Newport police get souped-up, electric patrol bikes

Officers tout the vehicle's stealth and ability to navigate the boardwalk and pier.

Published: April 3, 2014 Updated: April 4, 2014 8:52 a.m.

NEWPORT BEACH – By design, this officer’s bicycle has super powers and a serious purpose.  “It’s almost like it’s bionic,” Newport Beach police Officer John Mika said Thursday morning, wheeling around a new electric patrol bike.

Last week, officers began patrols on two customized, $4,000 Pedego bicycles. The patrol bikes are likely the first in the county, officials said.

With a push of a button, Newport Beach’s new electric bikes can reach speeds of 25 mph. They are outfitted with neat gadgets, such as a switch that tightens the shock absorbers to amp up the speed. It’s powered by a lithium ion battery – the same power inside a Tesla – that lasts through a 10-hour police shift, or longer.

Beyond the gee-whiz features, it still pedals like a regular bike.  Mika said the bike is a natural fit for beach patrols in a town where the population doubles in the summer.

The bike can whiz along the boardwalk and pier, places a police car or motorcycle can’t reach. And its speed means a faster response to police calls up and down the Balboa Peninsula.

The new bikes complement unconventional patrol methods already in place in the city, such as horse-mounted officers. New modes of transportation, such as electric bikes and Segways, are appearing more and more in law enforcement, authorities said.

“You can’t use a hammer for everything, Mika said. “You’ve got to have a lot of different tools.”

Another advantage to the bike: silence. That helps police combat thefts from cars and property crimes, the city’s chief law enforcement problems, Lt. Damon Psaros said.  “It’s stealthy,” Psaros said. “You can’t hear them coming.”

Psaros said the force had considered electric bikes for some time. The battery technology wasn’t there until now.  “It’s much lighter and more reliable,” he said. The bikes, which can travel 30 miles continually on one charge, are recharged by plugging into a standard outlet.

Psaros said they bought the bikes after about three months of testing with the Pedego Corona del Mar dealership. The bikes are outfitted with special all-terrain tires, wider handlebars, and a special suspension system, among other features.

Pedego dealership owner Joe Carter said the police bikes were a first for his company. Ordinarily, he said, his customers are enthusiasts and commuters.  Now, he sees opportunities in campus security, even Disneyland.
“It’s a young industry,” he said. “Its uses are just evolving.”

Police bike 4-1-1
Batteries cost $600 to $800
You can ride an electric patrol bike every day for about 2 1/2 years before replacing the battery.
Batteries take two to three hours to charge and weigh nine pounds.
Pedego bikes ordinarily cost $2,000 to $3,000.
Sources: Pedego Corona del Mar, Newport Beach police

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