A team of reporters from BBC news spent yesterday with the London Ambulance Service to see first-hand the situations that emergency staff have to deal with on a daily basis on the capital’s roads. The result, featured in a live blog on the BBC, is a revealing insight into a typical working day of London’s ambulance crews and paramedics, and thankfully one that ended without any fatalities.
The day was described as “a pretty average” one in terms of the incidents attended, with 14 cyclists, 18 pedestrians and 11 motorcyclists treated, as well as an unspecified number of vehicle occupants.
While there has qbeen a lot of focus recently on the issue of the safety of cyclists in the capital following a series of fatalities involving lorries, yesterday the casualty toll among cyclists was characterised by non-serious injuries, with brief details of most of those incidents recorded on the BBC live blog.
Those incidents, with their times and locations where given, were:
- 0730:“Collision between a car and a cyclist. The cyclist, who wasn't wearing a helmet, has a swollen and bruised ankle. James, the paramedic, says the cyclist was lucky to escape without suffering any head injuries.” The BBC subsequently published a comment from BikeBiz’s Carlton Reid pointing out: “there was no information given on how a cyclist should wear a helmet just above the foot.”
- 0752: “Bexleyheath cyclist, 63, being treated in ambulance. Had been on way home from work when accident happened at junction with main road. Neighbours fetched his wife who is a bit shaken. She says he's still having physiotherapy after being knocked off his bike last year. Police at the scene taking statements.”
- 0858: “Cyclist in Bexleyheath had back pain, hurt shoulder and elbow and is being taken to Darenth Valley General A&E.”
- 0910: Update on a callout to Wembley: “Paramedics at the scene say that they have been told that a 16-year-old girl was crossing the road talking on a mobile, a cyclist gave way so that she could cross, but a van behind didn't give way, hit the bike and the bike hit the pedestrian. The girl was taken to Northwick Park Hospital. She did not have any physical injuries but had suffered shock.”
- 0911: “On the scene in Finchley. Cyclist quite bloody but nothing serious. Knocked off his bike on main road. Traffic very bad already. Shows the knock-on effect of accidents on the road network.”
- 1509: “Post lunch, things have calmed down. Since midday, we have had six call outs. Two involving cyclists coming into contact with cars in Bethnal Green and Knightsbridge…”
- 1549: “A man has fallen from his bike in Finsbury Park. He rode into a hole covered in leaves and has hurt his elbow.” It was subsequently revealed the man had been taken to hospital with what looked like “an open fracture or dislocation in his elbow."
- 1553: Reports of a female, 30, fallen off her bicycle in Battersea Park, south-west London. There was a dog in front of the bike. Initial reports of wrist injury. A subsequent update said: “We waited in the Battersea Park with the cyclist and two park police officers for 25 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. Paramedic James said the case was the lowest priority case - listed as C4 - therefore the wait. It looks like a sprained wrist or possibly a fracture on the left wrist. The patient was agitated.”
- 2016: “Another call - it's straight back up the road to SE1 with reports of a taxi in collision with a bike,” with an update eight minutes later: “A taxi and a cyclist have come into contact on a roundabout and unsurprisingly, the cyclist has come off worst. He's hurt his wrist and it looks like he'll need some hospital attention.”
- 2153: “Umpteenth car and cyclist collision today. This one in Woolwich... and another in Lewisham. Ambulance crews on their way.”
- 2313: “We've hit a late rush hour on the A4. Slow progress west to Feltham, where a cyclist has been involved in a collision.” Fifteen minutes later, an update said: “Fast run down the now quiet M4 to Feltham where a cyclist has hit his head after colliding with a car. He says he hit his head and felt dizzy. Sam's assessing him now, carefully checking for neck and back pain. It doesn't look like he'll need hospital tonight.”
- 2343: “Control room have just received this call: man fell off a bicycle five hours ago and thinks he's broken his lower leg. Yes, a 999 call five hours after the incident.”
- 2347: “Two more calls just come in - a cyclist and pedestrian outside Barts Hosptial, N19 [sic]… And another call just in about an incident in Farringdon between a car and a cyclist, with reports of a broken windscreen. Ambulance on its way there.”
And that was it, at least as far as cyclists were concerned, another “typical” day for the London Ambulance Service, punctuated with some uncharacteristically quiet periods and with the most serious incident requiring several people to be treated for injuries after a crash involving multiple vehicles on the M4.
The full live blog, which includes comments from people following the day’s events, is well worth reading and highlights the unstinting efforts of ambulance workers to get to the scene of incidents quickly to treat the injured.
There’s some food for thought too – in one incident that happened in the morning in Chiswick, it’s revealed how a lorry sped past within inches of the head of a motorcyclist lying in the road.
The London Ambulance Service did come under some criticism on Twitter for comments that cyclists should be sure to wear a helmet and hi-viz clothing – although, of course, that’s no more than the advice also contained in the Highway Code, and it should also be pointed out that it also highlighted the need for motorists to be aware of vulnerable road users.
Jason Killens, Deputy Director of Operations at the London Ambulance Service, said that with increasing numbers of cyclists on the capital’s roads, his crews were seeing more incidents involving them, and told drivers to keep a lookout for cyclists and motorcyclists. He added that with winter on the way and more hours of darkness, all road users needed to take care and watch out for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.