Last week when my wife and I were in London, I was keeping a sharp eye out all the time for all things cycling. In Covent Garden, near where we stayed, a street performer used a double - decker bike to ride around and entertain the crowds. I had hoped to see someone riding a "Penny Farthing" - you know - the bikes with the very large front wheel.
While walking the very crowded streets of Soho, a cyclist passed us and I could have sworn that plastered on his bike were the initials NHS. I only had a brief glimpse but I saw flourescent yellow panniers and even a blue emergency light. I jokingly turned to my wife and said that the bike looked like an ambulance. She shook her head in disbelief.
At lunch the next day, I asked my cousin about it (he's a doctor after all) and it was his belief that the NHS cyclist was probably a messenger. My cousin Mike also related a story to us about how the national health service used carrier pigeons to carry blood samples from the collection point to the lab. The only problem they had with that service was sometimes the blood would get shaken in transport and this could skew test results.
Upon further investigation, I discovered that in fact the cyclist we'd seen was a paramedic for the NHS and in fact his bike was an ambulance. Able to negotiate the crowded and narrow streets of London and quickly arrive at the scene of an emergency and provide medical care.
The bikes themselves are equipped with emergency lights and a siren, have armoured tires, a strengthened rear wheel, front and back panniers and stronger spokes. The EMT's themselves are decked out in a vast array of protective gear which includes among other things body armour and an anti-pollution mask. The last thing the NHS needs is to have to send an ambulance to treat and injured NHS cyclist!