Bobby on the beat goes electric

22nd March, 2016 in Features

The traditional ‘bobby on a bike’ image has been given a complete overhaul in Middlesbrough in recent months, where Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), Helen Barron, has been patrolling the streets of Nunthorpe in style, on an electric mountain bike.

Cleveland police slider

The Byocycle Boxer electric folding mountain bike, which was donated by E-Bikes Direct, was selected primarily to improve efficiency and community safety by reducing response times, meaning the PCSO could complete more jobs during her shift.

Cllr Jon Rathmell, who contacted E-Bikes Direct about their requirements, explains: “The PCSO we were sourcing the bicycle for has an extremely large area to cover and this was mainly on foot, meaning her shift could be consumed by travelling from one remote point of her ‘patch’ to the other. It is a semi-rural location with a large percentage of the area been made up of off-road terrain, so using a manual bicycle is challenging enough, but it also presents other issues such as efficiency – how long it takes to pedal between locations. The manual bicycle only goes as far as the rider is able.

“I had read that electric bicycles significantly increase the distance a cyclist can travel without becoming exhausted or feeling fatigued, so it was for these reasons that an electric bike was favoured. I researched various companies and for me E-Bikes Direct came out on top.”

He then contacted the company, who suggested the Byocycle Boxer folding mountain bike. As well as providing transport flexibility, this model has small wheels, which was important as the PCSO in question is slighter in stature. “E-Bikes recommended the foldable Boxer e-bike” he said, “and upon reflection is an excellent choice, since if required Helen could collapse the bike and get into a car or other form of transport, taking the bike with her.”

Now previous barriers such as hills and distance have been banished, as Helen gets from place to place with ease – as well as being able to travel on some routes that would be inaccessible in a car. Cllr Rathmell continues: “The e-bike means that Helen can travel with speed from one job to another. Meanwhile, the fact that it is a mountain bike means she is not limited by terrain and as it is electric, she is not limited by exhaustion either.”

One additional and more unexpected benefit of the e-bike is the excellent engagement opportunity it offers, as members of the public approach the police team to have a look at the bicycle.

Cllr Rathmell says: “The community think the bicycle is fantastic. People keep approaching Helen to stop her and look at it, which has meant Helen has been engaged by people who would never usually be in contact with her in her role as a PCSO, creating a greater bond between the community and our neighbourhood policing team. As neighbourhood policing is intelligence-led, the additional comments and information received from members of the community enable them to do a better job, so the bike helps opens the gates to this.”

Helen PCSO e-bike

Helen with her Byocycle Boxer folding mountain bike

PCSO Helen Barron says: “Using this bicycle is absolutely brilliant. It is so easy to ride, it’s comfortable and I am able to get so much more done. The geographical size of my area is so large that using an electric bike means I can do so much more in one shift. It’s been a talking point with people too.

“It’s excellent to receive such support and the donation of this bicycle from E-bikes Direct is certainly enabling me to be much more efficient.”

Police & Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger of Cleveland Police says: “It’s a fantastic bike and I’ve heard other areas are starting to use them. They really do improve efficiency and make officers smile. It is donations like this that really show support to a community. It will allow us to see improvements in efficiency, as well as increasing engagement opportunities with members of the public.”

Cllr Rathmell is so delighted with the e-bike that he thinks there may be an opportunity to introduce them in other areas of local council activity. He says: “Electric bikes could be used by various other areas of the council, for example parking enforcement officers could use them instead of vans when traveling around and through the town. It is not only greener but a cheaper, more cost effective means of transport. The same could apply, task-dependent, for dog wardens or street wardens too.”

He sums up by saying: “E-Bikes Direct are extremely good to deal with – they are friendly, have excellent product knowledge and helped us decide the best choice for the task. The bike has made a noticeable difference to the community and has aided Helen in her duties. As Helen is covering more ground each day, jobs are getting dealt with sooner and police visibility has increased. We as a community cannot thank them enough for supporting our local PCSO.”