Genesis of the Bicyclist Safety and Law Enforcement Training Program

I’d like to share a little background on the genesis of the Bicyclist Safety and Law Enforcement training program here in the Triangle of NC.  The Raleigh Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) wanted to encourage the Raleigh Police to increase enforcement of traffic laws for both bicyclists and motorists as they apply to bicyclist safety.  I was invited by the BPAC members to assist with the dialog between Raleigh PD and the BPAC due to my previous experience working with local police.  During the meetings, a consensus developed that the first and most important action that needed to be taken was to provide a training program for Raleigh Police that would deliver the essential information they would need to (1) understand the laws applicable to bicycle operation, (2) understand safe defensive bicycle driving practices, (3) understand how to prioritize enforcement actions based on the level of danger or collision likelihood associated with violations, and (4) understand how to interact with the public
effectively and take enforcement actions when required.

One thing I’ve learned about working with police from my day job (I develop forensics, surveillance and other technology solutions for local, state and federal law enforcement, and provide training on that technology) is the importance of listening to police to understand their unique requirements and concerns. Raleigh PD said that what they really needed was a training program that was tailored to the City of Raleigh and that conformed with their standard formats and processes for online training. I volunteered to help draft and edit the training program to meet both Raleigh PD’s and the BPAC’s objectives, and they accepted.

As part of my requirements gathering, I met with Lt. Tim Tomczak of Raleigh PD at his office. He stepped me through their online training system on RPDnet. He showed me the format of the classes they use, which consist of a lesson plan in the NC Justice Academy’s recommended outline/narrative format, and a slide show.  We also took one of the tests online so I could see the process.  Tim showed me the eCitation software they use to write warnings and citations, and we took screen shots of the important screens where officers would need to change selections for a bicycle violation.  Tim also printed out copies of Raleigh’s policy statements regarding enforcement of bicycle laws, and gave me other useful references.  He forwarded to my email address copies of some of the other training programs, such as HazMat, and sent me home with a thick binder from the NC Justice Academy on the subject of police training practices.

I researched police training programs on bicycling-related enforcement from around the country and shared them with the BPAC and Raleigh Police. I noted the common elements of each and started from there. The development of the training material was an iterative process from a rough outline to the final form, with multiple cycles of review and editing from the BPAC and Lt. Tomczak over a couple of months. Tim actually re-wrote my original Lesson Plan section on stopping motorists and cyclists. My version was an a fusion of information from other training programs, but his was much better coming directly from an officer’s experience. Much of the training material came from my existing Road 1 presentations and local crash report statistics.

The final draft of the training materials were then reviewed and approved by the legal folks at Raleigh PD, by the Raleigh Public Works Department, and I believe NCDOT.  A few weeks later, the following email was sent out to all sworn officers of Raleigh PD:

Subject: 2011 Bicyclist Safety and Law Enforcement Training now posted
on Moodle
Importance: High

To All Sworn Employees,

The 2011 Bicyclist Safety and Law Enforcement (Raleigh Edition) training module has now been posted on Moodle for Sworn Employees. All Sworn Employees are required to complete this training by the closing date of Friday, April 29, 2011. The Bicyclist Safety module has a 10 question multiple choice quiz that is required to be completed after reviewing the attached student lesson plan and slide show. You must score at least a 70% to pass the quiz. Please make every effort to complete this mandatory online training by the closing date.

You must access Moodle through RPDnet for this specific module as the attached slide show is web based and can only be viewed through RPDnet.

The quiz will close on Friday, April 29, 2011 at 2355 hours.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.

Sergeant James A. Taylor
Training Division
Raleigh Police Department

After the Raleigh training was completed, I talked to the Cary Planning Department’s bike/ped planners and my police department contacts about adapting it for Cary.  I had begun speaking to Cary about police education a year before when a police officer had erroneously pulled me over for bicycling in the center of a narrow (11′) outside lane on a 5-lane street. Cary PD agreed the Bicyclist Safety and Law Enforcement training would be a good idea, but they preferred to do the training in-person rather than online. One of their scheduled instructors for their summer training session had to cancel, so his time slot opened. I had my captive audience: 100 police officers, 25 at a time, for an hour. The sessions went very well, with some interesting questions about crash investigations and sidewalk cycling issues.

At the last of the four sessions, the officer who had pulled me over was in attendance; he was the only officer to question the bicyclist’s right to operate near the center of a narrow travel lane, but the material I provided was compelling enough for him to resign himself to the fact that he shouldn’t be stopping anyone for doing so.

One interesting thing to note is that most of the officers had little interest in stopping cyclists for safety issues; most of their stops of bicyclists are a pretext for drug and weapons searches. They stake out neighborhoods with known drug or gang activity and catch couriers riding at night without lights. After the education program, however, the police departments reported greater general awareness among the force regarding bicyclists’ rights and more careful or thorough investigations after car-bike crashes.

I am currently talking to the bike/ped coordinator in Durham to adapt the training for Durham, with their local crash data and ordinances. I then hope to do Apex, where there have been multiple complaints from cyclists about police stopping them for riding lawfully in narrow lanes or outside the door zone of parked cars. There is also some interest in Charlotte.

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