National spotlight shines on role of bikes in disaster response

National spotlight shines on role of bikes in disaster response

Screen grab of The Rachel Maddow Show last night.

It’s been a good year for the idea that bikes are the ultimate disaster response vehicles.

What started as a niche thing here in Portland (promoted by a few emergency preparedness hobbyists with a penchant for cargo bikes), spread east to New York after superstorm Sandy; and then last night the idea made its big, prime-time national cable TV debut.

At the end of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show last night, host Rachel Maddow shared the story of how partial subway service is being restored to the Rockaways, a section of Queens that was devastated by Sandy. During the segment, as Maddow described how the Rockaways have been cut off from the rest of New York, I was pleasantly surprised when she mentioned bicycles. With a photo from Sarah Goodyear’s story in The Atlantic on the screen, Maddow said:

“After the storm, the Rockaways got so hard to reach that some bicyclists pedaled in supplies. I think partly to prove that they could do it, but partly because with gas supplies short and rationed, biking still worked.”

It was a short mention, but an important one given that The Maddow Show is one of the most widely watched cable news shows in the business (on one night back in September, the show garnered over 2 million viewers).

Continuing with the positive press around this growing bike niche is a video from Times Up! in NYC that I first saw highlighted on CrankMyChain.com. The video chronicles a bike ride organized by Times-Up to aid Sandy storm victims. Watch it below…

I’m also aware that a national bike magazine is working on a feature story about the roles bikes can play in disaster response. Add to that, the next issue of Elly Blue’s Taking the Lane book series is based on the disaster theme.

Here in Portland, the City’s Bureau of Emergency Management is hard at work on a video about the topic. I chatted on camera for that project with PBEM’s Public Information Officer Randy Neves earlier this week and I’m eager to see how it turns out. Neves says PBEM is fully on board with the crucial role bikes can play after a disaster and he plans to promote the video as an example of good preparedness.

And in case you were wondering, Portland’s Disaster Relief Trials event will return next year. Organizers are already in the planning stages of what should be another excellent event. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, make sure your disaster response plans include your bicycle.

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