Paramedics and home care staff to use bikes in downtown Whitehorse this summer

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Joel Brennan, a registered nurse with the Yukon home care program, with the e-bike the program bought in 2022. He said having the e-bike allow staff who use it to be a bit active and 'helps mental health.'  (George Maratos/CBC - image credit)
Joel Brennan, a registered nurse with the Yukon home care program, with the e-bike the program bought in 2022. He said having the e-bike allow staff who use it to be a bit active and 'helps mental health.' (George Maratos/CBC - image credit)

For the first time in Whitehorse, when you see someone on a bike this summer, it may be a health care worker doing their job.

Both the home care program and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will be using bikes to get around downtown.

Home care staff, including nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and supply chain workers, have already started getting around on an e-bike, while paramedics will start riding hardtail bikes in mid-July.

E-bikes have a battery-powered assist motor while the rider pedals, while hardtail bikes don't have a rear shock and are typically cheaper and lighter than full-suspension bikes.

Well equipped for emergencies

Ryan Soucy, the EMS deputy chief of clinical operations, said that despite being on a bike, paramedics will be well-equipped for emergencies.

"They will have two 20-litre saddlebags for their bikes that will carry an automatic external defibrillator, oxygen airway interventions as well as pharmacology of upwards of 13 to 15 medications," he said.

He added the bikes will allow paramedics to respond to emergencies faster, including for treating opioid overdoses and initiating IVs.

"This has been done in almost every jurisdiction within the country. So it's been quite successfully done within Vancouver, especially with their opioid crisis response," Soucy said.

He added that if required, an ambulance will be dispatched to a scene that is being attended to by paramedics on bikes.

CBC
CBC

EMS is using the bikes on a trial basis this year, but Soucy expects it will go well and continue on.

He said EMS is doing the trial along with the RCMP and city bylaw officers. They will always ride in pairs and on any given day, it could be a paramedic with an RCMP officer, or with a bylaw officer, or it may be two paramedics riding together.

Soucy said EMS will have either four or six bikes this year.

Home care takes e-bike route

The e-bike used by home care staff will allow them to do home visits as far as 10 to 15 kilometres from their office just north of downtown, according to Joel Brennan, a registered nurse with the program.

While staff can't bring big items with them on the e-bike, it does allow them to bring smaller nursing and physio gear.

It also helps alleviate some of the stress of the job, said Brennan.

"Having a different form of transport and being a bit active really just helps mental health, for sure," he said.

Brennan said the program's staff members were so excited about having the bike, they decided to name it. After a vote, they decided to call it "Speedy Tweety."

George Maratos/CBC
George Maratos/CBC

Brennan said the bright, yellow bike can reach speeds of 40 km/h.

"The goal is for as many people to use it as much as possible," he said, adding 130 staff will have access to it.

He said e-bikes typically cost around $5,000 but they got an assist from the Yukon government's Energy Solutions Centre, which covered half the cost.

Natalie Pendergrast, a marketing specialist with the centre, said the government is trying to encourage people to shift to clean modes of transportation across the territory.

She said they offer a 50 per cent rebate for e-bike purchases within government, and up to a 25 per cent rebate for anyone else, capped at $750 for an e-bike and $1,500 for a cargo e-bike.

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