CARDIFF, South Wales -- Paramedics are using pedal power to save lives in Cardiff this Christmas - after switching to their bikes for city centre medical emergencies. The Welsh Ambulance Service is teaming up with St John Wales to pilot a First Responder Cyclist (FRC) scheme to prepare for the influx of shoppers and revellers flocking to the city during the next month.
After beginning last weekend, the scheme will see FRCs use mountain bikes to cover the city's streets, pedestrian precincts and shopping arcades.
Each of the cycling FRCs will be equipped with a mini defibrillator and a resuscitation kit.
But, as in all call-outs for Community First Responders dispatched by the ambulance service, an emergency ambulance or rapid response vehicle will also be on hand.
Bob Tooby, the Ambulance Trust's head of service for the Cardiff and Vale area, said the scheme means paramedics can get to emergencies in pedestrianised areas which ambulances often find more difficult to access.
He said: "The main advantage of this scheme is that the cyclists will be able to weave their way through traffic and pedestrians and get to a patient's side quickly, even if they're in one of the arcades or in a large store." Keith Dunn, chief executive of St John Wales, said: "This is another great example of St John working in partnership with the Welsh Ambulance Service to benefit the wider community.
"This new pilot scheme will ensure people in Cardiff receive lifesaving treatment quickly and effectively and we're really pleased to be involved."
Cycling lifesavers will be in contact with the ambulance control through their mobile phones, and the scheme will run on a shift basis.
The service has more than 1,000 Community First Responders across the country who are trained to provide an immediate response to patients in their communities.
The novel idea originated in London, where 60 ambulance staff are employed as part of a similar scheme.
Paramedic Tom Lynch - a British and European BMX champion as a youngster - was sitting in traffic in his ambulance responding to an emergency call-out when the thought of combining his two passions occurred to him.
He said: "I thought I could do this quicker on my bike.
"When I got back to the station and started talking about it, everyone just laughed at me, but I knew I could do the job on my bike because of my previous history."