Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah

Calling One Adam 12-Speed

Engineering Newsletters
Michael Velenti
2000 Special Issue

The next time you hear a police siren and see flashing lights on city streets, don't expect the accompanying squeal of rubber tires on asphalt, because the officers may be riding electric ZAP (Zero Air Pollution) tactical police bikes. More than 170 law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Boston, and San Francisco use the emission-free, battery-assisted bicycles to fight crime and smog simultaneously.

The ZAP law enforcement bicycles, designed by ZAPworld.com of Sebastopol, Calif., resemble the standard police bikes that are becoming more commonly used to navigate city streets crowded with vehicles and pedestrians, with one major difference. When a ZAP rider receives a radio call requesting speedy action, the officer throws a switch that activates the bike's 300-watt, low-noise motor to travel up to 18 miles per hour faster than pedaling, and with less physical effort. This way, the officer will arrive on the scene in better condition to handle an emergency, rather than out of breath on a conventional bike.

A proprietary sealed, lead-acid, 12-V, 20A dry cell battery provides enough electricity for up to 15 miles of power-assisted cycling. Riders plug an off-board charger into a standard 110-volt outlet to recharge the bike battery with about seven cents worth of electricity.

The ZAP tactical bikes are designed for heavy use, 365 days per year. They are built around the same rugged Smith & Wesson aluminum frame used by standard police bicycles and are equipped with silent rear hubs. Their 24-speed shifts and front and rear V-brakes enable ZAP bike riders to pick up the pace and stop just as quickly as the situation arises.

Various decals are affixed to the ZAP bike frames and rear rack to identify their riders as police officers, sheriff's deputies, or emergency medical technicians. The bicycles are equipped with the NiteRider Pursuit Kit to support their law enforcement role. The kit comprises dual red and white or blue and white headlamps with night and flashing pursuit settings, a 115-decibel siren, a rear rack with taillight, and the battery and motor.

The environmental appeal of the ZAP bikes led San Francisco Bay Area Green Mountain Energy Resources, an organization that specializes in providing electricity from renewable energy sources, to purchase a ZAP tactical patrol bike for the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. The Salt Lake City Clean Cities Coalition, established in 1993 to promote the use of alternative fuel vehicles, recently purchased 10 ZAP tactical bikes through a grant co-funded by the U.S. Department of the Environment and Utah Power. The coalition made the purchase in anticipation of the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to attend the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Fittingly, it is Los Angeles, the city that served as the setting for the classic television dramas Dragnet, Adam-12, and Emergency! as well as today's syndicated Pacific Blue, concerning patrol bike police on Southern California's beaches, that has most enthusiastically embraced the ZAP police bikes. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has instituted a training program to deploy more than 100 ZAP bikes to 20 local agencies in the City of Angels, including L.A. Zoo Security, UCLA Police and Parking, L.A. Harbor Police, and LAX Police.

"Our bicycle deployment program is aimed at familiarizing customers and the community with electric transportation and its environmental benefits," said Angelina Galiteva, director of strategic planning for the water and power department.

The agency's half-day course acquaints officers with the differences between the electric bikes and pedal-powered models. "The training school will give participating officers a greater appreciation of how electric bikes can help them in their patrol duties," said officer Ken Kimari, a ZAP bike training instructor. Kimari is an electric bike patrol veteran of the Santa Rosa, Calif., police department.

Another two-wheeled police veteran is Bruce Hophengardner, fleet sales manager at ZAPworld.com, who rode an electric bike as a sergeant on the Centerville, Ohio, police department before moving to the West Coast. "We are working to expand the use of ZAP bikes in small towns, such as Pittsburg, Calif., beyond police, fire, and EMT departments to travel applications that do not require high speeds or long distances. Communities could build bike charging stations so that commuters can rent ZAP bikes to travel to bus stops," said Hophengardner.

ZAPworld.com is also exploring opportunities for its electric bikes in overseas police departments. It will provide the same benefits cited by Kimari of the Santa Rosa P.D.: "We like to use the bicycles, because we can catch people faster."

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