July 02—The Fourth of July in Cambridge sometimes comes with hot temperatures, but it always comes with swarms of people. For first responders, the scene can be a mess. If something goes wrong—maybe someone forgot to drink enough water and fainted in the heat—it's tough for an ambulance to make it through the crowd.
That's why the Cambridge Fire Department will be deploying four members of its new bike squad this year.
Since May 20, the bike team, made up of 28 firefighter EMTs and paramedics, has staffed 13 events and treated 18 patients. One of those patients was even brought back to life.
"It doesn't get any better than that. It's a great feeling for everybody," said Deputy Fire Chief Brian Gover.
Many smaller towns all across America have an emergency bike team in place, but Cambridge is one of the first larger cities in New England to try this.
"We didn't want to re-invent the wheel," said Lt. Jay Martel.
Martel helped reach out to departments as far away as California to see how they deploy their bikes and what kind of equipment they use.
Weighing in at over 50 pounds, these bikes will need some strong legs to carry a wide variety of first-aid supplies, from Narcan for treating opioid overdoses to allergy medication. Combine that with having to carefully navigate crowds, and it means a world champion bicyclist isn't necessarily the best person for the job.
"Endurance is not the key," said Gover. "What's more important is the ability to ride slow in congested areas."
There was a fierce contest for slowest rider, with a T-shirt as the grand prize. It's tougher than it sounds.
"It's easy to ride a bike when you have speed behind you, but when you slow down, staying balanced is tricky," Martel said. "The guys were all happy when they got those T-shirts."
While Martel was showing off everything inside his bike bags near Harvard Yard, a landscaper driving by on his truck asked for a band-aid for a bad cut he got on the job, seemingly proof that being in the right place at the right time can sometimes be easier with two wheels than with four.