It’s an ingenious idea that has many Americans scratching their heads and asking: Why don’t we have those here?
An all-volunteer EMS group in Israel is saving countless lives with its fleet of custom “ambucycles” – motorcycles equipped to operate as ambulances on two wheels.
United Hatzalah, an Israeli emergency medical service, came up with the idea to quickly access and stabilize patients who are in need of fast and efficient emergency medical care. The vehicles, which can weave through traffic and reach patients in less than three minutes, have proven an invaluable resource as Israel deals with terrorist attacks.
Ambucycle services are free to patients and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each bike serves approximately 500 calls every year.
The word “Hatzalah” means “rescue” in Hebrew.
The idea apparently impressed comedian Jay Leno, who offered to donate a $36,000 fully equipped ambucycle to United Hatzalah on April 10.
“What you guys are doing is so special. I am so proud to be here and be part of it. I have 117 motorcycles in my collection, but none of my motorcycles save lives. I want to donate an ambucycle with all of the trappings,” the former “Tonight Show” host told Eli Beer, founder and president of United Hatzalah, according to the Jewish News Service.
And now an ambucycle fleet is set to begin operating in Jersey City, New Jersey, according to Beer. He told the Jerusalem Post Chicago will be next.
In 2014, Stewart Rahr, a Jewish billionaire in New York, donated $1.3 million to purchase 50 ambucycles. The idea is also being used in Brazil, Panama, Mexico, Argetina, Rwanda and other countries around the world.
In Israel, United Hatzalah has a network of more than 2,500 volunteer medics that are secular and religious, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, men and women. The fleet includes more than 400 ambucycles.
Beer founded United Hatzalah after a 7-year-old boy choked to death, and the ambulance trying to save him got stuck in traffic, NJ.com reported. Beer was a medic in the ambulance that was unable to save the boy.
Now his organization uses GPS technology to quickly deploy medics on ambucycles to the scenes of emergencies. The vehicles are equipped with emergency kits containing oxygen tanks, breathing apparatuses, defibrillators, triage packs, bandages and other equipment to treat patients in trauma.
“We want it everywhere,” Beer said in 2013 during TEDMED, an annual conference focusing on health and medicine in Washington. “Here in Washington, D.C., I was driving this ambucycle yesterday to the White House, hoping Obama was going to say hello. But I was driving and all these policemen were looking at us, [saying], ‘What a great idea! What a great idea!'”
He added, “It’s a simple idea. C’mon, I was 17 when I thought about this. You’re a lot more sophisticated than I was.”
Beer cited the Boston Marathon bombing as one example of when Americans could have benefited from having a fleet of ambucycles.
“I wish I could have been there to help,” he said.
“The average response time of a traditional ambulance is 12 to 15 minutes – we reduce it to less than three minutes,” Beer said. “Our response is the fastest in the world. We call our approach a lifesaving flash mob. On motorcycles, traffic doesn’t stop us. Nothing does.”
Watch a video of United Hatzalah’s ambucycles in action: