As gas prices rise, Ohio police mount motorcycles

By Martin Rozenman
The Columbus Dispatch
Related: "Hypermiling" the law enforcement way

OHIO Some law-enforcement agencies are finding that motorcycles make sense when gas prices are high.

The State Highway Patrol added 10 motorcycles in the last year, and Genoa Township added two about a month ago.

The purchases were motivated, in part, by rising gasoline prices. Officers and troopers also like the cycles' ability to do things cruisers can't.

"The bikes are at least twice as efficient in miles per gallon as the patrol cars," said Lt. Tony Bradshaw, a highway patrol spokesman.

A police motorcycle also costs about $3,000 less than a cruiser, he said. The patrol buys "stripped down" Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycles, then adds performance packages.

Capt. Tom Hanes of Genoa Township estimated the difference at about 15 mpg for the cruisers compared with 40 mpg for the cycles.

In addition, Bradshaw said, thousands more dollars are saved on motorcycles, which don't require the electronics, such as video cameras and laptops, that cruisers get.

Mark Turley of A.D. Farrow Co. Harley-Davidson said sales to law-enforcement agencies are "absolutely" up because of gas prices.

"You're going to see more and more because of fuel savings and maneuverability," Turley said.

Genoa is leasing its two bikes for about $7,000 a year, Hanes said, while the Ford cruisers can be bought for $30,000.

"It was a combination of gas prices and the versatility of the bikes," Hanes said. "Obviously, fuel prices just keep going up."

And the motorcycles can go places the cruisers can't.

"This is pretty much a bedroom community and there are trails for bicycles" as well as walkers and joggers, he said. "The cycles are real efficient riding the trails, while the cruisers are limited to the roads.

"Matter of fact, we already had a couple runaway juveniles doing vandalism that we apprehended using a cycle. They went down the bike paths toward woods, and we were able to pursue them on the bikes. It's not easy to keep up with young kids on foot."

Hanes said the bikes were used to arrest three more suspected vandals who eluded cruisers. "They didn't even recognize the motorcycle as a police vehicle," he said.

Ohio's motorcycle police take an 80-hour training course to acquire the needed driving skills.

The highway patrol resurrected its motorcycle unit after 50 years with six new Harley Electra Glides in 2006, Bradshaw said. Ten more were added this year. Now, eight work in the Columbus area and eight more in Cincinnati.

Bradshaw said the bikes serve three purposes. One, they are more fuel efficient. Two, they get in and out of traffic better than cruisers.

And, three, "there's a monetary value there," he said of traffic jams. "You're losing fuel and hours at work sitting in traffic."

Columbus police have been using motorcycles since the 1930s, Sgt. Joe Curmode said. "Everybody is looking at these, not only as a cost savings, but as a great law-enforcement tool."

Columbus has 32 cycles with 10 dedicated for training and relief for maintenance.

"It's a good cost savings," he said. "It's economical. We do ride year-round," Curmode said.

Columbus police are among the few in the northeastern U.S. to ride motorcycles through the winter, he said. Sidecars are added after the Ohio State-Michigan football game "just for stability."


Copyright 2007 The Columbus Dispatch

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