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Disaster Relief Trials back (and bigger) for second year

Posted by on May 7th, 2013 at 9:41 am

Disaster Relief Trials -84

Joe Partridge competing in the 2012 event.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

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.

The big news this year is that the DRT will take place at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry. Organizers have planned an expanded Cascadia Cargo Bike Faire that will be part of an OMSI exhibit on sustainable transportation. Also new for 2013 is the addition of an e-bike class into the competition. In order make sure the electric-assisted bikes operate under the same conditions (no power available) as the non e-bikes, the bikes’ batteries must be charged using some means of alternative or renewable energy. A solar power company will be on-hand to provide on-site charging prior to the event.

The 2013 DRT will have slots for 40 riders which will be split into three classes. They’ll set out on a 30-mile course that has been designed to “demonstrate and challenge the cargo bike’s capabilities in a disaster response situation.” Last year, the event attracted a range of set-ups from the tradition bike trailer to longtails, cycle-trucks, “bakfiets”, and others.

The Cargo Bike Faire will be significantly expanded this year and will include bike manufacturers, cargo bike-based businesses, and more. While the competitors are on course, several speakers have been lined up to entertain the crowds back at the fair. Among the speakers will be Joe Partridge of Genevieve Consulting (read our story on him here), resiliency expert Jeremy O’Leary, and Alice Lasher Busch, Multnomah County’s emergency management coordinator.

The event is slated July 13th. Learn more and contact event organizers via the event’s Facebook page.

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  • Anne Hawley May 7, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Commenting with absolutely no substance here, but I just have to say, this is really exciting! I may not own a cargo bike or be fit for competition, but if the Big One hits, I’d like to think that I and my Dutchie and its full complement of rack and baskets could be of some use. I love that people are thinking about this.

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    • Ryan May 7, 2013 at 11:20 am

      There’s a non-competitive class as well, as there was last year. Technically, there were only 15 competitors- the other 15 were non-competitive, just doing it for the sake of showing it could be done. Overall, regardless of which class competitors were in, the overall spirit was more cooperative than competitive- at least that was my experience (I was one of the 30 last year). In the event of a real disaster, we’d all be working together, and using whatever hauling system we had on hand.

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    • Mike Cobb May 7, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Anne, Ryan is correct. The “Citizen” class is for you….and don’t you have a friend who trusts you *and* owns a bike trailer? The fastest male and female Citizen classers last year were both outfitted with trailers, one borrowed, one owned (not “racing”, but “happily hustling through a scavenger hunt”). Trailers make any bike into a cargo bike and that sounds REALLY GOOD for disaster time! You are cordially invited.

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  • GlowBoy May 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I won’t be able to go this year, but I would love to join up in the citizen class next year. Meanwhile, which rig would be better? Our Madsen cargo bike certainly beats the pants off the BOB trailer in terms of cargo capacity and ease of loading, but is a real monster to deal with when it comes to obstacles more than about a foot high.

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    • Mike Cobb May 8, 2013 at 10:03 am


      Stay tuned for the list of “essential DRT elements”, which will include the accumulated payload (probably 50kg), the minimum self-navigated checkpoint circuit distance (probably 30 miles), and the simulated rubble barrier height (probably 1 meter) and it’s location relative to payload accumulation (around 25kg in). These and other factors will help *YOU* decide which tools are best. Last year and this year’s competition parameters will be similar. Last year, a Metrofiets long john and a Harry vs Larry Bullit long john were ridden to victory in the men’s and women’s Open classes, respectively. In last year’s Citizen classes, both the men and women were led by folks towing 200-300lb payload-rated trailers with fast city bikes.

      Rumor has it that a cargo-trailerized skateboarder is itching to test his system’s DRT-suitability.

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  • MikeG May 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Any link to more information for those not on Facebook? (“You must sign in to view this page”)

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    • Mike Cobb May 8, 2013 at 9:17 am

      We are Facebook-based at this point. We should have something for non-FB users, like yourself, so I’ll try to fix that (perhaps transportland.org).

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  • Ted Buehler May 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Question — do they announce the total weight carried at some point? Or do you not find out until the day of the event.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Mike Cobb May 8, 2013 at 9:42 am


      Probably 50kg, accumulated over the course of a checkpoint circuit that forces self-navigating competitors to travel at least 30 miles

      the long answer:
      We are refining our list of “essential DRT elements” (totalling 9 currently). The purpose of this list is to provide a simple template or “DRT recipe”, easily transferable from city to city (Boulder, Seattle, Eugene this year). We’re taking pains to come up with an authentic and productive cargo-bike-involved disaster-day-4 drill. Onerous event requirements or competition challenges are not part of the deal. A founding tenant of DRT is the concept that “normal citizens” with bicycle cargo capacity can do real work to move relief supplies safely and comfortably.

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  • Mark May 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Any link to more information for those not on Facebook? (“You must sign in to view this page”)

    Yeah, I would love to find out more about this too.

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    • Mike Cobb May 8, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Thanks. Working on it!

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  • 9watts May 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm


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  • Zaphod May 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I guess my Saturday plans for July 13th have been decided for me

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  • jim May 9, 2013 at 12:01 am

    I like the fact that this is being brought to public awareness. When the big one hits ( or whatever) people will remember this. Even if you don’t ride much, it would be handy to have a bike when something like this happens.

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  • Serra May 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    I love this idea!
    Me and a few friends did quite a bit of getting around by bike, as well as hauling water, etc, after the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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  • Randy July 2, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    For the non FB’s what time does this event start?

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