Monday 17th December: Tracks Closed.

Bike Medics

They wear patches, ride motorbikes and have their own motto.

maddix park mx

 

Motorcycle medics hit the news recently when the St John motorbike squad was put on standby for the opening of Auckland’s new motorway.

These riders live by the rule of “first to care’ and the patch they wear is the patch of their profession as paramedics. 

"The most important aspect of ambulance care is the time it takes to get to the patient," says squad member Simon Gibb pictured here.

"Rapid response is the key factor.  The motorbikes are easily manoeuvrable and allow us to squeeze through traffic – we need about a metre width – get to the scene, make an initial assessment, and, if required, stabilize until backup support arrives.”  

“The bike system works really," he adds. "We are still a bit of a novelty and most people think we are cops so the traffic just opens up”.

Squad members ride Honda ST1300s  - a bike used by the Police force in England - that have been specially kitted out with medical equipment, satellite navigation screen and extra control switches for sirens and the like. The riders’ helmets are all plugged in so that totally “hands-free” calls can be taken on the run. Click here for more info. A squad did exist in Auckland in the 90s but ceased duties until 2008 when the idea was reactivated.

Simon loves his job.  It is fantastic to have the opportunity of doing two things you are passionate about together. The squad tends to be called upon for various marathon and cycling races and special events such as the Santa Parade, the Breast Cancer Runs, Westpac fundraisers and Charity rides, in fact, events where there will be a lot of traffic congestion and foot traffic.   

Deep down the squad members are all bikers so much of this work is done on a voluntary basis. “We would have been going on the rides on our own bikes for the pleasure anyway”, says Simon, “so we just go along on the St John bikes instead.  It’s a great work / pleasure mix”.

So, what do you need to become a bike medic ?

Firstly, you must have the paramedic qualifications.  80% of the current team in Auckland are full time managers with St John’s, all are fully qualified advanced paramedics and all have experience in accident scene management. Simon says to start the basic training ASAP. St Johns takes on kids from 6-8 for basic skills, they progress to cadets, then on to volunteering on ambulances at events and then perhaps onto job opportunities.

Secondly, you must have bike experience. The youngest of the 6 authorized riders in Auckland is in his late 30s. All have been riding bikes since they were young.  Except for one rider who is in transition, they all currently own and do leisure riding on their own personal machines  which range in size from 900cc to 1800cc.  However, even with all this experience, they still had to do the Police Motorcycle Training School. This involved both theory and practical riding. They did some  speed training, pursuit stuff, lane selection work but also a lot of low speed training that is particularly important for when they are following marathon events.  “We can turn the bikes round in a 3 metre circle,” Simon states proudly .

Thirdly, you must have BIG bike experience. The St John’s bikes are large, heavy and powerful. With the all the gear on, a full tank but no rider, they  weigh in at 380kg and can do 300km/hr. Riders need a healthy respect for the power of the bike - no front wheels  off the ground, please -  and they must also be able to pick it up should it topple.  - “We don’t have any women in the squad at present but it’s not because we’re chauvinistic”, says Simon.”Women often just don’t have the strength to do the lift”.

The St John organization (www.stjohn.org.nz) has a kitted out medic bike in Whangarei, Coramandel and Taupo but, since there are more and more requests for events with specific terrain access requirements, bikes are not the only specially kitted out transport option that is available instead of the standard ambulance.  St Johns has golf carts with flashing lights (spotted at Warrior games), Rhinos with stretcher space at horse events and even Sedgeways that are eco-friendly and very practical in large exhibition halls.

Britain has them, the USA has them, Singapore has “scooter” medics and on the African continent, where a sidecar is used to transport the patient (see picture below), they are called bike ambulances. For good reason, the use of bike medics for rapid emergency response is becoming more and more widespread throughout the world.

 
  • Robbie Orpin Auckland Squad member  » Click to zoom ->

    Robbie Orpin Auckland Squad member

  • USA Motorcycle Emergency Response Team member  » Click to zoom ->

    USA Motorcycle Emergency Response Team member

  • Kenyan Bike Ambulance  » Click to zoom ->

    Kenyan Bike Ambulance

  • Bike Ambulance Africa  » Click to zoom ->

    Bike Ambulance Africa

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