Disaster Relief Trials tests mettle of bikes and their riders (video)

The longer I document bike culture, the more I realize just how much a bike and a motivated rider can do together. Just when I feel like I’ve seen it all, I am once again inspired and amazed.

This phenomenon came into play once again at the 10th annual Disaster Relief Trials, which were held Saturday at Cully Park in Northeast Portland.

The idea that bicycles can play a big role after a big disaster strikes has gone from the fringe to the mainstream in the past decade or so and this event is a big reason why. Organizers set up a mock re-supply run set four days after a disaster. There were a series of checkpoints and challenges each of the 30 or so competitors had to deal with. Among the tasks needed to finish were navigational skills, loading awkward objects, and lifting their bicycle (and trailer) over a park bench.

And while we say “cargo bikes,” there really is no limit to what type of vehicle can be used in the DRT — as long as it’s not a gas-powered one. We’ve seen someone complete the course on a skateboard in year’s past. And this year Ryan Hashagen did the course on roller skates while pushing a grocery cart!

In our video of this year’s event, you’ll see how it all went down. Amit Zinman captured some great shots of the bikes, the people, and a lot of the action out on the course.

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City of Portland unveils bicycle ambulance prototype

The city’s first attempt at a bike ambulance.(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management has long understood that when a disaster strikes, the ability to use cars and trucks could be extremely limited. Because of this reality, PBEM sees bicycles as a key ingredient in their disaster response plans.

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Portlander gets global attention for bringing pedal-power to Standing Rock

 Cobb is name-dropped in a video published by CNN from Standing Rock that has over a million views.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)
Cobb is name-dropped in a video published by CNN from Standing Rock that has over a million views.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portlander Mike Cobb brought valuable cargo with him on his journey to Standing Rock in support of people fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline. It wasn’t food or jackets or blankets — it was the ability to produce electricity with a bicycle and a bit of pedal power.

Cobb is well-known in Portland for his bike messengering and extreme biking skills (he’s represented us at the World Cycle Messenger Championships and I ran into him on the Oregon Outback last year), his passion for the potential of cargo bikes during disasters (one of the main organizers of the annual Disaster Relief Trials), and his entrepreneurial endeavors in the bike industry (he’s co-owner of Framebuilder Supply).

Cobb has a passion for expanding the potential of what a bicycle can do. Given that, Cobb’s offering at Standing Rock comes as no surprise — but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. And what better way to promote the idea that bicycles can save the world than by getting major exposure on one of the world’s largest media outlets.

A CNN correspondent noticed Cobb’s set-up and published a video report about it thaty already has well over one million views:

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2016 Disaster Relief Trials set for October 22nd

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
2014 Disaster Relief Trials-58

The annual event tests the limits of bicycles as an emergency response tool.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Bicycles — especially durable ones that can carry lots of stuff — will be one of the most important tools we have when a disaster strikes. They don’t need fuel, they can be carried over obstacles, they can haul lots of medical supplies and food, and they can even be used to generate electricity if necessary.

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‘Disaster Relief Trials’ demonstrate biking’s potential after The Big One

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Disaster Relief Trials 2015-1.jpg

Competitor Adam Newman leads a group of riders on North Rosa Parks Way en route to the Oregon Food Bank checkpoint where they had to pick up a box of food before returning to the University of Portland.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

With interest in earthquake preparedness at an all-time high, the timing could not have been better for the fourth annual Disaster Relief Trials. The event, which was based at University of Portland, aims to demonstrate that cargo bikes can be an effective way to administer aid and help rebuild our communities after a large quake or other natural disaster.

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Talk of a disastrous earthquake got you down? Just keep on biking

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People who bike together, stick together.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Bikes won’t save you after the Big One, but the community built up around them just might.

There’s been a lot of unease in Portland since the publication of a fascinating yet gut-wrenching article in The New Yorker that laid out the impending Cascadia earthquake in excruciating detail.

After I read the piece, I was sort of numb for a while. Then my mind wondered (as if often does) and I started to ask the default question I ask myself around any seemingly intractable issue or policy, “How can bikes fix this?”

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Cargo bikes, community win the day at Disaster Relief Trials

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2014 Disaster Relief Trials-21

Competitors Ryan Hashagen (R) and Michael Jones work together to lift a loaded cargo bike over one of the many obstacles on the course.
(Photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“I help you, you help me!”

Those aren’t the words you expect to hear during a competitive cycling event. But when the event — the third annual Disaster Relief Trials — is based around a mock disaster and the competitors are piloting 150 pounds or more of bike and cargo on a challenging, 35-mile course, teamwork takes priority over individual gain.

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