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.
“Everyone’s going to die if they don’t get medicine,” Harper shared today, “I have to have backup plans. Traffic might be snarled and I need a way to get around traffic and cargo bikes can easily ride around traffic jams and ride on bike paths.” The cargo biking volunteer would be dispatched to a helipad on the outskirts of town where they’d pick up boxes of medicine and deliver them to a POD station.
Harper said she’s looking for at least one cargo bike operator to be participate in the exercise; but so far she hasn’t found anyone on the west side. “I’d really like to have the ability to demonstrate the use of cargo bikes and not just say to the commanders, ‘We could use bikes but I couldn’t find anyone to volunteer.'” Harper said she loved the concept of using bicycles in disaster response situations after seeing it first-hand at last June’s Disaster Relief Trials. In an emergency, Harper says, “Bikes are one of the best individual grassroots resources you can have.”
If you’d like to participate in this exercise, contact Tara Harper at via email at until [at] tarakharper [dot] com or call her at (503) 545-8140.
I really wish I owned a cargo bike, so I could participate in this.
Am I allowed to say that it sounds a little bit like they gamed the disaster to be bike-friendly? Vital, not too-bulky, time-sensitive cargo.
I’ve seen the results of quite a few storms, a few blizzards, a couple of good floods, and one earthquake. Bikes can get through the traffic jams from power being out (earthquake), but those tend to clear in a few hours.
Trees stay down for longer, and with gear on trucks those have to be cleared one at a time along a road — bikes hauling chainsaws and/or gasoline might leapfrog forward and start work on several trees at once. However, downed trees often also involve power lines, and those are not for amateurs.
Where I think they make a difference might be in places where the roads get wrecked — a bike can be rolled across/around a gap that would stop a car or truck. Tigard doesn’t look like the sort of place to get cut off like that, but I think that the Loma Prieta quake cut off some places in the Santa Cruz mountains for a little while. Hurricane Irene did that in parts of Vermont, too.
Hurricane Sandy was a more interesting case, because apparently people just flat ran out of gasoline.
You mean it sounds like a bicycle version of the Iditarod? Because that was the exact same thing that happened there (minus the bio-terrorism), a epidemic would happen unless a cure was delivered in time and planes were grounded by weather… dog sleds to the rescue! The only differences in this case is the cause of the medical emergency, the distance involved, and the lack of refrigeration needed in Alaska but required for this event.
Hadn’t thought of it that way, but it still sounds somewhat improbable. What do people usually need delivered during disasters?
Usually water is the big need early on when power outages shut down water plants, then either food or heating supplies depending on the season People can go a week without food, but only a day without water (less if it’s really hot), and if it’s really cold then heating supplies become as important as water, and much more important than food. You can die of hypothermia faster than dehydration if it’s cold enough, and “cold enough” can be above freezing depending on what clothes you’re wearing. Medical supplies usually start running out sometime on the third or fourth day without resupply.
Medical supplies come to mind. Either for individuals who need medications like insulin, or for temporary aid stations that might be set up in various locations. Or maybe fuel for generators at emergency centers.
I wonder if Hillsboro or Beaverton have similar programs – and would a bike with a cargo trailer count?