Disaster Zone

Motorcycle and Bicycle Medics

Another faster solution for urban areas.

by Eric Holdeman / January 4, 2019

I'm thinking about the upcoming Viadoom scenario of traffic in Seattle where there are sure to be delays in both the response of pre-hospital care and the transport of patients due to traffic congestion.

Note: This is an update from my original blog post. Seattle actually considered motorcycle paramedics back in 2007.  See text below:

Seattle Fire Department paramedics may soon be riding to the rescue on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Mayor Greg Nickels  Originally published September 12, 2007 at 12:00 am Updated September 12, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Mayor Greg Nickels rolled out a proposal today that would put motorcycle medics on downtown streets in hopes they could zip through traffic snarls faster than ambulances and fire trucks.

“Our philosophy is simple. The best response is the fastest response,” Nickels said. “Other cities like Miami and Pittsburgh have found motorcycles can move faster.” The motorcycles could also fit into tight spaces that fire trucks couldn’t after an earthquake, the mayor said.

Fire Chief Gregory Dean noted that rescue trucks get caught in downtown traffic no matter how loud their sirens blare. Congestion is expected to get worse downtown, with 63 miles of street construction scheduled in next two years."

Then today in Israel:

See this solution being used in Israel. There they have both motorcycle and bicycle responders to medical emergencies. It likely won't help with transport, but aid could get there faster when you are facing gridlock.

I also noted before Christmas that when I was in a urban neighborhood with narrow streets, and parking on both sides — jammed full of cars. I don't think a traditional ambulance could get down a couple of streets that I drove slowly down the middle of. 

Which brings me to the thought about solutions for the problems we have in disaster mitigation, response and recovery. There are likely no "silver bullets" that revolutionize everything. Instead, progress is made in tiny baby steps, where incrementally we are able to make a difference and find better ways. 

Don Villeneuve shared the Seattle Times 2007 piece about Seattle.