The medics who were first on scene to try to help actress Carrie Fisher when she collapsed following a heart attack recently didn't show up in the usual ambulance. They arrived on two wheels- bikes.
More and more big cities- including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and even Cody, Wyoming- have fire departments that are going to medical teams on bikes. These medics on wheels can deliver quick emergency care by darting in and out of heavy traffic, maneuvering through large crowds or cutting across parks easier than a crew in an ambulance.
In other cities across the country, bike medics patrol airports, sporting events, entertainment areas and special events such as festivals, concerts and marathons. They are especially useful when roads are closed or congested as medics on bikes can navigate crowded streets and sidewalks swiftly.
Today, at least 500 agencies have EMS bike teams. Fire departments, EMS agencies, hospitals and private ambulance services run teams. In New York, the all-volunteer Central Park Medical Unit’s 10-member bicycle team patrols the 843-acre Central Park many weekends during the warmer months, as well as concerts and other big events.
Most use mountain bikes, which can carry a heavy load and maneuver through traffic and crowds and around obstacles. Bike medics carry first aid and trauma supplies, oxygen, IVs, cardiac monitors and defibrillators. The bike and equipment combined can weigh up to 50 pounds, so cyclists need to be in good shape.
The bike medics can also save money. In Cody, for example, it cost less than $3,000 to set up West Park Hospital’s unit with three bikes, uniforms and saddlebags, versus buying and equipping an ambulance, which can run as much as $280,000.