By Megan Sando
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Fifteen years ago, Kevin Radley saw an opening at the Stillwater Police Department’s motorcycle unit and wanted a change. It also happened to be the first time he had ridden a motorcycle.
Now a master patrol officer, Radley has been on the unit on and off for seven years.
“Training is the toughest part,” he said.
Each officer must undergo 80 hours and two full weeks at a motorcycle patrol academy.
“The school has been one of the most physically demanding in my 23 years at the police department,” he said.
Radley attended two training institutions, his first in Kansas City and the second at the Tulsa Police Department. The training begins with the basics of riding, then advances over the course of two weeks, building on different aspects of working on the motorcycle.
Drivers develop skills and abilities that allows them to respond to each scenario on a motorcycle, emergency or otherwise. Radley said part of the training involves precision maneuvering at slow speeds, while learning to control the motorcycle.
“Slow precision riding is the toughest part of training, because you fall over a lot,” he said. “You have to pick it up and keep driving.”
When going that slow, he said drivers must rely on technique — controlling the clutch, throttle and brake. Just like a bicycle, most motorcycles tend to stay vertical when turning. It is difficult to make them lean over to make tight turns without breaking an ankle if it leans too far. The motorcycle is eight-feet long and must be turned in a 12-foot circle, similar to a traffic lane.
The 2013 Electra Glide, leased from Harley-Davidson, weighs approximately 900 to 1,000 pounds, fully equipped with radios and radars.
Weather is also a difficult adjustment. Like any other outside job, learning to adapt in 100-degree temperatures by staying well-hydrated is imperative.
“I can handle the heat better, because at least I can go inside and get cool,” he said. “In the winter, fingers start to go numb.”
The unit works mostly traffic and traffic accidents, acting as a supplement to the patrol unit. The unit is also there to provide escorts in parades and marathons. Over the years, Radley is familiar with aiding events and funerals.
For him, part of the appeal of being in the motorcycle unit is accessibility, too.
“From a citizen standpoint, it is easier to make contact with someone on a bike than a car,” Radley said.
Although the usual staff is two officers, he is riding solo this summer. “In Stillwater, I can work all across town instead of one area. This includes areas of town with more traffic accidents.”
In warmer weather, people need to be more aware of cyclists, Radley said.
Stillwater police spokesman Capt. Randy Dickerson said the unit started more than 30 years ago. He said each officer in the unit is thoroughly prepared with training and are experienced drivers.
Radley estimates he drives 50 to 100 miles per day. With weather permitting, he rides four days and 40 hours per week. If he is able to work traffic only, without filing reports, he spends all day on the motorcycle. When school is in session, drivers will find him at all the school zones in town.
For Radley, the change prompted him to ride in his spare time. He owns the same model of motorcycle, a 2008.
“Patrol work is much different from pleasure riding,” he said. “Riding on the patrol is more aggressive — turning around in traffic, catching up to cars and increasing speeds.”
If there was one thing he wants motorcyclist to know, it is that they need to be aware they are not seen by cars, and it is imperative to be a defensive driver.
“I’ve seen accidents where if the driver had been in a defensive mindset, the accident could have been avoided,” he said.