Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rescue points

Both of us suffer from untreatable ‘Cartomania’, a little researched complaint involving the collection of maps, large, small, old and new. So yesterday I saw a new 1:30 000 cycle touring map of our local area and immediately succumbed to temptation. A couple of months ago, after the Neil, had had a chance to browse the Südliches Ried:Bergstrasse/Rhein-Neckar produced by MeKi Landkarten GmbH ( (well it was his birthday), I got my chance too to see what was new. There were our old favourites south into Mannheim or northeast towards Bensheim and the Odenwald, together with new sections of longer distance cycle routes like the World Heritage Route (Welterbe-Radtour) as well as clearer information about cycle possibilities on the fringes of our day tour stamping ground like Ludwigshafen. New local train lines which take bikes, either free or for the price of a child’s ticket, have brought these more distant locations into consideration. We live in the Rhine Rift Valley, a roughly 40 km wide lowland sandwiched between the hills of the Pfalzerwald on the west and the Odenwald on the east. North of the big cities of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen it is basically an area of farms, small towns and forests, providing many cycling opportunities. People do use some routes as part of a commute to a station or employer and many others cycle in their free time. What is fairly immediately striking as the map is opened out is the area of forest or woodland. Our three local provinces of Hesse, where we live, Baden-Würtemberg to the east and south and Rheinland-Pfalz across the Rhine to the west are all much more wooded than most of the UK. The forests are not on a US or Canadian scale, true, but there are many kilometres of routes through the forests, cool in summer and offering shelter in autumn and winter. Some forests are almost all coniferous, others incorporate section of red oak, beech or chestnut trees. Most of the forests occupy stretches of glacial sands or dunes and were originally used for hunting by monks or local dukes in the middle ages. Now they provide timber, habitats for birds and other wildlife such as deer and ever increasing numbers of wild boar, plus of course green lungs for city dwellers. The cycle ways follow mostly gravelled roads made for foresters, often laid out as a grid and where GPS devices frequently cease to function. Route finding can be difficult and if there’s a diversion (timber operations, mud baths, fallen trees) we’ve often struggled to get back on track. We’ve occasionally speculated on forest rides in the dusk or in definitely spooky darkness about what to do when truly lost, ill or injured. Now we know that in Hesse at least all wooded areas and some other remote sites have a series of rescue points, marked on the ground and on large scale maps. In situ these are signs with a white cross on a green background with location and a number. On the MeKi Landkarten they are shown by a green oval with a number. These spots are known to local police, ambulance and emergency services and can be reached by their vehicles. Initially they were set up in case of accidents to workers in the forests but may be used to rescue the public generally. ADFC advice to any group with a rider ill or injured is to use a mobile phone to contact number 112 to alert the emergency service and give location of nearest rescue point. If necessary a party member can reach the rescue point and guide emergency services to the injured party. Outside mountain regions where rescue kit may be found at huts, passes or survey points this idea was new to me and may be of interest to others who may cycle in remote areas in the UK where access is difficult or to people who actually operate emergency services. Location by mobile phone has been used to rescue many people in difficulty I know but knowing an access point by road may also be useful.

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