Essex Police is to disband its dedicated bike squad in Southend just 18 months after it was set up as part of a sweeping overhaul of its operations designed to save £41 million over the next four years. The news follows the revelation that paramedics on bikes have been withdrawn from three cities in Yorkshire following a review by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service.
Like their paramadeic counterparts in Yorkshire, the advantage of a permanent squad of police officers being deployed on bikes was seen to lie in their ability to quickly respond to situations, without getting held up in traffic.
Roger Watson, vice chairman of Essex Police Federation, told local newspaper The Echo: “They can get through Southend quite quickly when traffic is snarled up, and they can get to scenes quicker. But it’s going to be subject to the cuts.”
The bike squad, or “advanced cycle team” as it is properly termed, was instituted in February 2010 and made 177 arrests in its first year, with officers wearing video cameras to help record evidence. Its operations helped lead to the closure of four cannabis factories.
The officers will now be allocated to other duties, however, Superintendent Jon Dodman of the south eastern division of Essex Police, insisted: “Officers deployed on cycles remain a tactical option, as they always have been."
He added that bike officers would be on duty at key events such as the London 2012 Olympics mountain bike event at Hadleigh Park Farm.
“On a day-to-day basis, senior officers now need to decide the most practical and efficient use of its limited resources, including the deployment of officers in vehicles, on foot and on bicycles,” he added.
Meanwhile, The Yorkshire Post reports that cycling paramedics are to disappear from the streets of Sheffield, Leeds and Hull, with staff being redeployed by Yorkshire Ambulance Service to rapid response vehicles and ambulances.
The service, first launched in York ten years ago and called Lifecycle, will continue to operate for now in that city as well as in Harrogate. It uses mountain bikes adapted to carry £5,000 of medical kit.
Vince Larvin, Assistant Director of A&E Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, told the newspaper: “Our priority is to respond to all emergency calls as quickly as possible and, in view of the growing and changing demand for our 999 service, we are constantly reviewing how we make use of our staff to ensure that our resources are utilised effectively.
“We are currently operating additional rapid response vehicles in the cities instead of the cycle response units to help us meet current demand more closely and ensure our patients receive the best possible care.
“The decision to take these resources out of operation is not a permanent one and shifts in patient demand will see them return as appropriate.”
A spokesman for Unison, the health service, commented that he hoped the suspension of the service would be temporary but said that Yorkshire Ambulance Service should have consulted staff and unions.
“They are not talking to us and members do not know why this is happening. It is causing confusion and we don’t agree with it,” he stated.
We have asked Yorkshire Ambulance Service to outline the specific operational factors behind their decision but are yet to hear back from them.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.