Blood bikers


When it comes to motorcycle groups there are those who feature more prominently in mainstream media, such as the Harley-Davidson fanatics and the classic bike lovers, yet there is one group who quietly go about their business saving lives – Blood Bikers.

A group of riders who take care of their community and who remain unsung lifesavers. The longstanding charity is an out of hours courier service for the NHS, delivering vital blood and medical supplies to hospitals to help keep patients alive, free of charge.

There are several branches of Blood Bikers up and down the country made up of volunteers who give up their own time for the benefit of their communities.

Among them includes the Severn Freewheelers (SFW) branch in Manchester, which deploys three motorcycles on the road every night of the year, including bank holidays and weekends and currently make in the region of 400-500 drop-offs per month.

Ian Stockwell, the Rota Manager for Severn Freewheelers, joined the charity as a rider as a way of helping those with health issues.

“It’s a way of giving something back to the community and to the NHS,” Stockwell said.

“My elder son had leukemia when he was only two-and-a-half years old. He had huge amounts of treatment, very costly treatment at that point and it’s a way of giving something back.”

While most riders have personal reasons as to why they become a Blood Biker, Training and Event Manager for SFW, Ltd Cmd RN Joe Logan, revealed he had no personal connection to the charity, but believes their work can help change the way motorists view motorcyclists.

Logan explained: “I first looked at becoming a Blood Biker about 20 years ago. Unfortunately at that time with life I was too busy with work and didn’t have the free time to commit to it and it’s only fairly recently I’ve managed to do it.

“I am probably one of the few people who doesn’t have any personal connections or reasons for doing it, other than wanting to give something back to the community and to perhaps change the face of bikers.

“In the fact that we’re not the stereotypes that some people think we are and we can use our skills as advanced motorcyclists for the good of the community.”

Blood bikers: quietly saving lives

While the riders are on the roads every night of the year quietly delivering supplies to save countless lives, there are those who contribute in their own special way, who don’t ride a motorcycle.

Debbie Cottam is part of the charity’s events team for the Manchester branch and plays a vital role in helping to raise the money needed to keep the bikes on the road.

She said: “I don’t ride, I don’t coordinate, but I’m one of the team that help with organising events to raise money to keep the bikes on the road.

“It costs us a lot of money to keep the bikes on the road, not just the upkeep, but for the fuel too.

“We organise a lot of events, not just for fundraising, but to increase awareness to the general public of a service we provide free of charge to the NHS from 7pm-7am every weeknight and 24/7 on bank holidays and weekends.”

But no matter what an individual’s role is within the organisation Paul Fairbank, one of the leaders, reiterates it’s about working as a team to overcome the obstacles they face on a daily basis.

“Once you’re a Blood Biker, you’re in our family,” he said, “because what we do is a bit risky, riding in all weathers, we have to look after each other.

“So people can be assured that if you’re out on a call, you know there is a huge backup and if you have a problem we can resolve it together.”

How are blood bikers operating throughout the coronavirus situation?

In light of the recent events, we caught up with Gordon Downie, a founding trustee of the Severn Freewheelers, to find out how blood bikers were helping the NHS since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Gordon explained that “one of the big benefits of the charity group is that we can be much more flexible than a big organisation, and can make decisions quickly.”

And flexible they were, for the blood biker group began offering a number of additional services to the NHS in response to the situation. At the beginning of the pandemic, the charity helped deliver COVID19 testing samples from hospitals to labs. The Severn Freewheelers also started offering 24/7, around-the-clock support services to deliver much-needed supplies to those in need, such as temperature-controlled medicines to cancer patients.

“We actually happened to have a couple of riders that lived two minutes from the hospital, so these guys stepped up and said ‘that particular job – we’ll do it.’”

Whilst the charity has not been able to recruit new riders since March of 2020 as this would involve face-to-face training, Gordon noted that they “haven’t turned away one single job.” He explained that existing members “absolutely stepped up to the plate,” which allowed them to offer more services with the same number of volunteers.

Severn Freewheelers also created what Gordon fondly refers to as the “Pharmy Army,” which helps deliver much-needed medications and supplies to people’s homes when they can’t go to the pharmacy themselves. This helps ensure that those who are most vulnerable are protected from the virus.

Whilst the Severn Freewheelers no longer need to help deliver test samples to the labs, the Pharmy Army has continued to transport medication from pharmacies to private homes in the area, which Gordon says could continue in the future if there was a continued need for the service.

Blue light insurance

Bikesure has a long history of working with some of the blood bike charities who give up their spare time to carry blood, organs and crucial medical supplies between our country’s hospitals.

We offer affordable blue light insurance for large groups of blood bikers, which can work for charities and community organisations. We also offer multi-bike insurance, which covers a number of bikes in a group. Call us on 0333 696 2967 for more information.

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