29 January 2010

Heart warming: St John Ambulance cyclists

St John Ambulance, the charity which provides first aid at public events, has a thriving bike section in London. We ran into one of their training sessions over the weekend by the Barbican.

Seeing all that lurid, fluorescing, hi-viz yellow and orange paint nearly gave me a cardiac. With half a dozen first-aiders on hand, all with panniers full of defibrillators, aspirins, blankets, and I'd like to think flasks of tea and biscuits, this would have been a good place to have one. They have some 'medical gases' in there too, which sounds really cool.

The St John's cyclists were happy to chat and clearly take great enjoyment and pride in their role. They're volunteers, and work for nothing. A bit like being a cycle blogger, only they do a lot more cycling.

London's SJA group has 11 bikes and consists of thirty volunteers, attending a hundred events a year. (There are about a hundred bikes nationally.) London is one of the leaders in cycling first aid, along with Stockholm and Amsterdam, and they work in partnership with the ambulance service.

Bike ambulances are the best way to supply mobile first aid in many crowded modern event situations where vehicles would struggle, particularly in city centres - outdoor concerts, fun runs and so on. (What about marathon runners dressed as carrots and bananas? Do they require special vegetable knives to cut them out of their costumes?).

And they're cool bikes. I wouldn't mind one of those at all. I bet you don't get cut up too often.

Perhaps it's because of all that training they do: National Standard Level 3 cycling and the Public Safety Cycling Advanced Training Course. I didn't know what the National Standard levels are about, but there's a summary of what the levels mean at cyclinginstructor.com.

(Personally I'd like to see a Level 4: You can now mix it in London with the more psycho drivers. Milestones: 1 - You have the 'Customer complaints' page for buses bookmarked at the TfL website; 2 - You can take video of taxis and buses driving dangerously and post it on YouTube, and so on.)

And, if yet another close encounter really does give you a heart attack one day, then you know help is at hand from the SJA bike guys. And you can talk to them about their bike while you're waiting for the ambulance.


  1. Awesome post.

    On that note...I was happy to see police and community support officers on bikes in West Ealing yesterday. Don't know why, but it made me smile.

    Now if only more of the general populace would give up their cars for bicycles...even if it was an occasional thing.

  2. hey im a CRU member for oxfordsshire we have the second biggest collection of bikes in the uk for the organisation, and we will be on hand for the marathon again , i have to say i do love my bike.