Invisible Asterisk: Except Cops

The signs at every Dutchess Rail Trail grade crossing and access point seem unambiguous:

DCRT - No Motor Vehicles
DCRT – No Motor Vehicles

More specific signs appear at random intervals along the trail:

DCRT - All Terrain Vehicles Prohibited
DCRT – All Terrain Vehicles Prohibited

You can’t see it, but every sign includes an invisible asterisk introducing the invisible clause “Except Cops”:

DCRT - Sheriff ATV Convoy
DCRT – Sheriff ATV Convoy

Back when the Dutchess County deputy sheriffs rode huge ATVs that occupied nearly the entire paved trail and bulldozed everybody out of their way, I had the temerity to ask why they weren’t riding bikes. The deputy sheriff told me, rather condescendingly, that they had to be prepared for anything and that there had already been incidents.

These little ATVs aren’t quite so imposing and, more likely, also fit on the new bridges and between the bollards, which may explain everything.

I’ve seen what might be their best use case, although ambulances can attract your attention without an ATV escort:

DCRT - Sheriff ATV Leading Ambulance
DCRT – Sheriff ATV Leading Ambulance

Straight up, I have no objection to police patrols on the rail trail.

do object to the official mindset that simply adds an invisible exception to any inconvenient rule.

As I see it, the root cause of the militarized police and extralegal government activities we’ve seen across the country in recent years boils down to “That law / regulation / rule does not apply to us, because we are the government.”

I can ride the length of the DCRT and back in about two hours, averaging 12 mph, without getting particularly sweaty in the process; the track in that link shows a three hour ride that includes the HVRT and a Walkway scrum, plus the ride from and to home. A police ATV can’t go much faster than that on the trail, even with lights and sirens, because oblivious pedestrians keep getting in the way.

If an officer on a bike can’t keep up with me, then something has gone badly wrong with the job requirements for becoming a deputy sheriff.

As far as “being prepared for anything” goes, the cargo capacity of those little ATVs rules out a bunch of hardware that fit in the big ones: anything seems an elastic concept. A bike can carry enough equipment for many incidents; my tool kit weighs more than some bike frames, the packs have plenty of room to spare, and there’s always the trailer option. I doubt genuine Mil-Spec assault rifles would come in handy on the rail trail.

It’s also not clear why an officer on a bike can’t call for the same backup as an officer on an ATV: those buggies lack fancy VHF antennas, so they’re using a hand-held radio or phone. The 5 W amateur radio on my bike, through a mobile VHF antenna on a crappy ground system, can easily reach local amateur radio repeaters and APRS nodes. Many pedestrians seem absorbed with their phones, so getting microwaves into and out of the trail doesn’t pose much of a problem.

Cops-on-bikes present a much less aggressive aspect than cops-on-ATVs who ignore the rules that apply to the rest of us.

They could do it differently, as the department has both bikes and ATVs.