bikes and disasters
(Photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
“I help you, you help me!”
Those aren’t the words you expect to hear during a competitive cycling event. But when the event — the third annual Disaster Relief Trials — is based around a mock disaster and the competitors are piloting 150 pounds or more of bike and cargo on a challenging, 35-mile course, teamwork takes priority over individual gain.
Two major trends in cargo biking will come together in Portland on Saturday at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Organizers of the Disaster Relief Trials and the Fiets of Parenthood have joined forces this year in what is sure to the largest cargo bike gathering of the year.
One of the most interesting and influential bike events in Portland starts with a kickoff party tonight. The Disaster Relief Trials was first held last year at Velo Cult Bike Shop in Hollywood and since then the event has ridden a wave of interest, gotten attention from local, regional, and even national agencies, and has spawned imitators in Vancouver (BC), Seattle, Eugene, and other cities.
This year’s event features two big parties, the Trials themselves, and the “Cargo Bike Fair” — a huge gathering of cargo bikes and the people who love them. I’ll share more about what’s on tap, and highlight a few of the bikes and riders below…
The City of Tigard is planning a major, region-wide “mock emergency” exercise on Thursday and they want to include cargo bikes. Tara Harper, a consultant working on the event, was inspired by her involvement with the Disaster Relief Trials in Portland last summer and says cargo bikes would be uniquely suited to the task.
The exercise is based on a bioterrorism attack that creates a massive public health emergency. The entire population will be at risk unless they receive medicine that’s doled out at a “Point of Dispensing station”. Tigard will test the POD station concept for the first time on Thursday and officials from many other regional jurisdictions will be on hand to observe it. The medicine would be flown in from other areas and the challenge is to get the boxes of treatments and supplies to the POD stations as fast as possible. With traffic jams and other unforeseen circumstances, vehicles are needed that can operate regardless of traffic conditions.
The Disaster Relief Trials, an event that showcases the capabilities of cargo bikes in disaster response, will be bigger and better and this year. After a successful inaugural event last year (which has already spawned similar events in Boulder and Seattle), organizers have loaded up the event with new sponsors, new events, a larger expo area, a new location, and much more.
The idea behind the DRT is to put cargo bikes and their riders through a series of tasks that simulate how the bikes would function in response to a major natural disaster (such as an earthquake) when fuel is rationed and roads and bridges are impassible by motor vehicles. Last year, 30 competitors participated while a HAM radio-powered command center tracked their movements via a home base at Velo Cult bicycles in Hollywood.
Following the tsunami in Japan in 2011, the idea of using bicycles in response to major disasters has quickly gained momentum around the country. Now the former Deputy for Planning and Preparedness for Multnomah County’s Emergency Management Disivion, Joe Partridge, has left his job at the County to launch Genevieve Consulting. One of the main focus areas of Partridge’s new company is, “integrating bikes and active transportation into emergency management”
You might recall Partridge’s perspective on bikes and disasters from an interview we published with him back in May 2011. Now Partridge is combining his expertise from 15 years of working in emergency management with his respect and appreciation of bicycles to take his ideas to the next level. Partridge had a booth at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit yesterday and is already making connections with government agencies and advocates throughout the state.
Here’s more about his new business: (more…)
Along with women on bikes, another major biking theme that has gone from trend to full-fledged movement in 2012 is the connection between bicycles and disasters. From our local efforts here in Portland, to national attention thanks to hurricane Sandy, this is an idea whose time has come.
Check out the developments below, all of which underscore the momentum the bikes/disaster connection has going for it.
Local filmmaker Joe Biel of Cantakerous Titles is working on a documentary about last summer’s Disaster Relief Trials event. Joe filmed the event while being pulled in a cargo trailer and earlier this week he released a trailer of the forthcoming documentary: (more…)
reads PBEM home page.
The idea that bicycles can play a large role in how cities respond to natural disasters continues to gain momentum. What started as something of a niche curiosity here in Portland, has matured into a serious topic of discussion among bike advocates and the national media (thanks in large part to superstorm Sandy). Now it seems city governments are taking note. And again, Portland is taking the lead.
The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management has just released a video about the role bicycles played in Sandy. I thought they were making a more general video about bikes and disasters; but it turned out to focus entirely on my post-Sandy experiences in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I was happy to share my perspectives on the topic and I’m excited that PBEM has taken such a keen interest. Watch the video below… (more…)