Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

National spotlight shines on role of bikes in disaster response

Posted by on November 20th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Screen grab of The Rachel Maddow Show last night.

It’s been a good year for the idea that bikes are the ultimate disaster response vehicles.

What started as a niche thing here in Portland (promoted by a few emergency preparedness hobbyists with a penchant for cargo bikes), spread east to New York after superstorm Sandy; and then last night the idea made its big, prime-time national cable TV debut.

At the end of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show last night, host Rachel Maddow shared the story of how partial subway service is being restored to the Rockaways, a section of Queens that was devastated by Sandy. During the segment, as Maddow described how the Rockaways have been cut off from the rest of New York, I was pleasantly surprised when she mentioned bicycles. With a photo from Sarah Goodyear’s story in The Atlantic on the screen, Maddow said:

“After the storm, the Rockaways got so hard to reach that some bicyclists pedaled in supplies. I think partly to prove that they could do it, but partly because with gas supplies short and rationed, biking still worked.”

It was a short mention, but an important one given that The Maddow Show is one of the most widely watched cable news shows in the business (on one night back in September, the show garnered over 2 million viewers).

Continuing with the positive press around this growing bike niche is a video from Times Up! in NYC that I first saw highlighted on CrankMyChain.com. The video chronicles a bike ride organized by Times-Up to aid Sandy storm victims. Watch it below…

I’m also aware that a national bike magazine is working on a feature story about the roles bikes can play in disaster response. Add to that, the next issue of Elly Blue’s Taking the Lane book series is based on the disaster theme.

Here in Portland, the City’s Bureau of Emergency Management is hard at work on a video about the topic. I chatted on camera for that project with PBEM’s Public Information Officer Randy Neves earlier this week and I’m eager to see how it turns out. Neves says PBEM is fully on board with the crucial role bikes can play after a disaster and he plans to promote the video as an example of good preparedness.

And in case you were wondering, Portland’s Disaster Relief Trials event will return next year. Organizers are already in the planning stages of what should be another excellent event. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, make sure your disaster response plans include your bicycle.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

19
Leave a Reply

avatar
8 Comment threads
11 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
15 Comment authors
PsyfalconNateJeremy CohenTravis FultonRobert Ping Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Ethan
Guest
Ethan

Crossing my fingers that FEMA funds the PBEM small grant proposal to pilot some cargo bikes here. I’m also going to hazard a guess that a lot more people will take notice of this year’s Disaster Relief Trials.

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

I don’t think it has to be a cargo bike exclusively. I find a bike trailer an affordable alternative to a dedicated cargo bike. Bike moves have proven that bike trailers can haul a lot of big stuff. A bike trailer is a good option for people with limited funds, but still want to help out.

NW Biker
Guest
NW Biker

What a great video. People always seem to be at their best when circumstances are at their worst.

Rol
Guest
Rol

I dunno if any-a-y’all are Bike Snob readers, but that’s him in the photo, on the right “portaging” a couple big boxes on his “smugness flotilla.” And feverishly using his phone to check for comments on another blog after said blogger had slagged on him. hahahaha

Chris Sanderson
Guest
Chris Sanderson

Thanks for covering this Jonathan. If anything ever happens here, know that that my bike and trailer arsenal will be available for relief efforts!

Robert Ping
Guest
Robert Ping

My brother lived in New Orleans when Katrina was coming. He waited until the day before to drive out, like most NoLa residents did. I got a call from him that afternoon: “I have been sitting in one place on the highway for three hours now with a kid whining in the back seat, and I am watching bicycle after bicycle, loaded with backpacks, trailers, kids, smiles, even other bikes on them, go right by me – hundreds of them! I get you now, all that bike advocacy makes total sense, man. They are all going to beat me to Alabama at this rate; dude, book me a hotel room before they get there!” So I did.

My Yuba Mundo is the best around town bike, not even counting emergency preparedness. It is my sexy stereophonic mini-van. (OK, well I think it’s sexy, stereo, lights and all)

Travis Fulton
Guest
Travis Fulton

It’d be great to have some bike disaster preparedness practice runs in addition to the Disaster Relief Trials event or a second Disaster Relief Trials event added in the winter. “Worst day of the year for a Disaster Relief Trials event”?

Jeremy Cohen
Guest
Jeremy Cohen

I love it! My xtra cycle will be ready if (when) needed here in PDX! I have to say, after years of riding with trailers, tag-a-longs, and every other configuration of hauling cycle–I will stick with the X. While trailers are great for loads I don’t like how wide they make me (especially in traffic or on a bike lane next to a busy street (think N. Williams)) and I really HATE the complex parking situation they demand. In Eugene (where I lived for a long time before coming to PDX) every person collecting cans for the nickels had a $300.00+ trailer (usually Burley!) in large part because everybody I know had at least one trailer stolen. When you add another removable part you add the hassle of locking it securely, finding the right type of parking situation, etc. I LOVE that with the X I can lock it normal and walk away.

Just my thoughts, and I have the trailer still, so if needed I could combine them and make a cargo train.