With just a twist of the handlebar, Newport Beach police bicycle officers can whiz through neighborhoods and shopping malls and up and down the crowded streets of the Balboa Peninsula faster than ever before.
Officers ditched their traditional patrol bicycles this month in exchange for two tricked-out Pedego electronic bikes.
Unlike standard mountain bikes, the black e-bikes can reach 25 mph and are outfitted with special features, such as a switch that tightens the shock absorbers and special tires that allow officers to pedal harder and move faster.
The lithium ion battery packs the same type of energy used to power a Tesla luxury sedan and ensures that officers will be able to ride for their entire shift without getting tired — a difficult feat on traditional police bikes.
"This is just another tool to help us in a beach city," said Newport Beach police Lt. Damon Psaros.
In order to reach the maximum speed on the roughly 60-pound bike, riders engage the battery and pedal simultaneously, said Joe Carter, who owns the Pedego dealership in Corona del Mar, which sold the bikes to the department.
Although the industry is fairly young, electronic bikes have increased in popularity with law enforcement and the general public over the past several years, Carter said.
Pedego, just one of several electronic-bike shops in Southern California, has stores in coastal communities from Santa Barbara to San Diego, as well as in other countries.
The majority of Carter's business in CdM comes from people who rent the bikes to ride around the beach at $14 per hour and then become interested in purchasing one.
In addition to the mountain bikes, Carter also sells beach cruisers, bikes designed for commuting and ones designed with off-road capabilities in a variety of colors and styles.
"Beach cruisers are really popular around here," he said. "The off-road bike is also popular with surfers who put their board on a rack and ride to the water. It's a lot easier than hauling their board through the sand."
As the weather heats up and more people make the trek onto the Balboa Peninsula, the bikes will allow officers to respond to calls without being forced to sit in dreaded beach traffic, Psaros said.
"Pedaling up and down the peninsula can be quite a jaunt," he said. "With the e-bikes, you can engage the electricity and go much faster."
While the bikes are generally priced from $2,000 to $3,000, the department spent about $4,000 each on the bicycles with all the added features.
The expenditure may prove to be worthwhile in fighting crime.
Newport Beach crime is largely property theft, as opportunistic thieves prey on people leaving their cars or homes unlocked.
The electric bikes will allow officers to patrol neighborhoods more inconspicuously than driving a traditional black-and-white patrol car, Psaros said.
"They give you a stealthy approach," he said. "They're quiet, but they move."