They may not be able to pedal as fast as Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, but maneuvering around campus at peak traffic times just got a little easier for West Virginia Universitys police force.

The Department of Public Safety recently received two new police mountain bikes, bringing WVU s bicycle fleet to five.

We actually started our police mountain bike program in 1999 with the purchase of two bikes and the introduction of a training program,said Sgt. Danny Camden, who conducts training for the department.We added a third bike in 2000 and two more in late summer.

Three WVU police officers have completed police bicycle training and are certified to properly operate the two-wheelers. Two others are currently undergoing the certification process.

The specialty bikes, manufactured by TREK , are d esigned to take a bit more punishment than a normal mountain bike, Camden said, making it easier to jump a curb or dodge an obstacle.

TREK has a special bike and training program for public safety and law enforcement personnel,he noted.I guess you could say the cycles blend the best qualities of a road and mountain biketheyre fast but solid.

And theyve proven to be agreat assetto the department, said Chief Bob Roberts, especially on busy and congested fall football weekends and any type of high-traffic situation such as move-in days at the residence halls or the annual back-to-school concert on the first night of fall classes.

The cycles were also used during the recent Fourth of July visit by President George W. Bush, when University Avenue and the old stadium loop area were closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic,Roberts said.

Camden believes that community policing by mountain bike is just as effective as being in a cruiser or on foot patrol.

Ive never encountered a problem stopping someone when patrolling by bike,he said.We may even be seen as friendlier, more approachableespecially with the renewed interest in biking as a sport or hobby.

And getting around campus by bicycle isnt as difficult as one might think.

The University has done a lot to improve sidewalks and roadways around campus the last several years,Camden noted.Its really quite easy to get around.

Except for those hills.

You definitely have to be in good physical shape to patrol by bike. Its not for everyone. Its also a plus if officers have prior biking experience or just simply enjoy riding as a hobby,said Camden, who happens to be an avid biker in his spare time.

Officers are trained in various bike handling skills and are required to wear and carry safety equipment. They must also be familiar with all applicable state and local laws governing cyclists.

And while the bikes are more likely to be used in good weather, Camden said special clothing has been purchased for outfitting an officer in adverse conditionssuch as rain and cold weatheralthough patrols normally stop when the snow begins to fly.

The decaled police cycles, plus uniforms and various safety and first aid equipment, each cost approximately $2,000.

The City of Morgantown has the same type of bikes and training program.