A pedal powered response unit for drug overdose patients has been launched in Vancouver after city officials realised it was the fastest way around the city.
A fentanyl-fueled overdose crisis in Canada has prompted the need for Spikes on Bikes, a trained responder on two wheels who can administer naloxone, as well as provide clean needles and advice.
Coco Culbertson, senior manager of programs at PHS, said that there would be two bikes on constant patrol, with volunteers responding to crises.
“We have a mobile needle van that serves all of Metro Vancouver and what we found is a stark increase in recovery calls and an enormous amount of pressure on the van,” Culbertson told Metro News. “We just weren’t able to manage the pressure very well and we were trying to think of what we could do.
“We figured the best way to get around, as demonstrated by the residents, is bicycles. It’s a really great way to engage with the neighbourhood, take some of the pressure off the van and do outreach with overdose response that’s rapidly mobile.”
15 volunteers have already undergone bicycle safety and maintenance training, as well as overdose response and harm reduction lessons.
The aim is to get to more of the 555 overdose deaths in British Columbia this year fast enough to save lives. 128 of the deaths were in the region covered by the bikes.
Over eight in 10 of the deaths were related to Fentanyl, a toxic opioid often mixed in with other drugs.
Culbertson added: “The feeling on the street is there’s a collective trauma and grief and it’s almost a way to address the pain, to band together and look out for each other. Their experience tells them if they don’t do it themselves, then no one will do it for them.”
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said: “It was shocking to see the extreme impacts of fentanyl” that he saw on a ride out with emergency responders last week
“Emergency responders are swamped with calls to save people who are minutes away from death. The intensity and frequency of these calls put severe strain on our first responders,” Robertson said.
“They are tirelessly and very effectively responding to emergency calls in a devastating public health crisis, saving dozens of lives a day. And they’re seeing very vulnerable people die a tragic, preventable death. This crisis is inhumane and managing it with first responders in unsustainable.”
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.