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Ambulances on bikes: Health on two wheels

Ambulances on bikes.
Congestion in Delhi.

The Delhi government has come up with a novel response to India’s ambulance shortages: bicycles.

A new initiative will see cyclists ferrying patients through congested areas and narrow lanes on specially outfitted bikes. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Health Minister Satyendra Jain launched the initiative at the Delhi Secretariat, with a fleet of sixteen First Responder Vehicles. Kejriwal said the number of such vehicles will soon be expanded.

The initiative aims to cut ambulance waiting time in the national capital, which is plagued by congestion troubles. The impact of this upon the quality of patient care is pronounced. Patients are forced to wait for hours at a time to be ferried to hospitals – not only in the national capital, but nationwide.

Delhi’s First Responder Vehicles will be equipped with portable oxygen cylinders, first aid kits, air-splints and dressing materials. They will also carry GPS and communication devices to aid delivery.

“Today we have taken a big step for the people of Delhi,” Kejriwal said at the launch. “Till now only big vehicles were available for ambulance services. Now these bike ambulances will be able to reach narrow bylanes to provide immediate medical care for people residing there.

The van ambulances were not able to reach in small lanes. Sixteen bike ambulances have been launched and the number will go up in the coming future. This will also be easy in high traffic zones.”

The estimated cost of the project is Rs 40 lakh (US$56,000). While the idea of bikes replacing ambulances may seem ridiculous on the surface, in practise, the rationale makes sense. Strengthening the accessibility of healthcare to those living in areas which are difficult to reach is a noble goal. The bike ambulances may prove effective in this regard – and while a fleet of sixteen bikes is a small start, it lays the foundation to make a much bigger impact later on.

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