MACON COUNTY — More pedaling police are poised to be on patrol this summer.
Four additional Macon County sheriff's deputies have been certified through the International Police Mountain Bike Association, which ran a four-day training and exam course. Now about 80 percent of the deputies have completed training.
The department patrols unincorporated areas as well as Argenta, Forsyth and Macon.
Sgt. Scott Flannery went to through the session in Springfield 10 years ago. He said there will likely be two deputies out biking each night, and at least one deputy will be out on the weekends.
"You won't see any of them on U.S. 51 or Route 48 or anything," he said.
Flannery said it's a good way to get deputies out into the community to communicate with people they wouldn't have the opportunity to otherwise.
The International Police Mountain Bike Association, a Baltimore group that trains and educates law enforcement, said "mountain bikes are able to bridge the gap between automobiles and foot patrol," as well as being quiet and cost efficient. The average cost per bike is about $1,200, according to the group.
Illinois agencies from Chicago to Urbana have similar units. Many university campuses also employ police on bicycles.
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The Decatur Police Department also has about 24 active bike officers. The Bike Patrol Unit was created more than 15 years ago.
"It is not a permanent assignment," said Deputy Chief Shane Brandel. "Each of our bike officers attends the IPMBA training course."
Brandel said a couple of their patrol officers are instructors for the IPMBA course as well.
"Our officers are utilized in the bike patrol capacity for different reasons," he said, such as being an example of positive policing or patrolling neighborhood community events like Decatur Celebration.
The specific use is based on staffing, day of the week, time of the day, time of the year and department or community needs, Brandel said.
Macon County sheriff's Deputy James Turner usually patrols on his bike six days a week.
He said he enjoys patrolling on a two wheels because he can get some exercise while encountering people outside of his squad car, which can be intimidating. Kids are more likely to approach the officers and get to chat with them, he said.
Flannery said the connection when biking is different.
"It's an incredibly positive way to interact with the public," he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the name of the organization was the Illinois Police Mountain Bike Association. This version has been corrected.
Contact Kennedy Nolen at (217) 421-6985. Follow her on Twitter: @KNolenWrites