“Life Riders,” a new emergency response unit of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national ambulance, blood-services, and disaster-relief organization, is being equipped with 1,000 electric bicycles to more easily and quickly reach patients in areas difficult for larger vehicles to access.

Each member of the voluntary unit is provided with resuscitation equipment and can be summoned to scenes within a radius of 10 kilometers as first-responders, along with standby medics, ambulances and intensive-care vehicles.

“Every bike is equipped with a medical kit, so that once we reach a scene we are able to provide preliminary medical treatment until an MDA ambulance or Medicycle arrive at the scene,” said youth volunteer Yarin Mualem. “We are able to reach the scene quickly, treat the patient and provide an accurate report of the incident to the dispatch center.”

Every MDA Life Rider – age 17 and up, with a minimum of two years of MDA experience — goes through professional training to ride electric bikes within cities and in a variety of conditions while handling shifting weight, halting, accelerating, changing lanes in busy roads, riding at night, and so forth. They have to obey a speed limit of 25 kilometers per hour and must wear a helmet, knee protectors and a neon vest.

“This is an all-volunteer unit, where the goal is to reach very crowded areas, or areas where ambulances and Medicycles can’t drive through, such as boardwalks, markets and alleys,” said Iftah Levi, a senior officer in MDA’s Operational Wing.

Volunteers testing out the new emergency-response electric bicycles in Jerusalem. Photo by Chezki Grossbard

 Life Riders marks the first time electric bikes have been used for first response anywhere on an organized basis. The idea is that they can maneuver in tight spots better than motorcycles and ambulances.

“MDA has a wide variety of lifesaving vehicles compatible with a variety of scenes and conditions. In order to cut emergency response times, we’ve decided to integrate electric bikes into our array of vehicles – something that’s unheard of in any other EMS organization around the world,” said Eli Bin, MDA Director General.

MDA first piloted the electric-bike squad near the light-rail construction zones in Tel Aviv, the Bat Yam boardwalk and the market in Petah Tikva.

“As a volunteer in the Old City, we often face alleyways and narrow streets where regular ambulances can barely reach,” said Yosef Kasuto, an MDA emergency medical technician who lives in the Old City of Jerusalem. “The new bikes will definitely help us save more lives.”