Nowadays, motorbikes have become synonymous with the police and are an integral part of its work.
Motorbikes are used for a variety of purposes within the force, from escorting VIPs to pursuing high-end criminals. The bikes are mainly used for special events, convoys and road patrols. Whether the bike is rolling along slowly in a convoy or being pushed to its limits in a high-speed chase, the rider must possess great skill and attentiveness.
For a member of the force to be able to ride a motorbike, they need to undergo lengthy training and prove that they have the experience, skills and knowledge required for the role.
To get a better understanding of the use of motorbikes within the police, we spoke to Ian Marriott, BikeSafe coordinator for Avon and Somerset Constabulary. BikeSafe is a police-led initiative aimed at reducing the number of bikers injured on the road by improving motorcyclists’ awareness, skills and knowledge. The project is run by forces across the UK.
What bikes do the police ride?
The police have been riding BMW K1100s and Honda ST1100 Pan Europeans, and more recently BMW R1100RT motorbikes, Ian says. The ST1100s were eventually replaced by the ST1300 Pan European, but the model was withdrawn from service after reports of bad handling and following the death of a Merseyside policeman back in 2005. An inquest into Pc David Shreeve’s death revealed that the bike developed a high-speed weave when he was travelling at 110mph, which caused him to lose control of his vehicle.
The Pans were replaced by BMW R1200RTs, which are currently one of the most popular models among the force, Ian says. Yamaha has also entered the game, with forces across the country riding the manufacturer’s FJR1300 model.
What are the advantages and dangers of the police riding motorbikes?
For the police, riding motorbikes instead of driving cars has a significant number of advantages. Firstly, motorbikes are smaller in size, meaning that the rider can easily navigate their way through traffic and can also fit in areas where cars cannot. The less time the police have to sit around in traffic, the more time they’ll have to do their job. And this also has benefits for the public, too, as police motorbikes don’t contribute to traffic.
The ease of manoeuvring motorbikes has led them to becoming a popular choice for forces patrolling areas in larger cities with lots of built-up traffic. The mobility of the bikes allows for rapid response of high-priority calls, and they are considered to be much easier to follow than cars.
But riding bikes doesn’t come without its dangers. Clearly, Ian says, the heightened dangers of riding a motorcycle are the very obvious ones where anyone involved in an incident on the road suddenly enters an “outcome lottery” once they lose control of their vehicle or part company with it. In such cases, a motorcyclist is generally more at risk because they are more exposed, and this means they stand a higher chance of suffering from serious injuries.
When a motorcyclist is involved in an accident, they have a whole load of objects to contend with, such as street furniture, other road users, and the physical road. These can significantly affect the severity of the outcome, Ian adds, especially in cases whereby the rider comes off of the bike.
It is commonly believed that other road users are responsible for the majority of incidents involving motorcycles; however, Ian says this is not the case. He says that in actual fact, rider error is the largest contributing factor when motorcycles are involved in an accident, which goes against the views of many bikers that believe that it is other road users making mistakes and not themselves.
At the scene of a crime, police motorcyclists are more at risk as they are more exposed to dangers. They are literally sat on an open air vehicle, whereas a police car’s chassis would at least offer some protection for the driver. As well as this, a motorbike is unable to detain any criminals, which makes them excellent as a support unit, but not as great as a primary vehicle for crime call-outs.
How are the police trained?
Members of the force that want to ride motorcycles as part of their work have to undergo significant training, Ian explains. Those who are considered to be advanced motorcyclists would have been through weeks and weeks of intense training. Firstly, Ian says, people wanting to become an advanced police motorcyclist would have to take a course on four-wheels to become an advanced police car driver. Following this, they would then be eligible to be considered for a standard bike course which would last two weeks, and would also have to attend an emergency response course for one week.
After this, the person can then sign up to an advanced motorcycle training course, which lasts for an average of three weeks. At the end of the course, the rider (if successful) will officially qualify as an advanced rider. The courses are normally run with one instructor and three trainees. If the rider then wants to go on to become an advanced police instructor, they can have further training which lasts a minimum of four weeks.
What’s clear is that motorbikes help to improve the work and overall efficiency of the force. But they aren’t just used by the police; motorbikes are used by paramedics, couriers, charity groups and many other industries that understand the many benefits that riding motorbikes can provide.
Ian is currently involved with organising this year’s National BikeSafe Show, which will take place on Saturday the 12th of April at the Castle Combe race circuit. At the event, riders will have the opportunity to be given one hour road assessed rides with a police motorcyclist, followed by a 15 minute track experience with a group of 11 other riders.
The event will also feature a motorbike show in the paddock which is free to enter. Manufacturers will be at the event with demo bikes, along with stunt bike shows and Moto Gymkhana rides for children. Parking is free, and bookings can be made via the BikeSafe website.
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