One of our goals for the year 2011 is to complete our “dictionary” of Utility Cycling. In our 2010 Utility Cycling Year in Review, I listed out all of the categories and subcategories of utility cycling that we have conceptualized over the last year and a half. While we have written on many of the topics covered in our list, there are still a number remaining. So for 2011, we will be writing posts on all of the topics that haven’t yet been covered here. The first of those posts for this year was about the health benefits of utility cycling, but there are still many remaining, especially on the topics of family cycling, bicycle infrastructure, community building, and many more.
To that end, I wanted to go back and review a series of posts that I wrote a little over a year ago in the category of bike services. Bike services cover a wide range of utility cycling activities from advertising to garbage collection to land service and much more. A service is the act of providing somebody with something. This is conceptualized somewhat differently from bike delivery, the intention of which is specifically to take something from one place or person to another. A service is somewhat more broad, in the sense that it means providing people with something they need or want. In the case of bike services, these services are, naturally, administered by bicycle.
Emergency and Patrol Services by Bike
One of the categories of utility cycling services that I find especially fascinating is that of emergency and patrol services by bike. Emergency and patrol services cover police bikes, fire service bicycles, EMS (emergency medial service) bikes, search and rescue bike services, bike patrol, and military bicycles. Emergency and patrol services by bike cover any activity that involves responding to some kind of emergency, accident, or incident by trained professionals, who also happen to be riding bicycles. One of the main advantages of using a bicycle in an emergency situation is that the bicycle is extremely mobile and can navigate dense crowds or areas where a vehicle cannot go. Bicycles are also much more efficient than a human on foot, as they are both faster and capable of carrying greater loads.
Image Source: Bike Hugger
While emergency and patrol services by bike are not as common these days as they were when bicycles first appeared, they are making a comeback in many places, as agencies begin to realize the benefits of using bicycles to respond to incidents of many types. However, it is important to note that using bicycles for emergency response or patrol activities does require a fair bit of training and investment on the part of the agency undertaking the service. Nonetheless, in many cases a bicycle can be the most effective tool for the job, and it is important to have a number of different options for responding to emergencies and other incidents.
Review of Police, Fire, EMS, and SAR Services by Bike
- Police Bikes: Law enforcement is one of the emergency and patrol service areas where bicycles are most commonly used. Police officers cite their increased sensory capabilities when on a bicycle, which allows them to be better patrol a given area. Officers also cite the “approachability” of a officer on a bike over an officer in a car, which can improve community relationships with law enforcement officers.
Image Source: Urbandale Police
- EMS Bikes: EMS (emergency medical service) bikes are often used for special events, where large crowds make navigation of a vehicle to respond to a health emergency difficult. EMS bikes are also very common in the developing world for transporting patients longer distances without vehicles or over rough terrain.
- Fire Service Bicycles: Fire service bicycles are more a thing of the past, due in part to the large amount of equipment that it takes to fight a fire, which makes using a bicycle impractical. However, the use of bicycles for fire service has recently made a comeback in some places due to their ability to help control arson and talk to the community about fire safety.
- Search & Rescue Bike Services: Using bicycles for search and rescue is a somewhat new idea, but it is being commonly deployed in mountainous areas, where mountain bikes are effective for covering rough terrain in a short amount of time. SAR cyclists need to be very strong and fit and willing to navigate rough, treacherous terrain via bicycle in order to complete their missions.
- Bike Patrol: Bike patrol is usually a volunteer activity, whereby the volunteers ride around a patrol area and communicate with other trail users. Bike patrol can also help respond to emergency situations.
- Military Bicycles: Bicycles have long been used for military purposes in both times of war and peace. They are still used by many militaries around the world, as they can be an efficient means of carrying a lot of gear over long distances, among other things.