Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

City of Portland releases video about bikes in New York City after Sandy

Posted by on November 29th, 2012 at 11:57 am

“Bikes prove useful in Sandy aftermath,”
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…

This is just one part of PBEM’s work to better understand the role bicycles can play during and after disasters. They’re working through their Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NET) program and in the future I could see them adopting official bike-oriented disaster response policies and guidelines. For now, let’s appreciate the fact that PBEM is keeping the momentum going on this topic.

“The bureau encourages Portlanders to integrate these lessons into their own preparedness plans,” reads a sentence on PBEM’s website.

On a related note, another sign that shows this idea has arrived is the latest title in local publisher Elly Blue’s Taking the Lane series. It’s called Disaster! Bicycling through the apocalypse.

(NOTE: The video was produced by Randy Neves, a former reporter for KGW-TV who’s now the public information officer for PBEM.)

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Steve B. November 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Excellent video. Really proud of your coverage of NYC, J!

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  • 9watts November 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Who needs the Oregonian if the City is now relying on your work? Ha!

    Nice work.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Sounds like a great time to pitch a proposal for the purchase of 100+ of freight bikes outfitted with emergency communications/ water/ etc. kits ala occupy Sandy. Then dispursed throughout the city at fire stations and other locations…like the Swiss Army.

    …additionally some of these bakfiets could even be built locally or sourced from local shops (Clever Cycles etc.).

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  • Rol November 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Sandy forced simplicity on a lot of people, by knocking out a few key systems that happen to be complex and therefore fragile. Those who previously relied more on these complex systems (via the automobile in this case) had to adjust. Those who had already adapted to simplicity (bikes) barely felt a thing, and had time/attention/resources to spare, and could even help others.

    In a similar fashion, if the economy were to collapse, the well-off will feel it most. People subsisting in Africa will simply continue doing that. (Presumably the sun will keep coming up every day.)

    Here is one fact/principle that turns all the disparate scattered examples into a coherent way of viewing the world:

    Those with the most invested in complexity, will have the the biggest adjustments to make when simplicity is forced on them.

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  • Michael P. November 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I wonder how NYC officials thought of the use of bikes post-sandy following a very successful NACTO conference. It’d be interesting to hear their thoughts. Again Jonathan, Great coverage!

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  • Hart Noecker November 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Great video, was nice to see even more images of bikes helping build community, though the idea of bikes playing a role ‘after’ a disaster seems a little trite considering that we’re entering a period of constant disasters thanks to cars and the burning of fossil fuels.

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    • 9watts November 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      9watts likes this post.

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  • Michelle P November 29, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    A fascinating topic. The KBOO Bike Show interviewed Carmen Merlo, Director of the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, and Ethan Jewett of the Disaster Relief Trials earlier this year. They were great guests.

    We talked about earthquakes, emergency kits, transportation, cargo bikes, and post-apocalyptic books and movies. (Carmen’s favorite: Battlestar Galactica.)

    You can listen to the archived show at http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2012/07/kboo_bike_show_118.html

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  • dwainedibbly November 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Jonathan: When I realized that you were still in NYC and the storm was coming, I was really hoping that something good like this might come from it.

    I think it might be time to get a trailer, something simple & flat, that can hold a large rubbermaid tote (or 2, stacked), with removable wheels for storage.

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  • Barbara November 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    So great that PBEM is using your excellent work to further the cause of biking!

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