Members of the Saskatoon police bike patrol unit prepare for their shift. (Alixandra Stoicheff/CBC)

The bike patrol unit of the Saskatoon police marked its 20th year of operation Tuesday.

Sgt. Patrick Barbar said the unit can sometimes spot crimes that would not be seen from a patrol car.

"One of my first days on the bike was interrupting a drug transaction in progress where I actually saw drugs change hands for money, which is something you would never see in a patrol car," Barbar said.

The Saskatoon police department started bike patrols after learning of successful programs in Calgary and Seattle, Washington.

The unit in Saskatoon began with six officers and has since grown to 17.

Glenn Thomson, who is a retired veteran of the police department, recalled some of the advantages of the unit.

"It's most efficient at getting into places that you can't get with a patrol car," Thomson, who was a staff sergeant, said. "Plus it's so quiet that you can come up on people on back lanes or on the streets and they don't hear you coming."

Saskatoon has officers on bikes between April and November.

Depending on the day, officers cover between 40 and 155 kilometres per day.

With files from CBC's Alixandra Stoicheff