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Waste of taxpayer funds, Police escorts for bicycle rides by Mayor of Washington DC

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's passion for athletics is well known in the area.

But many people are unaware of how the mayor's rigid training schedule is impacting public safety and traffic in the area.

The mayor trains with his competitive cycling team, D.C. Velo, on the streets of D.C. and in the Maryland suburbs several days a week, usually in the middle of the day.

Over the past several months, WTOP videotaped the mayor and his team on multiple dates as the team - escorted by D.C. Police motorcycle officers - rode on parkways where bikes aren't permitted, ran red lights and stop signs and created traffic backups wherever they went.

Documents obtained by the police union through a Freedom of Information Act request show officers from the Special Events Branch are routinely detailed for the "mayor's bike ride," racking up hundreds of man hours - many of which officers spend waiting for the mayor.

On multiple occasions, WTOP witnessed uniformed officers waiting for one to two hours for the mayor's cycling team to arrive for their training rides.

In many cases, the officers would escort the team from the mayor's home or from a Georgetown cycle shop along Rock Creek Parkway to Hains Point, where the team would spend an hour or more doing laps around the park. All the while, the police officers sit and wait, and then escort the team back to the starting point.

On every ride WTOP witnessed, Fenty and his teammates were seen running red lights and stop signs as the officers used their flashing lights to block oncoming traffic.

Fenty and his team have also taken rides along the Clara Barton Parkway in Bethesda, where the speed limit is 50 miles per hour.

Sgt. David Schlosser, public information officer for the U.S. Park Police, says bicycles are not permitted on the Clara Barton Parkway.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the mayor is entitled to have security with him at all times.

"For the mayor to have a security team when he's out riding his bike is not unusual. It's not uncommon," Lanier tells WTOP. "I don't look at their daily agenda of where they go or what they do. I don't know about running stop signs and stop lights and things of that nature."

Fenty's cycling has a major impact on traffic. The teammates generally ride three or four abreast, taking up one or more lanes of traffic.

Several times, traffic along Rock Creek Parkway, MacArthur Boulevard, and other major roads became snarled with as cars stalled behind the caravan of bikes.

At times, the police officers were seen riding on sidewalks and bike lanes as well as driving into oncoming traffic trying to keep pace with the mayor.

According to sources familiar with the mayor's security detail, Fenty became furious after he spotted WTOP videotaping a recent bike outing.

Last month, Fenty spotted WTOP with a video camera as he rode along Rock Creek Parkway. Minutes later, as Fenty and his teammates rode along the parkway, the mayor darted across the road and onto the bike path, where he dismissed the police escort and took off through the woods.

A few days later, when WTOP caught up with the mayor and his bike team again, they had moved their training ride to Bethesda, where more than 20 cyclists - along with a D.C. Police escort - tied up traffic along Goldsboro Road, MacArthur Boulevard and other major roadways.

AAA spokesman Lon Anderson says he's "disappointed" to hear the mayor is having such a negative impact on traffic.

"It's really sad to hear that we have an elected official that is doing things that are significantly deteriorating traffic for those that use the roads," Anderson tells WTOP.

Traffic isn't the only concern when it comes to the mayor's use of a motorcycle police escort for his bike team.

D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who chairs the committee that oversees the police department, says it's a public safety issue.

"The purpose of the security detail is to protect him personally. Not to assist and enable recreational activities," Mendelson says.

"I hear from folks all the time about their concerns of having enough police in the neighborhoods. What we have here is police officers being taken out of the neighborhood in order to assist with a personal training regiment."

Mendelson isn't alone in his concerns. Kris Baumann with the police union says the use of these uniformed officers raises many problems.

"These motorcycle officers have other responsibilities They should be out performing police functions in the city and instead, are performing these functions for the mayor," Baumann says.

The mayor also uses U.S. Department of Homeland Security vehicles to transport his bike to races and other events.

According to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the mayor's security detail has signed out two Government Services Administration SUVs that are meant for emergency use 25 times in the past two years. Of those 25 dates, 14 coincide with triathlons or other events the mayor participating in.

Chief Lanier defends the practice of transporting the mayor's bike.

"If the detail travels with the mayor and the mayor is going to a biking event, I don't think there's anything wrong with the officers putting the bike in the vehicle they're going to protect the mayor in on an event," Lanier says.

But Baumann and Mendelson disagree, characterizing the practice as a type of "valet service" for the mayor.

"The mayor's security should not be about enabling athletic training," Mendelson says.

Fenty's security detail has also racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses over the first two and a half years of his administration.

According to documents provided through a Freedom of Information Act request, the security detail has spent $364,748.66 in travel through April of 2009.

Fenty is quick to point out that the amount is less than his predecessor, Tony Williams, who traveled frequently, but would not answer how much of that money is spent on transporting his bike.

In a letter from the D.C. Police FOIA officer denying WTOP access to the mayor's security detail's travel receipts, WTOP was told that the information is restricted due to "deliberative process."

Several sources familiar with the mayor's detail tell WTOP the security officers regularly use District funds to transport the bike by plane and charge it to the detail's expense reports.

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Added: Nov-10-2009 Occurred On: Nov-9-2009
By: wet501
In:
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Tags: Washinton DC, Fenty, Mayor, Police, Escort, waste, taxpyer, funds, bicycle, cycling, public safety, illegal, misuse,
Location: Washington, District of Columbia, United States (load item map)
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