The maneuverability of these vehicles on crowded sidewalks and their ability to navigate narrow, crowded driveways offer advantages over what is provided by more traditional police vehicles.
Bicycle patrols are more common in temperate urban areas where limited coverage areas are available. The use of bicycles instead of cars can make police officers more easily approachable, especially in low-crime areas. Bicycles can also be issued to police officers to enhance the mobility and range of foot patrols. Bicycles are also effective crime-fighting tools when used in densely populated urban areas. The bikes are nearly silent in operation and many criminals do not realize that an approaching person on a bike is actually a police officer. Furthermore, if the criminal attempts to flee on foot, the riding police officer has a speed advantage while able to quickly dismount if necessary.
Some countries retained the police bicycle while others dispensed with them for a time. Late in the century, urban bicycle patrols became more common, as the mobility of car-borne officers was increasingly limited by traffic congestion and pedestrianisation.
The bicycles are custom designed for law enforcement use. Many manufacturers of bicycles offer police models, including Trek, Cannondale and Fuji. Other companies offer police, fire and EMS specific models, including Volcanic Manufacturing in Olympia, Washington. Many are equipped with a rear rack and bag to hold equipment.
They are equipped with front and rear lighting systems, with a water bottle battery. The lights can be LED, or halogen, or sometimes Xenon strobes. A headlight(s) are on the front, along with red or blue flashing lights. In the UK emergency service bicycles were allowed blue flashing lights from 21 October 2005. A red light is often attached to the rear of the bike.