In many cities, mountain bicycles—those rugged, knobby-tired vehicles that have been all the rage the last couple of years—are becoming essential pieces of police equipment. "It's congested downtown," says Sergeant Larry Hart, one of 28 mountain-bike patrolmen on the Seattle force. "We can respond much quicker to emergency situations on bikes. And people seem to find officers on bikes more approachable than those in cars." Bikes are also quieter and less conspicuous, allowing officers to sneak up on suspects.
In 1987 Seattle's department became the first to use bike patrolmen, at the suggestion of officer and cycling enthusiast Paul Grady. Now some 60 cities (among them, Miami Beach, Sacramento and Tucson) have bike patrols, and at least one bicycle manufacturer produces an extra-durable, high-performance "police model" mountain bike.
To bring together the best of the riders in uniform, Seattle has just put on the first National Police Mountain Bike Squad Competition, outside the Kingdome. Four-officer squads from 10 cities competed in full uniform over an obstacle course and in relay and team strategy events. In the team strategy competition, volunteers acted out a purse snatching, mugging or drug deal, and officers were judged on how adeptly and swiftly they arrested suspects and gathered evidence. "You wouldn't know what crime you would get," says Hart. "You'd just pedal and go, coming across a crime in progress."
While Seattle won the overall title, Fort Worth earned the only perfect score in the team strategy event. Because the Fort Worth unit has been using donated equipment since its inception last year, the Seattle force gave it two new bikes as a goodwill gesture.
By the way, police-bike patrolmen only occasionally have their cycles stolen and—because of their watchfulness and ability to give chase—have helped hold down the overall rate of bicycle theft in their cities.
BACK TO REALITY
An event called the Steroid Games is scheduled for this summer in London. The sports contested will include track, swimming, volleyball and cycling, and all the competitors will be on anabolic steroids—but only because they need the drugs for regenerating muscle tissue. The participants in the games are all recipients of transplanted organs.
While the goal of the games is to raise awareness of the need for organ donors and show that organ recipients can lead active lives, they also remind us of how powerful steroids are and of how misused they are in sports. We might keep the transplant recipients in mind the next time a healthy young athlete tests positive for steroids and then claims that he "needed" to take these potent drugs to recover from some minor sprain.
BO MEETS GATOR
Hoping to take a gulp of the $500 million-a-year market for sports and exercise drinks, a field long dominated by Quaker Oats's Gatorade, the Pepsi-Cola Company is now test-marketing a carbonated beverage called Mountain Dew Sport. To promote the drink in three cities (San Diego, Minneapolis and Eau Claire, Wis.), Pepsi is airing a 30-second TV commercial featuring Bo Jackson and Morris, a 650-pound alligator from a California animal ranch.