National project to prevent motorcycle tragedies started in Cumbernauld

The Biker Down team are teaching motorcyclists what to do in the event of a crash
The Biker Down team are teaching motorcyclists what to do in the event of a crash

A proposal by a Cumbernauld firefighter has sparked a national initiative to reduce the number of motorcyclists being killed or injured in Scotland.

The Biker Down programme sees firefighters working with bikers to reduce the number of tragedies involving motorcyclists. As many bikers travel in pairs or groups, often the first person on the scene of an accident is another biker.

Biker Down is currently a pilot project being run in Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh and North Lanarkshire, training bikers to make the scene of a collision safe and protect a casualty.

The initiative was proposed by Firefighter John Branney, who is based in Cumbernauld. He sought permission to replicate a project run by Kent Fire and Rescue.

Since then, members of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Bikers Section have volunteered to run courses, and these efforts have been joined by crews at Oban and South Queensferry.

Dozens of motorcyclists have taken part so far, and firefighters have shared their experiences of serious road traffic collisions to raise awareness of the dangers that face casualties and those trying to help them.

Area Manager Iain McCusker is the senior fire officer in North Lanarkshire. He said: “Motorcyclists are around 38 times more likely to be killed than people in cars, because a collision that would barely damage a vehicle could easily claim a biker’s life.

“Our crews are all too familiar with the devastating aftermath of incidents on the roads.

“Firefighters are often needed to help people who are trapped and injured following a crash, but sadly there are times when their specialist rescue skills just aren’t enough.

“Biker Down isn’t about lecturing riders on the consequences of things going wrong - it’s about equipping them to make a difference if they encounter an emergency.

“If someone there when a crash happens has the skills to manage the scene and provide first aid it could save a life.”

Topics covered in the training include ways to make a scene safe, first aid and how to safely remove a helmet.

Instruction in accident prevention is also provided including ways to ensure you are seen by other motorists.

Station Manager Gordon McGuire of the SFRS service delivery team in North Lanarkshire is encouraging other bikers to come forward and learn potentially life-saving skills.

He said: “Every day around 30 bikers come to harm on Britian’s roads.

“Biker Down gives an insight to what it is like at the scene of an incident and what steps can be taken to help prevent them becoming tragedies.

“Learning some basic first person on scene techniques could make all the difference and keep a casualty alive until specialist medical help gets to them.

“The course is designed by bikers for bikers and we want people to get in touch if they are interested in taking part.

The next course in North Lanarkshire will be held in Motherwell on Saturday, August 13. To apply, email w.bikerdownscotland@firescotland.gov.uk.

Firefighter Branney added: “Our advice for motorcyclists is always to anticipate the actions of others, make sure they could slow down and safely stop if the unexpected happens, and to positioning their bike in the safest places to maximise their visibility.

“They should always take a ‘lifesaver’ glance over their shoulder before carrying out manoeuvres, so they know where others are and what they’re doing.

“Because bikers are particularly vulnerable we also need drivers of other vehicles to ‘Think Bike’ and carefully look for motorcyclists, especially at junctions, when changing lanes or turning in the road.”

There is also a Biker Down page on Facebook with additional information.