Dispatch from Disaster Relief Trials in Seattle

Portlander Mike Cobb competed at the
Seattle Disaster Relief Trials.
(Photo by Fred Bretsch – FEMA Region 10)

Seattle cargo bike advocates held their first Disaster Relief Trials event over the weekend. The event sprung up thanks to inspiration from Portland’s event of the same name that was held last year. Portlander Mike Cobb traveled north for the event and sent back a few photos and notes…

All photos by Mike Cobb.

DRT Seattle was a sweet success. They ran a tight ship and facilitated a delightful ambiance, filled with community-involved cargo cyclists swapping stories and fostering friendship, bolstered by a heart-felt common mission. The event piggy-backed on the Bicycle Urbanism Symposium at the University of Washington, so there was good sharing of resources and great cross-pollination-style networking. 40 riders attended (20 cargo bike competitors, 20 regular bike attendants — who received expert disaster relief lessons at each checkpoint). The relief supply payload (25Kg, accumulated) is described below, checkpoint by checkpoint.

Start: News of earthquake event is shouted out to the field of 40 riders. It is brought to our attention that people in our community are in need of: vaccine, water, sandbags, first aid and food. We inflate a pre-deflated tire on our bikes and then run to the registration table to pick-up “vaccine” (three eggs in a partial egg carton).

Checkpoint 1: Run with 4 gallon bucket to lake Washington, fill, lid, run back for signature.
Checkpoint 2: FEMA-staffed: grab “sandbag” (potting soil), portage it, water bucket, and bike over 1meter barrier, register ID (including emergency contact )info at FEMA tent, fill out ID sticker for helmet (including emergency contact).
Checkpoint 3: RED CROSS: Receive thorough instructions on field-repair of a broken Ulna (arm bone). I receive actual expert first-aid for a serious cut on my finger…while I was receiving the bone-repair tutorial.
Checkpoint 4: FOOD BANK: Pick up any two food items. I chose peanut butter and bread.

The crowd gathers, KUOW interviews the fabulous Madi Carlson (a custom pink big dummy-riding dynamo, who advocates for family cargo biking in Seattle).

Mathiew Snyder and his ’92 Bilenky
Relief supplies delivered. The “vaccine” (three eggs) was swaddled in a wool shirt, then stowed in my handlebar bag. No breakage.
The manifest filled, mission complete.

Like we saw in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy in New York, using bicycles as disaster relief tools is an idea whose time has come. Similar to the excitement and partnerships Portland’s event has created, this event in Seattle has already led to involvement by FEMA and their city office of emergency management. Portland’s second annual event will feature the Cascadia Cargo Bike Fair and will be held at OMSI on July 13th.

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