SAPOL was the first police force in Australia to use bicycles. Shortly after the invention of the ‘modern safety bicycle’ in 1880, Police Commissioner Peterswald in 1893 introduced (using his words), “a new novel form of transport for foot police” in the city and major country centres – ten bicycles.
They are to be used, for orderlies, and Foot Constables with large suburban districts to supervise. The Constable will be able to get about the whole of his district every day, and at the shortest notice.Police Commissioner Peterswald (1893)
Their introduction, however, was not without some problems. When first issued a number of police officers refused to ride them saying that they preferred to walk, whilst others complained that at night, they had to continually stop to re-light the bicycle’s acetylene lamp due to rough roads.
Bicycles were used for all types of police work, including enquiries, service of summonses, patrols, and even in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s to detect speeding motorists; the speed limit at that time being 12 mph. By 1943 the bicycle fleet totalled 133 machines. They remained an important means of police station transport until the 1950’s when they were replaced by the police motorcycle and sidecar.
The bicycle on display at the South Australian Police Historical Society is of historical significance and now rare, having been built for SAPOL in 1902 by J.L. Lob & Sons, Rundle Street, Adelaide.