Bike the Bend organizers are cautioning riders ahead of this weekend’s annual event.
The city informed the group that the South Bend Police Department will only provide four officers for the twenty-six intersections that need a police presence during Sunday’s biking event. In past years, forty-five officers were made available for the event.
“For the first time, bicycle riders will not have the priority when the vehicle-restricted route intersects with traffic crossings in parts of South Bend,” said Glenda G. Lamont, Bike the Bend president.
“Only police officers or their designees are allowed to direct traffic. Fewer officers at key intersections mean that there could be places where the route crosses a busy thoroughfare where there is no police presence. Fewer officers may mean motorists could accidentally access the route with no officer at hand to advise them that a family bicycle ride is occurring,” Lamont added.
Bike the Bend is an annual event spanning a 31 mile course throughout South Bend, Mishawaka and unincorporated areas of St. Joseph County. The course is vehicle restricted with barricades and cones for the safety of cyclists.
Organizers say that Mishawaka and St. Joseph County “are fully covered by police.”
The notice of the reduce police presence came only a week before Sunday’s scheduled event, according to organizers. The event’s right-of-way permit was approved in February in consultation with city departments. Bike the Bend pays for the double-time wages of the officers and all of the signage material.
The event, which runs from 6:30 am until 11:30 am on Sunday, is touted as the region’s premier family-friendly biking event. Over 2,000 participants are expected from across the region and even other parts of the country.
Ultimately, the organizers say that their goal is to ensure a safe ride.
“Our riders are used to a police presence at all major intersections, so they need to be aware of this unprecedented distinction from our five previous rides so they can be vigilant and safe,” Lamont said.
Police Chief Ron Teachman speculated during a Tuesday press conference that fatigue had contributed to the fact that few officers had offered to cover the event. Teachman estimated that the number of special events requiring an officer presence had more than quadrupled since 2012.
Bike the Bend is still moving forward even without the heavier police presence from previous years.
Image Credit: Daniel Oines, flickr