Above: Example of Bike Life shenanigans*, via YouTube, involving pedal bikes and motorized bikes. *Video not from NH.
MANCHESTER, NH — The next time you see a herd of young people on bicycles popping wheelies and clogging up the main roadways, there are two things you should do, says Manchester Capt. Todd Boucher.
“Don’t get into an altercation with them, and call police and let us know where they are,” says Boucher.
Such daredevil herds of riders are actually part of a trend known as “Bike Life,” which includes pedal bicycles and off-road motorized vehicles and dirt bikes. Riders travel in groups in places they aren’t authorized to do so, primarily in the middle of highway traffic, Boucher says.
While it’s not a new phenomenon here in Manchester, warmer weather is making it high-visibility activity, and police are beginning to get more complaints. Bike Life was a hot topic recently on a community Facebook Page, in a thread which had hundreds of comments.
“We’re well aware of it. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no violence associated with these kids. If I had any advice for people, it would be just be careful. If you encounter kids on bikes, stay in your cars and don’t get into an altercation — and call us and let us know where the group is,” says Boucher, who heads Manchester’s Community Policing unit.
Reports of “bike gangs” impeding traffic by riding in the middle of streets and refusing to move for motorists was a regular occurrence last summer, Boucher says.
“Not to pump them up, but they are talented riders. There is some skill with these kids, and so far, we’re not aware of any violence,” says Boucher, who is not giving them a pass for the prowess.
More like it’s too bad that in a city with a skate park just off Maple Street, where bicycles are welcome, the Bike Life trend includes pushing the legal limits of ridership, and creating a dangerous situation on city roads.
Boucher says enforcement of the law when it comes to this particular situation is difficult, due to the fact that kids on mountain bikes, ORHVs and dirt bikes are capable of dispersing and disappearing in different directions as soon as police show up.
“We might catch up with one or two, but as with any pursuit, we have to evaluate is it worth the risk to chase kids on bikes in traffic,” Boucher says. “The more we chase the more risk there is to them of getting hit.”
And aside from that, the only crime they are committing is not following the rules of the road, which only rises to a violation.
There have been times when officers have caught up with some of the bike offenders, which allows for an opportunity to have a conversation, or send a message, says Boucher.
“We’ve also had kids where we’ve impounded their bikes until a parent came, and we make them show proof of ownership of bike, and if the bike’s not registered, we have them register it,” Boucher says. “Our big thing is we don’t want to see someone get hurt, or have a motorist intimidated to drive downtown, or anywhere.”
And reports of “bike gangs” do come in from most corners of the city, describing nuisance bike riders.
“It’s not just downtown or South Willow — they’re all over the place,” Boucher says. “We have identified several of them, just from those times when we see them parked and we can go up to them and have a conversation. But as I said, it’s difficult to catch up to them when there are traveling in numbers.”
If you have a complaint about bicycle traffic on the roads, contact Manchester Police at 603-668-8711 and talk to someone in dispatch, Boucher says.
“When we have an officer available we’ll send them out there, but if you’re by yourself, I wouldn’t recommend engaging with a group of people,” Boucher says.