Three officers certified as bike patrollers
Sept. 18, 2008
By Tim Simard
On a recent bright and sunny Thursday, Williston Police Officer Travis Trybulski slowly made his way through the Lawnwood and Southridge neighborhoods — but not in a patrol car. Instead, Trybulski pedaled his way on a Williston Police mountain bike.
As Trybulski cruised onto the bike path and around Williston Community Park, many walkers and other cyclists waved and smiled at the officer.
Observer photo by Tim Simard
Bike patrol officer Travis Trybulski looks to catch speeding cars on Chamberlin Lane last Thursday. Trybulski says patrolling Williston by bike is good way to stay in touch with the community.
“A lot of people are appreciative of the work you do when they see you’re out on the bike,” he said. “People approach you much easier and you end up creating more of a rapport with community members.”
Officer Brandon Wilson, who along with Trybulski and Det. Mike Lavoie is a bike patrolman, agreed with Trybulski’s comments.
“There’s no barrier per se,” Wilson said. “You become much more approachable.”
All three officers are certified bike patrollers through the Law Enforcement Bike Association. Winooski Police Officer Ben Kaufman, who is the state’s only bicycle patrol certification instructor, said bikes allow officers to get a closer look at their community.
“It slows you down so you see more of what’s going on,” Kaufman said.
Heading towards Lawnwood Drive on Sept. 11, Trybulski witnessed a speeding car pass a school bus on Old Stage Road. While the bus did not have its stoplights flashing, Trybulski believed the car was traveling too fast for the posted 35 mph speed limit. He jumped off his bike and ran into the road to try to stop the driver, but the car continued quickly up Old Stage Road.
“I can’t believe that,” he said.
Such are some of the limitations of patrolling on bike, Trybulski admitted, adding the benefits of this type of policing are still important for the community. Besides, Trybulski noted part of the car’s license plate and was confident he would find the driver.
Earlier in the afternoon, Trybulski set himself up in the shade of a tree along Chamberlain Lane in what he said was a strategic spot to find speeding drivers. It was right about the hour schools were letting out, a time, Trybulski said, when more cars than usual frequent the neighborhood.
“We sometimes get calls from residents here that cars are going too fast,” Trybulski said.
With his bike set off the road, Trybulski used a radar gun to clock the speeds of passing vehicles. Most drove by going close to the marked 25 mph speed limit. Only a few cars were traveling faster than 30 mph, to which the officer waved his hand to slow them down. None of the cars was going fast enough to warrant a ticket, Trybulski said.
With the amount of bike-friendly paths in Williston and the large shopping areas of Taft Corners, Trybulski found the town to be a perfect fit for bike patrolling and decided to earn his certification.
“It’s a good community policing tool and it’s a good exercise,” he said.
As of last Thursday, Trybulski had ridden 237 miles on his bike, according to his odometer. He was certified in July.
Besides being a noticeable presence on the bike paths and around Maple Tree Place, Trybulski said he has stopped speeders and other traffic violators in Williston neighborhoods, and arrested a shoplifter hiding in the tall grass outside Bed Bath & Beyond.
“It works well because you can sometimes sneak up on suspects,” Trybulski said. “People don’t expect to see a police officer on a bike.”
To become a certified bike patrol officer, police have to take a weeklong course, under Kaufman, at the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford. Trybulski said he rode more than 100 miles during the training, many of which were up and over steep roads and mountain bike trails, and even on stairs.
Training covered everything from proper nutrition while riding to the best techniques for keeping consistent pedal action no matter the grade of the road. Trybulski said he also learned to use a bike as a defensive weapon if need be.
Trybulski said some of the hardest training came when the bike patrol officers had to train with their guns. He said one of the drills required pedaling hard for a quarter mile before jumping off the bike and firing at a target.
Kaufman, who regularly patrols the streets of Winooski on two wheels, said there are approximately 65 certified bike patrol officers in Vermont and he expects the number to rise significantly.
“I think you’ll start to see a surge because of the high cost of fuel for police departments,” Kaufman said.
Trybulski said bike patrolling can be a challenge, but he finds it one of the best ways to police within the community. And even though a bike officer can’t always chase down a speeding car, that doesn’t mean a violator can make a clean escape.
That driver who passed the school bus? Trybulski traced the license plate number of his car, found the driver and cited him with more than $500 in fines.