Building Up Your Bike School

by Robert Hatcher, PCI #629/EMSCI #103
Delaware (OH) Police Department
IPMBA Vice President

The Delaware Police Department has been offering IPMBA Courses since 2003.  To date, these courses have grossed more than $50,000.  The funds are used to finance the bike program, including the school and the department’s bike patrol.  Our bike school has an excellent reputation in the region and subsequently has been filled to capacity for several years.  The department has done many things to ensure the success of our bike school.  This article will highlight a few key elements in creating an effective program. 

First and foremost, obtain support from your agency’s administration.  The supervisors must understand all that goes into offering a bike school, and they must be willing to dedicate the necessary resources. 

Next, set the price.  Define a price per attendee, keeping it reasonable to attract students.  It is ideal to include IPMBA Certification as part of the tuition.  Department heads like to see certification with successful course completion, and it is easy to justify the expense when it is built into the tuition.  Develop a plan to properly manage the bike school funds.  For example, our department has a designated amount in the budget specifically for the bike school and patrol program.  Anything related to the bike program comes out of that fund.

Schedule the course at a time that is conducive for bike training.  In Ohio, most bike teams do not start riding until spring, and then ride all summer.  Once summer hits, departments are typically short-staffed, which limits training opportunities.  When we started our bike school, we held a course in July, but the turnout was sparse.  Since then, we have offered the course in May, and attendance has been consistently high.

Advertise.  As with any business, marketing the course is very important.  If no-one knows about it, no-one will register.  Pay attention to the quality of your marketing; this is the first impression that agencies will have of the program.  Design a brochure that describes the training, lists the prices, and outlines the requirements.  Be sure to highlight the certifications that will accompany successful program completion.  The brochure can be mailed directly to departments (attention: Training Supervisor), posted on the department’s website, emailed to prospective students, sent by teletype, distributed to chiefs’ associations and listed on various online training calendars (including the IPMBA website).  There are costs involved with some of these options but these are typically nominal and could be covered by a single registration fee.

Follow up promptly.  After you start advertising, be sure to respond to all requests and questions in a timely manner.  As participants register, confirm them quickly with high-quality, comprehensive confirmation material.  Prepare a detailed letter containing all of the important information for the course, including dates and location, an equipment list, and the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q).

Enhance the course.  IPMBA courses are very thorough and produce the best-trained public safety cyclists in the world.  To make your course even more intriguing, devise ways to enhance it.  One of our best enhancements has been to develop partnerships with area businesses and Ohio Wesleyan University.  The university is located within Delaware and provides abundant riding terrain and on-bike training venues.  They also provide complimentary classroom space and dorm rooms.  The dorm rooms enable out-of-town attendees the opportunity to stay in town free of charge.  This cost savings is very attractive to administrators. 

We have also partnered with the university’s catering service.  They offer discounted lunches each day, and the nominal lunch fee is included in the tuition.  Approaching area businesses for donated goods will also make the course attractive.  Our department has partnered with grocery stores, bakeries, and coffee shops to provide daily continental breakfasts and snacks.  Area bike shops and bike patrol-related vendors have donated prizes for raffles and contests.

Make learning fun.  Use drills that are enjoyable but also teach skill and increase confidence.  Create small competitions that attendees will enjoy.  A firearms practical is not required during the Police Cyclist Course, but I strongly recommend it.  Introducing live-fire drills makes the course more exciting and memorable, while providing essential survival skills.  IPMBA Courses have a segment for scenario training.  We have implemented RedMan gear in the scenarios, which enables students to be more hands-on and learn how to use the bike as a defensive tool.  It is another segment that receives many good reviews. 

Take pictures and videos.  Pictures help document the course and provide attendees with a great parting gift.  We typically send a CD after the course or use one of the online photo sharing sites.

Involve the local media.  Having television and newspaper interviews provides good press for the department.  We can never get enough press about the positive impact of our police departments and, specifically, our bike officers.  Bike courses give the media and the public a great story along with exciting visuals.  In addition, cops, medics, and security personnel watch the news and/or read the paper, which means free advertising for future courses. 

These are just a few helpful suggestions.  The sky is the limit for building up your bike school.  The IPMBA curriculum is the foundation of your bike program, but by using your imagination and tapping your local resources, you can make your bike school something special. 

Robert is currently a patrol officer with the Delaware City Police Department.  He has been assigned to the bike unit since 2000 and has been an IPMBA Instructor since 2002.  He serves as the department’s bike team coordinator, bike instructor, and bike mechanic.  He is also an instructor for the League of American Bicyclists.  He is currently serving as Vice President on the IPMBA Board of Directors.  

© 2012 IPMBA.  This article appeared  in the Fall 2012 issue of IPMBA News.

Share this post

Leave a comment