Bicycle response team rolls out on Australia’s Gold Coast
In Queensland, Australia, the smooth sound of nobbled tires rolling along the Gold Coast’s pathways belies the urgency of the situation critical care paramedic Ricky Arnold and advanced care paramedic Warren Herlt are about to face.
It’s 11:01 a.m. on a Monday, and the pair has just been dispatched from the tourist strip’s iconic Cavil Mall.
Utilizing the bikeway along the Esplanade and Northcliffe Terrace, within three minutes the pair reaches Northcliffe Surf Club where a man has been pulled from the surf.
Fortunately, the male patient is conscious but has swallowed water, so he’s assessed and eventually transported to Gold Coast University Hospital in an ambulance.
What’s different about this incident is that it’s the first for Queensland Ambulance Service’s (QAS) new Bicycle Response Team (BRT).
The BRT was formed to bolster the QAS response to Gold Coast 2018 (GC2018) Commonwealth Games.
The bicycles allow paramedics to reach patients without having to negotiate traffic snarls, closed roads or pedestrian-only areas.
In particular, Festival Zones in place during GC2018 were expected to draw large crowds, and the BRT added to the suite of response options available.
Launched in November 2017, the team works seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The BRT cover an area from Southport down to Mermaid Beach. Personnel ride Merida Big7 hardtail mountain bikes with safety markings, lighting and a primary response kit that includes an automatic external defibrillator (AED), advanced airway kit and major/minor trauma kit.
First, though, the members of the BRT were put through a practical two-day training course with the Queensland Police Service’s Bike Squad, where they learned bike handling skills and maintenance.
For former elite cyclist and Coral Gardens advanced care paramedic Jane McDonald, the BRT was an opportunity too good to pass up.
“It just seemed like a job that was made for me—to be able to combine riding while at work, and be involved in a program in its infancy, that’s really nice,” McDonald said. “I love riding my bike—when I get to do it at work it’s even better.”
The team tested its large-event capabilities during Schoolies (2–3 weeklong high school graduation parties) where members honed their local knowledge.
“Our hotel knowledge since Schoolies has lifted and continually improves every day, McDonald said. “We’re all getting really good at knowing where we’re going.”
“We now know the arcades,” McDonald adds. “We know where we need to get to and we can utilize those arcades, smaller side streets and the malls as well.”
Averaging around six to seven cases a day, varying from near drownings, patients with chest pain, collapsed patients and cut feet, the team ride anywhere from 20 to 60 kilometers (12.5–37.3 miles) in a shift.
“We’re riding hard, we’re really putting in, and it adds a bit of excitement too,” McDonald continues.
“It’s a really motivated, enthusiastic crew that we’ve got,” McDonald says of her team. “Everyone is really keen to make it work.”
The team operates from a customized unit based at the Surfers Paradise beachfront. They can then be deployed to other areas as needed. The visible presence of the team has been well-received by the general public.
“We get stopped for photos a lot.” McDonald says. “It’s really common for us to get flagged down [for photos],” Jane says. “People come up to us and want to talk about the bikes and want to have a chat to us.”
A second team
The trial of the BRT unit proved successful enough for the concept to be expanded to Brisbane. The Brisbane BRT has rolled into action and is tasked with responding to incidents in the CBD, Fortitude Valley, Spring Hill and South Brisbane, whether they be in parklands, shopping precincts or private residences.
Acknowledgement: The original version of this story was written by the Queensland Ambulance Service media unit and appeared in the Summer 2017–2018 edition of QAS Insight Magazine. It is reproduced here in its amended form with permission.