Two-wheeled Paramedics

A lot of skeptics and naysayers fight against the build-up of cycling infrastructure in our cities because they say it is a waste of funds that could be spend on more important infrastructure. I have had a conversation about this with many a friend, and have read blog posts, editorials, etc., about the subject. One of the favorite arguments I see being made against cycling infrastructure: “What about hospitals? You can’t carry a patient in critical need on a bicycle.”

There is a great deal of truth to that point, and until now I have simply accepted it as a practical truth. I would never promote cycling as more important as saving a life in need, which, until now has meant that we need roads and we need ambulances. But no longer is the realm of life-saving solely in the hands of automobiles and helicopters. There is a real-life example of bicycle paramedics in the UK: a fully functional unit of paramedics that ride bikes and still comply with governmental regulations for response times. While this may be old news to some, it is new to me – and provides a much-needed burst in excitement about bicycles being viable alternatives to automobiles.

I came across this story on the TreeHugger website. To me, it is a testament that there is wide-spread hope in the bicycle as a viable alternative to the automobile. While a bicycle paramedic cannot necessarily carry a patient to a hospital on a bike, they CAN respond to an emergency – often arriving sooner than an ambulance, especially in crowded metropolitan areas – and stabilize a patient until a larger transport vehicle can arrive on the scene.

Whether or not you think bicycle paramedics have a practical application in our cities, you have to admit: this is a pretty cool story and a hopeful day for cyclists.

[a more traditional journalistic story can be found on the BBC news website, where the image above was taken from.] 


  1. Ghost Rider October 29, 2007 8:45 pm 

    Jeff, you’ll be pleased to learn that in your own hometown of Mobile, Alabama, the city fire rescue crews use bicycle paramedics as first responders during the Mardi Gras parades, and have been doing so since the early 90s (the last time I was there for Joe Cain Day).

    I was blown away then — what a great idea, I thought! The bike paramedics had some really badass bike setups, too…including some really high-powered lights and sirens on their handlebars!

  2. Roman Holiday October 30, 2007 5:39 am 

    I am an EMT & we do big events on bikes. We can get to the patients quickly, stabilize them & then call for the bus, if need be. It’s a great thing.

  3. Ghost Rider October 30, 2007 6:25 am 

    Roman Holiday…tell us about your setup! Does your department hook you up with cool bikes?

    Aren’t you getting your RN certification, too (seems like I read that somewhere)?

  4. Val October 30, 2007 9:38 am 

    You can’t take someone to the hospital on a bicycle? Says who!? How about: not to mention: Just because we don’t do it here, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It’s true that none of these patients will be travelling through the city to the hospital at 45-50 mph, but that’s not necessarily such a great idea, either. Ambulances get involved in high speed collisions, too.

  5. Roman Holiday October 30, 2007 10:42 am 

    I’m a volunteer EMT, so I used my own bikes. It’s usually my 1994 Gary Fisher rigid mt. bike. I carry first aid supplies in a large fanny pack & a radio. We’ll work a big crowd, like a concert, etc., by riding around looking for people who may need us. After we assess the patient, and if needed, I’ll call for transportation. Yeah, I’m working on my RN with hopes of working the ER or OR.

  6. Jeff Rossini October 30, 2007 11:39 am 

    Val, thanks for those great links!

    I am totally with you that it CAN be done, but the burden is certainly on us to PROVE that to others.

  7. Nick October 30, 2007 1:32 pm 

    Bicycle paramedics as first responders is a great idea for large cities as well, especially at rush hour. Several times, on my way in to work, I’ll hear sirens from a fire truck or ambulance ahead of me, catch up, and eventually leave the sirens well behind me. Bicycles can move through gridlock and change routes easily. It’s not a replacement for an ambulance, but it’s a good way to get a skilled medical worker with basic equipment on site ASAP, which often makes more of a difference than how quickly the patient is moved to the hospital.

  8. Joel October 30, 2007 6:06 pm 

    I was in New Orleans last New Year’s and for the Sugar Bowl. They use bike paramedics around major events and whenever they have a big even in the Quarter. After riding with one of their medic supervisors on NYE I got to see first hand how impossible it would be for ambulances to get to patients in the Quarter rapidly. They use the bike medics to to get in and stabilize patients and only run ambos when they need them. If you’re interested let me know and I can send you some pics.

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