The average person’s reaction to being stopped by an Archbold police officer is not usually delight.
The past few years, though, certain bicyclists have been pleasantly surprised when they have been stopped and gifted with Bicycle Safety Awards.
The award, sponsored by McDonald’s and Beck Insurance, entitles the bicyclist to a free ice cream treat at the restaurant.
“All of our officers have certificates to hand out, but our bicycle officers– Brice Meyer is one of them– probably hand out the most,” said Leo Wixom, police chief.
“They’re in the parks and riding through town, so they see more bicycles on their patrols.”
The program began back when Martin Schmidt was the police chief. It rewards bicyclists who are caught wearing their bike helmets as they ride through town.
“There’s no cost for the village, and we’ve been told that if we run out of certificates, they have more,” Wixom said.
“Our bike officer– he’s always out on patrol, and he’s wearing his bike helmet. We want to promote that.”
“When he’s out on patrol– and not just him but it’s all of the patrolmen– whenever they see it (a cyclist wearing a helmet), they stop and make sure that they make it a point to make it a big deal for the kids, to say, you know what? Here’s a reward because you were being safe.
“At first, they don’t know why we’re there. They’re like, uh-oh, why are the police coming?
“I tell the guys to approach them just like they would anybody else. ‘Hi, how are you doing?’
“Introduce themselves with their name and just say, ‘I see you’re being safe today because you’re wearing your bicycle helmet. We like to reward safety.’
“When the officers approach in that way, it’s not long before the frowns turn to proud grins.
“We tell them, ‘You get to have a special treat because you’re being safe.’ They really appreciate it.”
If the parents aren’t wearing their helmets but the kids are, APD may take the opportunity to make the safety point through their children.
“We’ll say, ‘Well, your mom and dad could have gotten one of these too.’ It’s not an age thing. It’s just a bicycle safety award,” Wixom said.
“Those kids just puff up and say, “Yeah! I’ve got the award, and you don’t.”
The Bicycle Safety Award has been a great tool for building good community relations, the chief said.
“It’s a great way for the community to realize that we’re not just out to give tickets to everybody,” Wixom said.
“We want to interact with the community, and this is one of the ways we can do that with the help of the great sponsors that do it.
“We want to build that relationship where people aren’t afraid to talk to us.
“We want to have that communication with them and not say, uh-oh, why are the police here?
“We want it to be, oh, the police are here. Let’s go talk to them.”–corrected 10 am 7.2.19 to show correct photo attribution.