists. The ultimate goal is to prevent crashes and enhance traffic safety.
What is the value of law enforcement training?
- Most officers have never received any bicycle specific training. How do law enforcement officers know which laws to enforce, both for bicyclists and motorists, to improve bicycle safety if they do not know about the leading causes of bicycle crashes?
- By increasing knowledge of the rules of the road for bicyclists and for motorists relating to bicyclists, law enforcement officers can better serve the community and potentially save a life.
Challenges to taking action
Below are some common challenges to taking action. For additional barriers to law enforcement and ways to address them, see the section on Understanding Law Enforcement.
Law enforcement officers have better things to worry about: terrorism, gangs, crashes, and crimes—what's the big deal? Why bring bicycles into this?
- Bicyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable forms of traffic. If the traffic environment is safe, and even enjoyable, for pedestrians and bicyclists it will work for everyone, certainly motorists. Enforcement is a critical component of traffic safety.
- Law Enforcement must also include PREVENTION. Anticipating high-risk behaviors that can lead to terrorism, gang behavior, crimes, and crashes, INCLUDING crashes involving BICYCLES is part of their mission.
- A bicycle is considered a vehicle and is bound by the same laws as other vehicles, e.g. riding with traffic, obeying red lights and stop signs.
- Motorists must treat a bicyclist with the same respect as other vehicle operators.
Law enforcement officers are already overworked—why give these folks more to worry about? There are only so many hours in a day and they can be better spent.
- Knowledge leads to thinking about every day in a different light. In this case, it means greater awareness of situations that could lead to a crash. Since bicyclists are more vulnerable if they are hit--- no safety belt, no steel exterior to take the brunt of a hit--safe behavior is essential.
- With more knowledge, law enforcement officers can incorporate the laws as they apply to their everyday activity in law enforcement and direct bicyclists and motorists to safer behaviors that can prevent crashes.
What are you asking a law enforcement officer to do—ticket a kid?
- Most enforcement actions do not result in a citation. Law enforcement officers are trained to use the least amount of force necessary to gain compliance with the law. Enforcement options include; positive reinforcement, verbal and written warnings and yes, finally citations.
- Tickets are seldom effective in changing a child's behavior, especially young children. A firm reminder about the rules of the road from an officer is generally sufficient.
Adults aren't wearing helmets. I didn't wear a helmet when I was a kid—it should be up to the parents to decide; Government and law enforcement should stay out of it.
- Bicycling is not unreasonably dangerous but it is not without its risks. Regardless of the law in your area, bicycle helmets do save lives and prevent traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), each case of TBI costs $125,000 in rehabilitation, social services, insurance and other disability costs. These are costs we all have to pay because someone did not put a bicycle helmet on AND wear it correctly.
Law enforcement and bicycle safety begins with education-training for officers. The following training programs for law enforcement are a start-training opportunities allow law enforcement officers to be better prepared to think in the best interest of the community they serve.
- Bicycle Traffic Enforcement Video —This is an internal training video for the Portland Police Bureau available through the PBIC Video Library. It is intended to inform officers about the City of Portland's bicycle transportation policy and remind them about some of Oregon's bicycle related traffic laws.
- Traffic Enforcement for Bicyclist Safety—A training video for Chicago Police Officers created in partnership between the Chicago Police Department & The Chicago Department of Transportation available through the PBIC Video Library.
- Law Enforcement's Roll Call Video: "Enforcing Law for Bicyclists"—This short video was developed by NHTSA to provide a review of the importance of law enforcement for bicycle safety and highlight the steps officers can take to enhance the safety of all road users, especially cyclists. It describes common violations, discusses the importance of reporting bicycle crashes, and provides additional resources for officers.
- Enhancing Bicycle Safety: Law Enforcement's Role—This training for law enforcement officers was developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The program is a self-paced interactive training designed for all law enforcement officers with the understanding that most do not receive any training on bicycle safety. Many crashes can be avoided if both bicyclists and motorists follow the rules-of-the-road. Heightened awareness an application of these rules by law enforcement officers can lead to increased enforcement of laws, modeling good behaviors, recognizing and teaching bicyclists and motorists about safe practices, and ultimately preventing crashes and enhancing traffic safety for all road users. To that end, this training includes seven content sections with videos, and a final evaluation. Completion of the final evaluation prompts a certificate and the achieved score. Based on each State's criteria, the learner may qualify for continuing education or in-service units. Estimated time for completing the training is 2 hours.
- NHTSA Community Oriented Bicycle Safety for Law Enforcement (2002)—This is a two-day course for law enforcement officers who are interested in learning to work with various groups, organizations, and individuals in their communities that are working to improve bicycle safety. Topics covered include: why and where people bicycle, the highway safety triangle, engineering for bicycle safety, education for bicycle safety, enforcement for bicycle safety, bicycle handling skills, your role in bicycle safety, problem identification, bicycle safety self-assessment, department bicycle safety assessment, characteristics of good bicycle safety programs, creating a community bicycle safety program, building community partnerships, and promoting your bicycle safety program. The course is instructor-led and is open to all law enforcement officers interested in working with their communities to encourage bicycling and improve bicycle safety. For more information, contact Paula Bawer, the National Highway Safety Administration, at email@example.com or 202-366-2692.
- Wisconsin Pedestrian and Bicycle Law Enforcement Training Course (2007)—This two-day course for patrol officers was adapted from an earlier curriculum developed in 1995 under a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grant. This course is instructor-led and includes classroom, walking, and on-bike sessions. The course is designed to give law enforcement officers the basic pedestrian and bicycle safety information that they need to manage traffic and provide a safe walking and bicycling environment in their communities. Topics covered include: What, Where, When, How, Who & Why, the Highway Safety Triangle, Engineering, How Pedestrian and Bicycle Crashes Happen, Education, Pedestrian Laws, Bicycle Laws, Enforcement, Pedestrian Enforcement Action, Crash Investigation and Reporting, Law Enforcement Partners, Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Quizzes, Definitions, Sample Pedestrian and Bicycle Enforcement Guidelines, Traffic Facts: Pedestrian & Bicycle, Organizations and Contacts. The course is open to all law enforcement entities for a fee, which covers instruction and materials. For more about the course, contact Larry Corsi, Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program Manager, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Safety, at (608) 267-3154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Law Officers Guide to Bicycle Safety (2002)—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded a grant to MassBike to develop a national program to educate police departments about laws relating to bicyclists. The program is intended to be taught by law enforcement officers to law enforcement officers as a stand-alone resource. The major objective of the program is to give law enforcement officers of all backgrounds the tools they need to properly enforce the laws that affect bicyclists. The program focuses on all police officers, including those who may not be interested in bicycling or who are not able to attend in-depth trainings. The program will also be useful to police departments who wish to do outreach to the bicycle community or other organizations.
- NHTSA Resource Guide on Laws Related to Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety—This resource guide contains a compilation of vehicle and traffic laws that were judged by the guide's developers to have the potential to affect pedestrian or bicycle safety, either positively or negatively. It is designed for easy use by anyone interested in vehicle and traffic law and pedestrian or bicycle safety. This might include state and local bicycle and pedestrian professionals, legislative service bureaus, and others who work with bicycle and pedestrian laws. It can be used to select laws that enhance pedestrian or bicycle safety, to assess a state's position with respect to other states or the state of the art, or to examine the extent to which prevailing vehicle and traffic laws may impact the generation of pedestrian or bicycle crashes.
- Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide (2003)—This booklet was created specifically to help familiarize law enforcement officers with portions of the Florida vehicle code that relate to two-wheeled human-powered vehicles. Included are motor vehicle responsibilities related to sharing the road with bicycles.
- North Carolina Department of Transportation Bicycle Law Enforcement Manual (1981)—This manual is an attempt to draw together relevant resources and information for localities interested in developing a bicycle law enforcement operation. It explains the need for and importance of bicycle law enforcement, presents examples of past bicycle law enforcement programs, focuses on the key elements of a bicycle law enforcement program (including legal issues, who should do the enforcing, what to enforce, adjudication, program evaluation, and community support), and deals with the role of the bicycle officer and the many responsibilities of this position. A resources section provides a list of relevant materials.
For other resources for law officers, see the International Police Mountain Bike Association web site on Bicycle Enforcement: Training Tools.
NOTE: If you know of other courses or resources regarding bicycle safety and law enforcement, please send an email to email@example.com