WOONSOCKET — The pair of bicyclists heading up Social Street Monday evening had a bit more on their minds than a little summer recreation.
And even though their outfits might have been more fitting for a ride on the Blackstone River Bikeway, Patrolmen Michael Flood and John Raymond were still on duty and fully equipped as police officers.
Their four-hour shift on the bikes was part of the Police Department’s community policing efforts and was putting the two officers in closer contact with the residents they serve.
“I think it’s a great way to have personal interaction with people out in the community,” Flood said as he stuck a leg out to support a stop on the sidewalk.
“You can just say hi to people and you’re not as confined as you would be in a police cruiser,” he said.
The officers do get to wear a modified uniform for their rides, blue cargo shorts to hold their gear and gun belts, fluorescent lemon-lime shirts for road safety and, of course, white bike helmets marked “police” in black lettering.
Flood and Raymond were on a tour of the city’s public parks, the downtown area, and also would complete a second circuit of the Woonsocket portion of the Blackstone Valley Bikeway when returning to the River’s Edge Recreational Complex before sunset.
“We just try to make sure that nothing is going wrong and provide assistance where we can,” Flood said.
The bike path has been very busy as warm weather settled across the area and seems to be growing in popularity with active residents, according to the officers.
“There were a lot of people on the bike path tonight doing all kinds of things,” Raymond said.
Some people were just out walking but the officers also saw a lot of runners, bicyclists and roller bladers. People also practiced on the city’s soccer fields at the complex and there is even a boat launch there for canoes and kayaks.
While riding in the city for their checks at other local parks, Flood and Raymond stopped by River Island Park for the kick-off of the new “Nightvision” community program for local young people. The program running from 5 to 9 will feature a number of activities for participants through the summer and Flood and Raymond will be stopping in to meet residents through their bicycle duty.
“Like Mike said, it is a good way to interact with the community. You can get more personal than you could while sitting in a police cruiser,” Raymond, who has also worked with local young people as a school resource officer, said of the bicycle duty.
The officers still do regular police shifts and ride the bike patrols as a separate detail. But if a crime occurs near where they are on duty, they will respond and assist other department members in handling the situation. There are some patrol advantages to speeding along on a relatively silent bicycle and coming up on someone who may be considering doing something illegal.
“When some people see that we are police officers coming up on them, they appear to be a little shocked,” Flood said. The bike patrols also help provide a sense of security to people out on the bikepath who see the officers roll by at different times during the evening.
Raymond said he also likes the workout the officers get to put in while making their rounds. “You get some great cardio on the bike,” Raymond said before the pair mounted their rides and pedaled off on their final tour of the bikepath.