Bike patrol allows interaction, easy access around campus

October 1, 2009 Jim Bush

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - As one of eight Purdue University police officers who participate in bicycle patrol, Keene Red Elk sees many advantages, including the interaction it creates with students.

"Bikes break down the barriers," said Red Elk, a 14-year Purdue police veteran who has patrolled the campus on two wheels frequently for several years. "People come up and talk to bicycle officers about the bikes or just to talk. You're more in touch, so you have to take advantage of that. You have a lot of people asking you directions.

"Plus, it's economical because you're not burning gas up in a car, and it's healthy from the officer's standpoint. And, although it's not necessarily faster, we can get to places a car can't."

Those officers who participate in bike patrol aren't required to ride daily, though they must be certified. During the warmer months, Red Elk may do a full shift on bike or part of a shift two or three days a week. Another officer often rides well into the cooler months in late fall.

Often, bike patrol officers are seen during football games at Ross-Ade Stadium and at other special events.

Red Elk is a lead instructor for the International Police Mountain Bike Association, which certifies officers. He runs a certification session once or twice a summer that has earned a reputation for its vigor. City and university officers from such places as Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana receive their certifications through training at Purdue. A session includes 32 hours of instruction and a rigorous riding test. Riders also find Purdue's obstacle course challenging, Red Elk said.

"The reason we're stricter is that, for instance, we have 40,000 to 50,000 people here for a football game. We have to be able to ride in tighter spaces and make several different maneuvers."

Red Elk and other Purdue police officers often find themselves explaining bicycle safety to riders. He said he often pulls up beside a rider to provide safety tips and explain bicycle laws.

"What people need to understand is that bicycles are just like a vehicle, and riders are subject to the same laws," Red Elk said. "That includes riding on the correct side of the road and coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. Bicyclists tend to lump themselves in with pedestrians, and they're not."

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

Source: Keene Red Elk, 765-494-8221, klredelk@purdue.edu