Warrenville is putting police officers back on bicycles for the first time in nearly a decade with the goal of increasing visibility and improving connections with the community.
The city launched the fledgling program Wednesday afternoon when officer Teresa McBride, who has significant experience with such patrols, took her inaugural ride with Mayor David Brummel near city hall.
McBride, who for now will be the city's lone bike patrol officer, is a six-year veteran with the Warrenville department.
She'll be patrolling the community with an emphasis on parks and bike paths, making sure everyone is behaving and also that residents know she's there. Initially, she'll only be on her bike a few hours a week.
"We decided to get back into the program and reinstitute it on a limited basis and see what kind of feedback we get," Brummel said. "Our officers are more visible if they're out on a bike."
McBride has previous experience as a bike patrol officer. Most notably, she worked for two weeks during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Officers from all over the world were hired to work on-site and because McBride's specialty was bike patrol, that's what she did.
"It was great because they had these huge venues and you'd have to get from one spot to another pretty quick," McBride said.
While Warrenville may not house stadiums with thousands of people in one place, there is still a need for officers to be out in the community. The city's police department has 32 full-time officers and five part-timers and McBride says some of the part-timers already have expressed interest in the patrols.
It would appear there may be room to expand the program because the department already has two bikes.
If the city did decide to expand the program, one of the major obstacles likely would be training.
To be certified as a bike patrol officer, candidates must go through an extensive 48-hour training regimen. Officers learn rules of the road, arrest tactics from a bicycle, tips for night riding and slow riding for working in crowds -- such as at the Olympics -- and physical training to be able to pedal fast, jump off a bike and handle confrontations.
"I did it at the Olympics," McBride said. "There are bazillions of people and you have to crawl through a crowd and stay on your bike and not run anybody over."
Although McBride is the department's only bike officer, Brummel braved the 90-degree heat Wednesday to join her on a trek across town.
An avid bicyclist, Brummel rides about 100 miles a week in the summer and can be seen on a tandem bicycle with his wife on many evenings.
"This will make police more accessible to children and young folks," he said. "We want to increase the presence and interaction and to connect with the kids and connect with people using the paths."