Two wheels or four, Penticton’s police presence in the city’s more visible regions is once again being ramped up for the coming summer months.
That includes the RCMP bicycle patrol units which have already been cruising downtown streets and park pathways in search of criminal activity or just to lend a hand.
“The visibility aspect of this is huge. I think on both sides it’s good for us, because it certainly allows us to get around very easily in congested areas, especially areas we can’t access with a car, and we can access it quicker than on foot,” said Cpl. Ted Manchulenko, who was out on bike patrol recently on Main Street with Const. Brad Caruso.
In the span of just a few minutes, near the intersection of Nanaimo Avenue, the pair intercepted some skateboarders riding on the sidewalk and an unsuspecting motorist talking on a cellphone while driving.
“The element of surprise is definitely on our side when we’re on a bike. We’ve had occasion where we can ride right up to people who are either committing offences or about to commit offences that would probably have seen a police vehicle and would have been long gone,” said Manchulenko.
“People don’t usually see you as a police officer until they do that double take, so it definitely works to our advantage.”
While there are some people who are concerned the bicycle beat takes away from the more important duties, the officer points out it is just the opposite.
“What I’m talking about here is a supplement to our regular officers that are handling the files,” he said. “It’s an addition or a complement to those members.
“Specifically, downtown is very easy and very quick to get around, and all the members have radios and are connected.”
That is especially useful for those calls which are not critical but can be time consuming if an officer in a vehicle must attend.
The bicycles also operate both during the day and night.
A greater personal interaction and an improved educational component is another benefit, particularly with pedestrians and other cyclists.
With the approach of the Subaru Ironman Triathlon, there is an increasing number of bicycles on city streets, and Manchulenko reminds everyone they are not allowed on sidewalks. Helmets must also be worn and the rules of the road must be followed.
At any given time, there could be two to four or more officers working the two-wheel schedule.
“I think overall we’ve been pretty lucky in terms of cycling fatalities, but even if we get just one that’s too many,” he said. “I’ll give you 99.9 per cent odds that in a collision between a car and a bicycle, the bicycle is going to lose.”