Emergency Museum, A History Pill: The Firefighter Bicycle
The Firefighter Bicycle: Every lover of the history of firefighters knows how much the technology available to the officers for fighting wildfires and rescuing people in danger has improved over time, but maybe not everyone knows that at the beginning of the 20th century, many European Fire Departments provided bicycles as the mode of transportation for their officers
Of course firefighters’ bicycles have now become a rarity. Previously they were used for the displacement of the officers to precede the arrival of the horse-drawn steam pumps in areas that had an adequate water network.
Firefighters’ bicycle, a bit of history:
They were used especially in the countries of central and southern Europe like Italy, France and Spain but we have some examples also form England, Ireland and even Japan.
For example in France the first fire brigade equipped with bicycles was the one of Marseille established in 1890, and in 1894 the chief of the sapeur pompier of Paris asked to the government to be provided with bikes as well.
For a few years the firefighter bicycles were so popular that also models both for kids and collectionist were made. But the firefighters were just one of the professions that at the time used this beloved vehicle for local jobs.
The firefighters mostly used the bicycles to service various kinds of industries, specifically the petrochemical ones. In fact, they were the only means available to carry out first aid in desperate cases.
The fire brigade’s bicycle was equipped with everything necessary:
The bicycles were frequently furnished with all the necessities: a water hose rolled up in a compartment specifically designed in the frame, a crowbar and an axe that with the helmet were fixed to the rear luggage rack, but also a siren, the lance of the hose, a front light and in a few case salso of one or two extinguishers.
A complete and efficient equipment that allowed the firefighter to keep the situation under control until the arrival of the heavy duty vehicles.
They usually had a steel frame, while accessories such as the knobs and pedals were made of wood. Normally they had brakes only in the front part of the vehicle.
A lot of models of this kind of bicycle were created during the years but perhaps on of the most impressive one is an australian model owned by the New Farm Volunteer Fire Brigade that had two bike frames welded together to create one big quadricycle.
This particular model was used to carry the heavier equipment needed by the firefighters like the oxigen tanks.
The bicycles were supplied to the Fire Brigade Departments until about the mid-1930s period, in which they began to be replaced by more capacious and efficient vehicles, though some european Departments still give them for some specific uses, like to patrol the inside of campuses or private areas.
The bicycle was certainly an important part of the development of Fire Brigade technology, as it served as a link between the slow and outdated hand pumps and the fire apparatus that we know and appreciate today.
In addition, they are a real treat for museums and collectors of memorabilia of the history of the firefighters!
Museo Nicolis – Museo Galileo – Daily Verona Network – New Farm & districts Historical Society – Carfree.fr