07 January 2016

Firefighter Bicycle

There's a good chance you've seen a police officer patrolling his or her beat on a bicycle.  It's a common sight on college campuses as well as in dense urban areas with heavy traffic.  Bicycles can be ridden between buildings, down alleyways and in all sorts of venues too narrow for cars.  Even when few adults were cycling here in the US, constables on two wheels were not an unusual, if not a common, sight.

There is also a long history of postal delivery on bicycles, mainly for the same reasons officers patrol from the saddle.  Mail carriers on bikes aren't as common as cops pedaling on patrol, at least here in the US, but I understand they still pedal through "rain, snow, sleet and hail" in a few places.  And they are still pretty common in some other countries.

Speaking of history:  I've written a few posts about how bicycles have been used in the military.  As commenter Reese Matthews pointed out, bikes aren't particularly good fighting platforms.  In some situations, however, they are good for transport and reconnaissance, especially in terrain in which motor vehicles can't be used.  And, interestingly, the Vietnamese didn't actually ride their bicycles; rather, they used their two-wheelers "as pack animals" to transport equipment and other goods.

I mention all of these facts because of something I came across:

This firefighter bicycle was made by the Birmingham Small Arms Company in the early part of the 20th Century.  Naturally, the hose caught my eye.    The bike also had special accomodations for an axe and a siren.  And look at that headlight!

While it looks distinctive, I don't know how anybody rode it, especially with the "hump" in the top tube--not to mention what the bike must have weighed!  It's easy to see why bicycles have never had as much of a role in firefighting as they have had in conducting wars, patrolling streets and campuses and delivering mail.  Then again, the bicycle contributes to firefighting in a different way:  Many firefighters ride to keep themselves in shape--especially if they have injuries that prevent them from running--or simply for pleasure.  In particular, I have met many firefighters on charity rides, or other kinds of organized rides. 

They serve. And the bicycle helps them.


  1. I used to have a couple of those plastic hose reels from Home Depot that you mounted on the side of your house with the idea that they're supposed to make your life all neat and orderly. Good concept, poor execution. You had to hook the hose up to the reel, and the mounting system always leaked. Plus, the hose was forever getting kinked, and you had to take the whole thing apart in the winter to prevent freeze-ups. If I'd had the good sense to mount the contraption on a bike instead of side of my house, I could have dashed around the neighborhood pretending to put out fires.

  2. MT--I can just picture it now--and, I admit, wish that I'd done it myself!

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