Ambulance Motorcycles – but where do you put the patient?

Issue 1 Volume 4 Newsletter

The Ambulance Service of NSW is the first service in Australia to utilise this mode of accessing patients quickly. Here’s a little history on the unit.

In 1993 the NSW Ambulance Service embarked on what many thought would either be a flash in the pan exercise or too dangerous a venture to possibly work. The concept of motorcycles as First or Rapid Responders had been toyed with for many years and the final decision to embark on this path was made, without funding for a project such as this. Sydney’s narrow streets, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, numerous parklands, and areas difficult to access in a conventional Ambulance were the main reasons for the introduction of the Motorcycle Unit.

The number of people now living in the CBD has increased considerably, especially since the  inception of the Motorcycle Unit. As has the number working there. This makes motorcycles an even more viable means of accessing the sick and injured. But what difference does a bike really make?

There is much to suggest the motorcycle unit has made significant differences to the lives of many people. Here, some overseas research demonstrates this in a pertinent way – The Erasmus University of Rotterdam found that of 120 cardiac arrest patients that were attended by Ambulance crews, 2.94% of them walked out of hospital as a result of the Motorcycle Paramedic assisting them quickly. If you were one of those people, you’d be pretty happy a paramedic turned up on a motorcycle.

Some other questions asked of motorcycle paramedics (and some answers you wish you could provide);

How fast do they go? (Fast Enough)

Can I park here (many think paramedics are police pulling up to book them)? (Sure, you can park there all day if you like)

What do you carry, a few band aids? (And some water to wash your wounds too…In actual fact, all the same essential drugs and life support equipment as a conventional ambulance)

You’re not going to take me to hospital on that are you? (Sure I am, and to save on oxygen all you have to do is hold your mouth open into the wind as I ride)

Research has now shown that a motorcycle paramedic can access a patient in cardiac arrest, on average two minutes faster than in a car, and several more minutes faster than a conventional ambulance. This has shown the benefit of reducing the rehabilitation costs of these patients considerably. Those first two minutes can be worth around $35,000AUD. Apart from looking at cost benefit, patients and families are usually pretty happy to have relatives around too (although there have been instances where paramedics have been asked to stop resuscitation as family members didn’t want someone to survive!!! But that’s another story) .

So how have paramedics maintained such a good riding history for almost twenty years? That is really easy to answer but a lot more difficult to prove. All those who have received training on the NSW Police course would attest to the benefits this training has provided them. This is purely anecdotal though. Recent research by Dr Ryuta Kawashima ( indicates the benefit of continually practicing skills. This would be the single most obvious benefit paramedics would offer as to why they are safer than most other riders in a very hostile environment, practice.

Issue 1 Volume 4 Newsletter 2

So what type of emergency are the motorcycles sent to and why? The intention of utilising motorcycles was not because of any extremes of speed, but rather their ability to not have to stop at lights. Footpaths and median strips are fair game! The original scope of the project saw motorcycles aiming to:

• Reduce response times to 2 – 3 minutes
• Attend all life threatening emergencies
• Attend cases on the Harbour Bridge and other areas where traffic presented a problem for conventional ambulances.

The perceived benefits were an improved opportunity for survival of the sick and injured. Not everyone has seen motorcycles as a useful tool since they began operation but from a motorcyclist’s perspective, it’s hard not to see a huge benefit . Many services around the world now use this brilliant source of accessing the  sick and injured as quickly as is possible.

Paul Riley

Skill Master Motorcycle Services

© Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist, 2012 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 responses to “Ambulance Motorcycles – but where do you put the patient?

  1. A few years ago I was at Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Florida and saw the Fire Department on red Harley Davidson Road Kings with red lights and fire department markings. They were merely for getting to a scene quickly through traffic and stabilizing a patient (or simply treating and sending on their way) until an ambulance could get their.

  2. The key to survival in many cases is getting aid as quickly as possible. If a motorbike can get a paramedic there in less time, then survival rates will increase.

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