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Lean and green: ASU Police rely less on vehicles

September 07, 2010

Arizona State University’s Police Department utilizes innovative transportation methods to patrol the university’s campuses.

Piagios, Segways and bicycles are a sampling of the transportation options ASU Police officers use as they patrol the university.

Riding a bicycle around campus not only helps officers stay in shape, but it also provides a quick, sustainable way to navigate through campus. Mountain bikes that the officers use are easier to maneuver along crowded walkways and bicycles can take rough treatment such as going up and down stairs while offering versatility in cruising speeds.

“We were the first police department in Arizona to use mountain bikes,” said ASU Police Department Commander Jim Hardina. “We train officers all over the state.”

Officers from Chandler, Gilbert, Goodyear and Grand Canyon National Park represent some of the agencies that have been trained by the ASU Police Department through their nationally certified training program. Besides learning how to go up and down stairs while riding a bike, the officers learn how to negotiate curbs, emergency braking, tight turning and the ups and downs of tackling an obstacle course.

“Training culminates with a mountain bike ride to test their skills in Papago Park or McDowell Mountain Regional Park,” Hardina said. Riders also have to negotiate the stairs on the footbridge over University Drive on the Tempe campus.

Officers at ASU also tool around on three-wheeled Piagios that are basically snowmobiles equipped with wheels instead of skis, Hardina said.

“They’re smaller so they’re more maneuverable to operate on campus,” he added.

Piagios don’t require as much technical skill as motorcycles so the vehicles are also easier to handle. “You can’t tip them over,” Hardina said.

A motorcycle license is still required to operate a Piagio and the ASU Police Department requires its officers who drive the vehicles to undergo training. The department also uses motorcycles for patrols.

“The idea is to get officers out of a car,” Hardina said.

ASU police officers who aren’t surrounded by metal in a vehicle are more visible and approachable to the university community and they can see more of what’s happening around them, he added.

Segways are another option that are especially good for added visibility since officers are perched on the vehicle platform that puts them above most people. And they’re not slow – in campus terms – with a top speed of 12.5 miles per hour.

Using an alternative to cars simply makes sense on the Tempe campus.

“During the daytime, you can get through campus quicker on a bike than in a car, even when you drive around campus on the streets,” Hardina said.

Cars are still used at ASU, but the vehicles that need to be phased out of service are replaced with sustainable Ford Escape hybrids. Three Ford Escape hybrids are currently in use in addition to other cars.

The department also contributes to sustainable initiatives through recycling and the ASU Police Department’s headquarters in Tempe is a gold-certified building according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) U.S. Green Building Council standards.