by David Mackay, Elgin Press & Journal, November 20, 2018
Elgin’s police force has been issued with new bicycles in an effort to help officers tail criminals through the town’s narrow streets.
Elgin, Scotland: The historic heart of the town is filled with tricky lanes that make access to homes and gardens and pursuit by car extremely difficult.
Now, as the force prepares for a traditional festive increase in antisocial behaviour, new bikes have been supplied to officers by Elgin’s business improvement district (Bid).
The have been put straight into use in the town for routine patrols and have been earmarked for use at large public events in the area.
Importantly, however, it is hoped the new resources will help officers keep pace with offenders who attempt to evade police by running down the narrow alleyways and closes.
Officers have already received special training on the bikes in order to be able to use them as effectively as possible as part of their duties.
Yesterday, Inspector Graeme Allan explained that in some instances the new equipment would enable officers to cover ground more quickly than they would in a police car.
He said: “We used to have bikes but over time they’ve fallen into disrepair and not been replaced so it’s good to be able to reintroduce them.
“We mainly want to target areas with them that we felt are more difficult to reach with a car, for example Linkwood Woods.
“Some housing estates have closes – the town centre too – where it can be quicker not be in a car.
“It’s going to be a great and high-profile asset for us to use to help get from one area to another, particularly at this time of year when we receive more calls about antisocial behaviour.”
Elgin Bid donated the mountain bikes for police officers in the town to use after purchasing them from Cycle Circle in the town centre.
Equipment, including helmets and gloves, has been supplied by the police.
Gill Neill, manager of Elgin Bid, hopes the bikes will provide reassurance to businesses in the town centre.
She added: “We wanted to help introduce a couple of bicycles just to help the police get around a lot easier and quicker, particularly with the closes and alleyways that we have in the centre.
“It’s going to help get out there and be a visible presence.”
Elgin’s alleyways and closes
Elgin’s historic network of alleyways and closes forms one of the town centre’s most unique features.
A warren of narrow pathways lead off the High Street in either direction to provide access to businesses and other roads.
The “herringbone” structure of the town centre is protected by heritage agencies, who have objected to recent developments due to concerns it could be altered or lost forever.
The first medieval houses in the town centre were built side to side with gable ends and an archway leading through to a pend and a toft – where animals were kept and basic crops were grown.
As Elgin’s population grew, people began to build out from the High Street by creating up to 10 homes on each side of the tofts.
The alleyways helped businesses to thrive with candlemakers, brewers and bakers all setting up there – with some continuing to be used by local firms today.
At its peak, there were more than 200 closes packed into the town with about 30 families in each one.
And despite the cramped conditions, many of them continued to be lived in while virtually unmodernised until the 1970s.