Paramedics warn cycle lanes are putting lives at risk by stopping traffic from moving out of the way of ambulancesTue, 30/05/2017
Our emergency services work hard to keep us safe, and quite often with ambulances, time is critical in saving lives. So, what if our roads changed to make it more difficult to let ambulances past? People fear that designated, curbed off cycle paths may be doing just this.
Arthur Martin, The Daily Mail, reports:
The introduction of segregated cycle lanes across Britain could cost lives because they slow down ambulances, paramedics have warned.
Dozens of cycle lanes on busy roads now have a concrete kerb alongside them to stop drivers from veering into them.
But the College of Paramedics said the new model of kerbed lanes makes it much harder for motorists to move to one side when they see the blue flashing lights on emergency vehicles behind them.
For some of the most critical emergency patients, such as those suffering cardiac arrest, every minute added to the time it takes to reach a hospital can significantly reduce the chances of survival.
Segregated lanes have been built in major cities across the UK, including London, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh. Councils in other towns and cities have agreed to the construction of similar projects.
But some cycle lanes are on roads which ambulances use to take critically ill patients to hospital.
Designated cycle lanes in Manchester are close to the Royal Manchester Children' s Hospital and some lanes in London are close to St Thomas's Hospital, where some of the victims of the Westminster terror attack were treated.
The College of Paramedics has called for town planners to reconsider the introduction of fully segregated lanes in order to allow better traffic flow in congested city centres.
Richard Webber, a paramedic and spokesman for the College, said ambulance drivers supported designated cycle lanes in principle, but that a balance had to be struck.
'If you are trying to get to an emergency call, particularly at rush hour when the roads are very slow moving, you're not able to use your sirens to any effect to get people out of the way because there is nowhere for them to go,' he said. You just end up sitting behind them waiting.
'We understand the need to segregate cyclists because there have been a number of horrific fatalities, but it can be a double-edged sword. You can't allow it to slow things down for everyone else.'
The Collage is also supporting calls by ambulance bosses in London to introduce so-called 'light segregation' - lanes formed by intermittent objects which allow motorists to pull off the road.
NHS data is not sufficiently detailed to establish the extent to which cycle lanes are hampering swift response times, but Mr Webber said there was a general feeling among paramedics that their presence is having a negative effect.
Work to introduce kerbs in Manchester started in 2015, and segregated lanes have also started to crop up in Bristol, part of an effort to double cycling in the city.
As well as fully protected cycle lanes, London has led the way in the establishment of cycle 'superhighways', which aim to give cyclists fast and direct access to the city centre from outlying suburbs.
Although many of these are not separated from drivers by a kerb, the College says these also have a negative effect on the capability of emergency ambulances.
It says that they block the flow of ambulances outside The Royal London Hospital, a major centre for emergency care.
In cases of cardiac arrest, every minute before a patient is resuscitated lessens their chances of survival by as much as 10 per cent.
Fully segregated lanes have been introduced in some UK cities over the past decade in response to a wave of concern at the number of cyclist deaths.
In London, fatalities peaked in 2001 and 2005, with 21 cyclists killed in each of those years. The number of deaths has declined steadily to a 22-year low of nine in 2015, despite more bicycle journeys being undertaken in the capital than ever.
Simon Munk, infrastructure campaigner at London Cycle Campaign denied segregated cycle lanes were causing a problem.
'The issue fundamentally is congestion,' he said. 'The safer we can make cycling the less people will drive the fewer cars there will be on the road. The best evidence we have contradicts the view of the paramedics.'
The ultimate problem is the number of vehicles on the roads, which makes it more difficult for ambulances to quickly reach their destinations. If you hear or see an ambulance behind, or in front on you, make sure to safely let them past if you can.