I had the opportunity to sit down recently with Officer Scobee, one of the bicycle police officers with the Riley County Police Department, and talk about cycling within Manhattan. We had a great conversation about common infractions that the police officers observe among cyclists as well as addressed general cycling safety.
Officer Scobee recently attended an International Police Mountain Bike Association course to become a certified bike police instructor. As part of this course Officer Scobee learned how to instruct others on cycling techniques and safety, with the ultimate goal of training other police officers to become competent on-the-job cyclists. His training as well as being a committee member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee make Ofc. Scobee a valuable resource of information. Bike police officers are often easier to approach and speak with than, say, an officer in a police cruiser and he often takes the opportunity to answer questions and educate passers-by. If you ever see Ofc. Scobee riding around town, wave, say hi, and thank him for all he does to make the city safer!
Ofc. Scobee revealed that the most troubling areas in Manhattan for the bike officers are the Aggieville and Downtown areas. There are two pressing concerns, one dealing with the direction of cycling traffic, and the other with areas that are off-limits to cyclists. There are several one-way streets in the Aggieville area, two of which, Moro and Laramie, are also bicycle boulevards. Bicycles are considered vehicles, and as such are required to follow the flow of traffic. Cyclists riding the wrong way on these one-way streets is a problem, and Officer Scobee regularly stops cyclists on these roads in an attempt to educate riders and warn them of the dangers. While he admits that he hasn’t cited any cyclists for this yet, he warns repeat offenders that they could be ticketed in the future.
Some cyclists, realizing that the road is one-way, will hop onto the sidewalk in the Aggieville area- a big NO-NO. Although the sidewalks in Aggieville and Downtown are not labeled as such, they are off-limits to bike traffic and riders could also be cited for riding on them. This seems to be an education and signage issue, as many cyclists in the city simply don’t know the rules. Because most sidewalks in the city are OK for cyclists to use, a positive direction for the city to move in would be to label the sidewalks in Aggieville and Downtown as pedestrian only zones so cyclists can be aware of and follow the rules.
As it pertains to general cycling safety, all bikers should wear helmets, ride defensively, and perfect bike handling skills. Just like any sport or activity, practice and protection are key. If you feel unsure of your abilities as a cyclist, find a quiet area where you can practice things like riding in a straight line while looking over your shoulder for traffic. As a bike police officer, Ofc. Scobee patrols on his bike year-round and has taken several skills and safety courses. However, even with all this training and time spent riding on-the-job, Officer Scobee still tries to hit the mountain bike trails as often as possible to hone his bike handling skills. On trails he is able to improve his reaction times, deal with challenging terrain, and refine bike skills such as shifting gears in anticipation of uphills and downhills.
Take advantage of the wonderful fall weather here in Manhattan and get out and ride your bike! Commute to school and work, pick up some last-minute groceries, and enjoy the linear trail with your friends and family by bike. And if you see Ofc. Scobee or any of the other officers out on their bikes, be sure to say hello!