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2016 Disaster Relief Trials set for October 22nd

2016 Disaster Relief Trials set for October 22nd

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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.

It’s been over five years since we first reported on how bikes can help us in our time of need. And now for the fifth year in a row a group of Portlanders has come together to organize the Disaster Relief Trials, an event that acts as an inspirational innovation catalyst and educational platform for our bicycle-oriented community.

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A competitor rolled through a water obstacle at the 2015 event.







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How much supplies could you load on your bike in an emergency?

This year’s event will be held on October 22nd in conjuction with the City of Portland’s Emergency Preparedness Fair at the University Place Hotel (which also serve as DRT basecamp).

Here’s the event description:

Portland cyclists are called to test their navigation, problem solving and load-hauling mettle on October 22th, 2016 in a disaster drill designed to showcase the relevance of cargo bikes to disaster relief. This year’s competition will again feature a “hub-and-spoke” checkpoint arrangement, centered in downtown Portland at the at the University Place Hotel. Riders will begin at the “hub” and return periodically to complete disaster relief challenges, making this year’s event especially spectator friendly. The LeMans start, barrier crossing, awkward load lashing, and harried relief cargo delivery will all be located at the campus hub. Between moments of DRT action, spectators can visit a Preparedness Fair sponsored by the Downtown Neighborhood Association inside the hotel. The fair will offer information and activities to get you prepared for any disaster.

All types of riders are encouraged to sign-up and get involved. There are separate classes for families, teams, electric-assist, beginners, and seasonsed disaster riders. Registration (which starts at $35) discounts are available for professional bike messengers and students. Scholarships are also available.

For inspiration and background, check out our coverage from past events. Learn more and register at the event’s Facebook and sign-up page.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.

The post 2016 Disaster Relief Trials set for October 22nd appeared first on BikePortland.org.

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

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

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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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Mike Cobb.

45 competitors showed up today to test their mettle and equipment. They faced 10 challenging checkpoints scattered throughout the city. They had to lift their bikes up and over a five-foot wall, ride through deep water, carry heavy and awkward loads, traverse steep dirt trails, and more. Depending on category, the riders had to pedal, push, and lift their loads between 15 and 30 miles.

Portlander Mike Cobb came up with the concept five years ago and now DRT events are held in Seattle, Eugene and San Francisco. Bend will join the list next year. Cobb was inspired by the tragic events that unfolded after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti in 2010. “I was embarrassed as a human to watch what happened in Haiti,” he shared with me at the event today, “And the biggest tragedy wasn’t the quake itself but the secondary impacts. We have such amazing innovations when we’re motivated… like going to the moon or something; but all those people in Haiti had to suffer just because we’re not focused on it.

“Decision-makers need proof that bikes are not just toys.”
— Mike Cobb, event organizer

So I thought, what can I do?”

Cobb, a former messenger known for amazing feats of bicycling like doing the 375-mile off-road Oregon Outback on a fixed gear, turned to what he knows and loves: bikes. “I wanted to do something decentralized and human-powered.”

The DRT is a way to showcase what cargo bikes can do. If we as a society are to ever embrace them as serious disaster-relief tools, people in power must shift their perceptions. “Decision-makers need proof that bikes are not just toys,” Cobb says.

Today’s event definitely got the point across. In fact, the City of Portland’s Planning and Preparedness Manager Jonna Papaefthimiou participated in the Family category (see photos of her in action below).

Here’s a breakdown of the different rider categories:

Family Category Rider (~15 miles, ~20lbs cargo + your kids)
The Family class are families that are ready. With kids in tow, their cargo will take care of their needs; going the distance to make sure their family is safe! In the notes, please tell us how many kids will be on your bike and you’ll get a time bonus per kid!

Citizen Category Rider (~30 miles, ~50lbs cargo)
The Citizen class are everyday people who are prepared for disaster. They might not have the heaviest cargo, but they have what they need to make sure they are ready.

Resilient Category Rider (~30 miles, ~75lbs cargo)
The Resilient class are everyday people who are ready to help. Their cargo will to take care of their needs, but don’t worry, they have a little bit extra to help their community. They are ready to go that extra distance to help others in their community! Riders in this class should anticipate large and awkward cargo.

Responder Category Rider (~30 miles, ~100lbs cargo)
The Responder class will carry the heaviest cargo, they are the people who will be going the longest distance because in a real disaster, the responders will be taking care of themselves and others. Riders in this class should anticipate large and awkward cargo.

E-Assist Category Rider (~30 miles, ~125lbs cargo)
The E-Assist class will cover more ground and haul more cargo (125 lbs) since they come with a built in booster. Riders who can prove (with a picture) that they have an off-grid charging option will get a time bonus. Bike path legal e-assist bikes only please.

For more of today’s action, check out the photos and captions below…

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Responder category team entrant Lindsay Kennedy.
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Resilient category rider Tom Keller.
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Citizen category riders.
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Shawn Postera riding for Multnomah County Animal Services.
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Citizen category rider Piet Fretz
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Citizen category rider Wibke Fretz.
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Back at the Hub, spectators checked out a map of the checkpoints.
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Responder category rider Joel Newman pumps his tire at checkpoint #2.
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Responder category rider Joel Newman checks his map before leaving the Hub for checkpoint #3 on the Tilikum Bridge.
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Responder category rider Josh Volk.
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The riders kept the map within close reach. They had get it signed-off by a course marshall at each checkpoint.
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Joel Newman’s homemade machine featured a nifty drivetrain and cool outrigger cargo bins.
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Close-up of the drivetrain on Joel Newman’s bike.
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Joel Newman made these versatile cargo bays.
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There was a very wide variety of bike set-ups, including Aaron Rogosin’s Cannondale road bike with an Xtracycle Freeradical kit.
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Bill Stites of Stites Design volunteered to be the first responder with his Truck Trike. It also came in handy when these 18 pallets needed to be hauled from University of Portland to St. Johns Park.
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The second checkpoint required participants to deflate a tire (to mimic a blowout) and then pump it up. Many were given a five-minute penalty for not carrying their own pump.
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Responder category rider Mark Ginsberg refilled his water at checkpoint #2.
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Responder category rider Tess Velo riding away toward checkpoint #3.

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Resilient category rider Seth Burke.
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Tomas deAlmeida upon hearing his friend and fellow rider Ryan Hashagen suffered a real tire blowout on the way to the first checkpoint.
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Resilient category rider William Douglas all loaded up.
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E-assist category rider Nick Slanchick
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Responder category rider Nate Young.
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Up-close look at DIY bakfiets belonging to Seth Burke.
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Tire-pumping teamwork of Piet and Wibke Fretz.
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Patrick Vinograd and son were one of several participants in the Family category.
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“Here dad, I’ll hold this for you while you pump.”
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Responder category rider Ryan Hashagen was more tired than anyone else at the first checkpoint. One of his tires blew out while riding his cargo trike on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Instead of dropping out, he pushed the trike a mile home, got another cargo bike out of his garage and re-entered the competition.
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Joe Ohama and his son Luke Ohama dropping into the deep water challenge at checkpoint #4.
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He might need a fender in his emergency kit!
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Jonna Papaefthimiou, planning and preparedness manager at the City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, participated in the Family category.
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When the Big One does strike, Portland’s deeply rooted cargo biking culture, our respect for human-powered mobility, and the type of community building and skills on display at events like this will benefit us all. Thanks to all the participants, organizers, volunteers and sponsors!

Read more on this topic in our “bikes and disasters” archives.

— Jonathan Maus
jonathan@bikeportland.org
(503) 706-8804
@BikePortland


The post ‘Disaster Relief Trials’ demonstrate biking’s potential after The Big One appeared first on BikePortland.org.

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

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?”

After the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, we started asking that question: When a similar fate hits Portland, what role will bicycles play in the recovery? A year later, using bikes in disaster relief efforts had become a serious thing in Portland (and beyond). Our story archives on the topic have since become filled with reassuring vignettes of this positive trend.

But the “Really big one” Kathryn Schulz wrote about on July 20th seems so overwhelming that it didn’t feel like the right time or place to re-hash our optimistic editorial tone about how bikes will help smooth over the rough patches of recovery.

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Then it hit me: The thing that makes bicycling so powerful isn’t just the bicycles themselves, it’s the people and community that tends to gather around them.

When you do your research into survival tips (notice I said “when” not “if”), one thing you’ll learn is that many experts say the best way to ameliorate the devastating impacts is to turn to your community. Get to know your neighbors and build a community, they say, and you’ll be much better off.

That advice bodes very well for people who frequently use bicycles. While some see just a means of fun and transportation, I see a powerful community-building machine.

If you’re an advocate, activist, loyal BikePortland reader, dedicated rider, or all the above, just stop and think about how many people you’ve gotten to know through cycling. Think about how many people at your work, on your street, or at an event you’ve talked to and gotten to know better for no reason other than the fact they were on a bike.

I’ve covered countless events where hundreds — sometimes thousands! — of people have come together simply because of bicycles. I’ve seen people rally around strangers who’ve gotten seriously injured while riding. I’ve seen a tremendously strong community organize itself around the simple idea that bicycles are awesome.

When the shaking stops, it’s naive to think that bicycles alone will save us from tragedy and turmoil. They won’t. But the strong ties we’ve created through bicycling bind us together and make us more resilient — even in the face of an incomprehensible disaster. And that’s something that should make us all feel better.


The post Talk of a disastrous earthquake got you down? Just keep on biking appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Dates set for 4th annual Disaster Relief Trials

Dates set for 4th annual Disaster Relief Trials

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Participants negotiate a water-carrying checkpoint at last year’s event.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s Disaster Relief Trials are back for the fourth year and there are some exciting changes in store.

Before we get into the details, here’s the mock scenario:

“Imagine this: It’s two days after the big earthquake… roads are broken, fuel is unavailable, but your family and neighbors need supplies. Think you are out of options? Think again! Use your cargo bike!

Portland cyclists are called to test their navigation, problem solving and load hauling mettle on October 17th, 2015 in a disaster drill designed to showcase the relevance of cargo bikes in disaster relief.”

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As we’ve been covering since 2011, the tandem rise in popularity of cargo bikes and disaster preparedness have added a lot of momentum and relevance to this event.

Organizers announced earlier this week that the 2015 DRT will be held on October 17th at the campus of the University of Portland. Also new this year is a “hub and spoke” checkpoint arrangement (with U of P as the hub), which will make the event much more spectator friendly.

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If you’ve never seen or participated in this event, we highly recommend checking it out. Competitors show up in all types of bikes and have to go through nearly a dozen grueling checkpoints that require them to do everything from lift their bike (and up to 100 lbs of cargo) over obstacles and carry odd-shaped items. The idea is to demonstrate how resilient bicycles (and the people who ride them) can be after a natural disaster strikes.

In addition to the competition, there will also be an expo where you can learn more about disaster preparedness from the event’s sponsors and partners which include: the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, the Cascade Regional Earthquake Workgroup, and others.

Pre-registration is open and you can sign-up online.

To learn more, read our recap and browse photos from last year’s event, check out DisasterReliefTrials.com and follow @PortlandDRT on Twitter.


The post Dates set for 4th annual Disaster Relief Trials appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Cargo bikes, community win the day at Disaster Relief Trials

Cargo bikes, community win the day at Disaster Relief Trials

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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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Riders had to get
signed-off at each checkpoint.

Around 40 riders took part in the DRT on Saturday. There were three classes of riders: The “replenish” class was billed as family friendly and participants were required to carry one other person (most opted for a young child). The “open” and “e-bike” classes were more competitive and had to tackle a longer, more challenging course.

The premise was that riders were responding to a major disaster, such as an earthquake, where trains, buses, and cars will have been rendered useless. Roads and bridges will have crumbled. Gasoline might be gone or in very short supply. Bicycles — especially ones with carrying capacity — will be the last vehicles standing.

Prior to the start, each competitor was given a map and manifest. Their mission was to leave from home base (an emergency response command center set up in the parking lot of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) and successfully navigate a variety of checkpoints. Open and e-bike class riders went as far south as Sellwood Riverfront Park, east to Sewellcrest Park (SE 32nd and Lincoln) and north to University of Portland and the Oregon Food Bank (NE 33rd and Columbia).

The checkpoints were more than a test of cycling skills. They tested each riders’ agility, sense of direction, creativity, patience, and will.

After filling five-gallon buckets with water (weighing about 45 pounds) from the Willamette River near the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge, the riders rolled south to Sellwood Park. Then it was north to Sewellcrest Park where things got interesting. For the remainder of the ride, the competitors would have to deal with a full-size pallet attached to their bikes. This awkward item was a test of packing skills. Some placed it flat on the front of their bikes, others tilted it vertically and strapped it to the side.

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Eventual winner Willy Hatfield in Sewellcrest Park.
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Open class riders at a water stop.
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Chris Manuel opts to lighten his bike by removing the water buckets prior to lifting it over the railing.
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Todd Hudson straps down his pallet.
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Lucas Strain (R) and Alexander Hongo make quick work of a barrier.
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Lucas Strain, Ryan Hashagen, and Alexander Hongo at checkpoint 3.

Once the pallet was strapped on, they had to lift it — and their bikes — over a three-foot railing. This created a bottleneck of riders at checkpoint 3 who barked instructions to each other in order to time their lifts. Once the bikes were over the obstacle, the riders hammered on their pedals to the next checkpoint — an industrial facility at N Cook and Mississippi.

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Mark Ginsberg guts out a lift.
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Al Hongo and Ryan Hashagen (R).
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Five riders working together.
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Tyler Arana’s delivery trike was difficult to lift.

This is where navigation proved invaluable. Several riders lost major time due to wrong turns and other navigation mistakes. Alexander Hongo and Lucas Strain came up from Eugene hoping to deliver an upset to the locals. But while riding north on Williams they missed the left turn on Fremont. By the time I saw them back at the finish line, Lucas said the mistake cost them several extra miles.

Here are some photos of the speedy riding between checkpoints 3 and 4…

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Taking the lanes on Hawthorne.
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Coming up Williams Ave.
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Tyler Arana (from Eugene) delivers newspapers for the Daily Emerald on the University of Oregon campus. Despite the difficulties of the course he was having a great time.

A few scenes from checkpoint 4…

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Jodi Schoenen (L) and Kathleen Youell doing their best to stave off the heat.
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Zak Schwank
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Jodi Schoenen
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Kathleen, Jodi, and Zak Schwank rode together in the replenish class.
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E-bike rider Abraham Sutfin straps on the plank as FEMA volunteers look on.
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And he’s off!
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Bill Stites and his Truck Trike.

By the time the riders reached the “Dirt” checkpoint on N Willamette Blvd, they had about 18 miles in their legs, a pallet, an eight-foot long 2 X 6 plank, and two full buckets of water on their bikes. And then it was time to tackle what many of them said was the hardest part of the entire course: a slippery singletrack trail and dirt hillclimb. The off-road section was hot and unforgiving on both riders and their bikes.

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John Howe walks his bike carefully down the trail.
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Lucas Strain riding the brakes before the tricky corner.
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Bike Friday founder Alan Scholz had to repack after crashing on the downhill.
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Chris Manuel grits his teeth as he looses track on the climb.
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Tyler Arana pushes through the hot brush.
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Robert Cyders struggled on the downhill trail, but eventually regained his footing. He was later disqualified for completing the checkpoints out of order.
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Tim Peters re-checks his load after the descent.
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As hard as it looks.
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Eventual e-bike class winner Sterling McCord hummed up the climb.

From there it was on to the last three checkpoints where the riders had to pull a victim in a sled behind their bikes, pick up a box of perishable food, and then take on four eggs — without breaking them — all the way back to the finish at OMSI.

While we waited at base camp for the riders to finish, the Cascadia Cargo Bike Fair was in full swing…

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Master cargo bike builder Tom Labonty was there with his latest creation: A cargo bike with blender, storage bins, and a hot water heater/sink attached. Tom created a two-way drive system. Pedal forward to ride the bike, pedal backward to operate the blender.
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Lemonade stand from Phil at Metrofiets.
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This family rig was designed by Seth Burke (and welded by Tom Labonty).
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Splendid Cycles co-owner Joel Grover was a sponsor of the event.
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Portland’s “Builder by Bike” Chris Sanderson.
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Fred King and his daughter Maya.
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Filmmaker, publisher Joe Biel from Microcosm Publishing.
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Paul Johnson from Blaq design loaded up with his booth and a spare bike!
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Test ride of the awesome Urban Arrow from Clever Cycles.

The first person to cross the line was Willy Hatfield with a time of three hours and eleven minutes. Hatfield is an engineer with Bike Friday and was riding a custom bike he designed specifically for the DRT (based loosely on the company’s “Haul-a-Day” model). Despite his unconventional bike and the fact that he admitted, “Nothing went to plan,” Hatfield got off to an early lead, chose good routes, and took home the victory.

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Willy could barely pedal due to how the wood was strapped to his bike.
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In the e-bike class, Bend resident Sterling McCord finished first with a time of two hours and 25 minutes. The owner of Bend Electric Bikes, McCord rode a Bullitt “long John”-style cargo bike that he outfitted with an electric motor he assembled from secret parts.

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Sterling McCord.
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The winning e-bike.

Other finishers might not have been as fast, but this event isn’t about speed.

Tessa Walker rolled across several hours after the winners on her homemade, three-speed bike. “Amazing, ridiculous, awesome,” was how she described the experience to me. “The hardest part was when I realized it was just me, a pallet, and 40 pounds of water on some random street in Portland.”

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Tessa Walker
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Ryan Hashagen competed on an old road bike and nearly won, despite spilling his load at the finish.
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Abe Sutfin competed on the TiCycles “Cargo-away” show bike. He was a close second, but had time added on after breaking several of his eggs.
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Michael Jones getting his eggs checked by course marshall Carrie Folz.
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Kath Youell gets a supportive hug from friend Katie Proctor.
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Bike Friday founder Alan Scholz.
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Joyanna Eisenberg happy to be finished.

And then there was Cory Poole on a skateboard pulling a cargo trailer he built himself. It took him five hours and 11 minutes; but he got through every checkpoint and finished with the largest smile and the loudest ovation of the day.

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Cory Poole, skateboarder.

Having proved the utilitarian prowess of cargo bikes, the organizers and riders attended a well-deserved afterparty at Islabikes in southeast Portland. The event featured an indoor bike track and entertainment from Dingo the Clown and Olive Rootbeer for the kids, and cold beverages for the adults.

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One of DRT’s founders and (one of many) organizers Ethan Jewett.
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Cargo bike celebrity Emily Finch at the afterparty.
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Olive and Dingo.
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Well done Ethan, William Ruehle, Emily Finch, Kellie Jewett, Travis Wittwer, Sarah Gilbert (Fiets of Parenthood), Anita Dilles, and all the other organizers and volunteers who made this event so awesome.

We’ve got lots more photos from the event over on Flickr. For more on the DRT, check out their website and follow them on Facebook.

The post Cargo bikes, community win the day at Disaster Relief Trials appeared first on BikePortland.org.

‘Disaster Relief’ and family cargo bikers join for major event this weekend

‘Disaster Relief’ and family cargo bikers join for major event this weekend

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Two major trends in cargo biking will come together in Portland on Saturday at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Organizers of the Disaster Relief Trials and the Fiets of Parenthood have joined forces this year in what is sure to the largest cargo bike gathering of the year.

The Disaster Relief Trials return for the third year with over two dozen riders signed up to compete. They’ll be split into two categories: the Open class and Replenish class. Open Class riders will be required to muscle themselves and 100 pounds of cargo over a 30-mile, obstacle-strewn course. It’s a true test of strength and moxie that will mimic conditions following a major earthquake or other disaster. In the more family-friendly Replenish Class, riders will be required to carry one passenger on a 15-mile “post-disaster household supply run.”

In addition to cheering on the riders, spectators can get an up-close look at how a mobile communication and command center works. The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management and Multnomah County Emergency Management agencies will be on-site to track the riders via radio. Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Region 10) will staff checkpoints and share emergency preparedness tips.

The Cascadia Cargo Bike Fair will will feature bike and equipment vendors for your viewing and learning pleasure. Vendors (who are also sponsors and supporters of the event) include Clever Cycles, Spendid Cycles, Islabikes, Western Bike Works, Metrofiets, Xtracycle (coming up from their headquarters in California), and rescue equipment manafacturer Skedco.

But wait, there’s more! Also on Saturday, OMSI is also hosting their own event, Drive Revolution: The Future of Transportation alongside the Cargo Bike Fair.

After you’ve cheered on the racers and soaked up all the possibilities of cargo bikes as heroic, post-disaster responders, everyone is invited to the afterparty at Islabikes (2113 SE 7th Ave) just a few blocks away starting at 5:00 pm.

It’s going to be a great weekend for cargo bikes and their fans. Check out all the details and watch the awesome promo video at DRTPDX.org.

The post ‘Disaster Relief’ and family cargo bikers join for major event this weekend appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Disaster Relief Trials bring 30 miles of cargo-bike heroism back to Portland

Disaster Relief Trials bring 30 miles of cargo-bike heroism back to Portland

Photo by Al Hongo.

Portland’s 30-mile catastrophe-themed urban bike race returned for a second year Saturday with a splash and a lot of grunts.

In all, 48 cargo bikers set out from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry past a series of checkpoints at which they picked up three eggs (representing vials of a precious vaccine during a hypothetical outbreak) from a local health station, a bucket of “food” from Sauvie Island and two buckets of fresh water hand-scooped from the Columbia River.

Total cargo weight by the end of the race: about 110 pounds, according to steering committee member Michael Cobb. Cobb conceived the race in 2010 as a fun showcase for the potential of cargo bikes to play a key role in disaster response after an earthquake, tsunami or other devastating event removes easy access to gasoline or electricity — something experts warn is likely in Portland.

“It stokes the Pacific Northwesteners’ either public or private deep-seated belief that we’re headed toward some sort of war, famine, zombies, aliens, disease, economic collapse, whatever,” said Al Hongo of Eugene, a volunteer at Saturday’s event. “It’s so rad.”

The route wrapped back and forth across the Willamette River several times, leading participants on an overland trek:

Photo by Al Hongo.

After crossing the Hawthorne Bridge back to OMSI, participants hoisted their cargo and vehicles over a jersey barrier:

and pedaled in to cheers at the finish line.

Organizers used walkie-talkies to track participants in each of three classes: “open,” “citizen,” and “e-assist”:

The first-place finisher in the “open” class was Austin Horse, 31, of New York City, a retired bike messenger who’d flown to Portland to take part.

Horse said he’d fueled up the night before with “a bowl of something” from the Sweet Hereafter pub and packed four bananas in his pannier for the day:

In the “citizen” class, an only slightly less intense trek, the first to finish was Ken Wetherell of Portland Pedal Power. Cory Poole of the NW Skate Coalition even participated on his cargo-equipped longboard:

Photo by Al Hongo.

Mark Ginsberg of Berkshire Ginsberg LLC, who finished fourth, said his secret was to go “slow and steady.” He’d taken a 10-minute break mid-race to get a drink at New Seasons, he said.

Turbo-charged by DRT steering committee member and chief evangelist Ethan Jewett, the event drew sponsorships from OMSI, several cargo bike makers and the emergency preparedness departments for the City of Portland and Multnomah County. The organizers lined up other partnerships, too.

“It’s really great to see the fed authorities included — FEMA was at some checkpoints,” said Ryan Hashagen of Portland Pedicabs, who finished the race for the second consecutive year. “I feel like Portland is leading cargo bike innovation for the rest of the country.”

In all, Jewett said, about 41 men and seven women had taken part in the race, which is (like so many volunteer-driven Portland street culture events) a nonprofit project performed under the wing of fiscal agent Umbrella. Riders paid $50 to participate.

Horse, the New York City visitor who won the open class, said he was motivated by the chance to visit Portland and by his conviction that cargo bikes are a way for ordinary people to solve problems for themselves — fed in part by his own experience helping with relief efforts last summer after Hurricane Sandy.

“Bikes in general solve more problems than they create,” Horse said. “And that holds true even when we’re at our most desperate.”

Several of the photos above, and the first one below, are the terrific work of Al Hongo, reposted with permission. You can find more of his photography from the event on Instagram under the handle mybagisbigger.


Disaster Relief Trials bring cargo-bike heroism back to Portland

Disaster Relief Trials bring cargo-bike heroism back to Portland

Photo by Al Hongo.

Portland’s 30-mile catastrophe-themed urban bike competition returned for a second year Saturday with a splash and a lot of grunts.

“Bikes in general solve more problems than they create, and that holds true even when we’re at our most desperate.”
— Austin Horse, DRT open Class winner

In all, 48 cargo bikers set out from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry past a series of checkpoints at which they picked up three eggs (representing vials of a precious vaccine during a hypothetical outbreak) from a local health station, a bucket of “food” from Sauvie Island and two buckets of fresh water hand-scooped from the Columbia River.

Total cargo weight by the end of the event: 88 to 132 pounds depending on class, according to steering committee member Michael Cobb. Cobb conceived the “spirited scavenger hunt” in 2010 as a fun showcase for the potential of cargo bikes to play a key role in disaster response after an earthquake, tsunami or other devastating event removes easy access to gasoline or electricity — something experts warn is likely in Portland.

“It stokes the Pacific Northwesteners’ either public or private deep-seated belief that we’re headed toward some sort of war, famine, zombies, aliens, disease, economic collapse, whatever,” said Al Hongo of Eugene, a volunteer at Saturday’s event. “It’s so rad.”

The route wrapped back and forth across the Willamette River several times, leading participants on an overland trek:

Photo by Al Hongo.

After crossing the Hawthorne Bridge back to OMSI, participants hoisted their cargo and vehicles over a jersey barrier:


and pedaled in to cheers at the finish line.

Organizers used walkie-talkies to track participants in each of three classes: “open,” “citizen,” and “e-assist”:

The first-place finisher in the “open” class was Austin Horse, 31, of New York City, a retired bike messenger who’d flown to Portland to take part.

Horse said he’d fueled up the night before with “a bowl of something” from the Sweet Hereafter pub and packed four bananas in his pannier for the day:

In the “citizen” class, an only slightly less intense trek, the first to finish was Ken Wetherell of Portland Pedal Power. Cory Poole of the NW Skate Coalition even participated on his cargo-equipped skateboard:

Photo by Al Hongo.

Mark Ginsberg of Berkshire Ginsberg LLC, who finished fourth, said his secret was to go “slow and steady.” He’d taken a 10-minute break mid-race to get a drink at New Seasons, he said.

Turbo-charged by DRT steering committee member and chief evangelist Ethan Jewett, the event drew sponsorships from OMSI, several cargo bike makers and the emergency preparedness departments for the City of Portland and Multnomah County. The organizers lined up other partnerships, too.

“It’s really great to see the fed authorities included — FEMA was at some checkpoints,” said Ryan Hashagen of Portland Pedicabs, who finished the course for the second consecutive year. “I feel like Portland is leading cargo bike innovation for the rest of the country.”

In all, Jewett said, about 41 men and seven women had taken part in the competition, which is (like so many volunteer-driven Portland street culture events) a nonprofit project performed under the wing of fiscal agent Umbrella. Riders paid $50 to participate.

Horse, the New York City visitor who won the open class, said he was motivated by the chance to visit Portland and by his conviction that cargo bikes are a way for ordinary people to solve problems for themselves — fed in part by his own experience helping with relief efforts last summer after Hurricane Sandy.

“Bikes in general solve more problems than they create,” Horse said. “And that holds true even when we’re at our most desperate.”

Several of the photos above, and the first two below, are the terrific work of Al Hongo, reposted with permission. You can find more of his photography from the event on Instagram under the handle mybagisbigger. If you know of other good photos from the day, link to them in the comments below!

– Read more about bikes and disasters in our archives.



What to expect at the Disaster Relief Trials

What to expect at the Disaster Relief Trials

It’s here! The biggest event of its kind in the world.

One of the most interesting and influential bike events in Portland starts with a kickoff party tonight. The Disaster Relief Trials was first held last year at Velo Cult Bike Shop in Hollywood and since then the event has ridden a wave of interest, gotten attention from local, regional, and even national agencies, and has spawned imitators in Vancouver (BC), Seattle, Eugene, and other cities.

This year’s event features two big parties, the Trials themselves, and the “Cargo Bike Fair” — a huge gathering of cargo bikes and the people who love them. I’ll share more about what’s on tap, and highlight a few of the bikes and riders below…

Madi Carlson from Seattle will be
competing in the Citizen Class.

The kickoff is at one of Portland’s cargo-bike innovators, Joe Bike on the corner of SE Cesar Chavez and Lincoln. Owner Joe Doebele has been active in the local cargo bike scene and he’s got another reason to celebrate tonight: It’s his fifth year in business. It goes from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, everyone’s invited and there will be food and drinks provided.

Tomorrow the Big Event kicks off early at OMSI. There are 47 competitors registered this year, and they’re arranged in three classes: Open, Citizen, and E-assist. The range of personalities and riding backgrounds of the competitors is one of my favorite aspects of the event. This year, organizers have recruited some very big names who will no doubt put on a display of speed and skill; but there are also regular folks who have simply caught the cargo biking bug.

Take Citizen Class competitor Jon Berkner for instance. He’s just a “single dad with errands to run” who’s never ridden his Yuba Mundo longtail more than 10-12 miles. Then there’s Open Class competitor Austin Horse. He’s an eight-year messenger veteran who has traveled to Portland from New York City just for this event. You can read about more of the competitors on the DRT blog.

And bikes? You’ll see just about every cargo combination that exists. From old-school “Burley” trailers attached to regular city bikes, to the latest in custom-made cargo bike goodness. Speaking of which, local builder TiCycles has collaborated with Portland’s EcoSpeed to create an amazing e-assisted cargo bike dubbed “Utility Horse.” The bike (see it below) won an award at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and it will be on display at the Cargo Bike Fair.

(Photo courtesy EcoSpeed)

Another interesting bike you won’t want to miss tomorrow is the “Comms Bike.” Created through a partnership between Ethan Jewett/Stickeen Brand Services, disaster preparedness consultant Joe Partridge of Genevieve Consulting, and cargo bike specialty shop Splendid Cycles, this bike is a new product developed specifically for use in disaster response. I met up with Jewett (the DRT’s chief evangelist, who picked up the idea last year after it was conceived in 2010 by local bike lover Michael Cobb) last night to get a closer look.

Mobile command center bike-2

Mobile command center bike-7

Mobile command center bike-3

Mobile command center bike-1

Mobile command center bike-5

Ethan at the controls.

Jewett says the project started as a way to win a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). When that fell through, Partridge, who was convinced of its merit, urged Jewett to continue its development.

” “You can send text messages, social media updates, and emails from the bike even if something laid waste to the entire city.”
—Ethan Jewett, Stickeen Brand Services

Features of the Comms Bike include:

  • full power via a 27 watt solar panel and GoalZero battery inverter system
  • 10 external USB ports
  • first-aid equipment
  • loudspeaker for announcements
  • a fire extinguisher mounted to the cargo bin
  • custom cargo bin commissioned from Joel Grover of Splendid Cycles by local craftsman/designer Jake Rosenfeld
  • a waterproof, 50 watt, two meter HAM radio
  • antenna atop a 14-foot telescoping mast to pick up radio signals after local repeaters have shut down
  • an iPad on the dashboard of the cargo bin that running DeLorme InReach GPS mapping software
  • custom LED lights on the front and sides of the bike

The bike is intended to be a communications base station that can be kept at a neighborhood park where it can provide power, lights, and a staging area. All the communications and other electronic equipment is maintained in the cargo bin, so the bin can be detached and left at a staging area and the bike can continue to be used to haul cargo. It was built as a retail product and the cost ranges from $8,000 to $10,000 depending on how it’s built up. “This bike is done and awaiting a new owner. If New York City calls up and they want it, we’ll put in a box and send it to them, and make another one,” says Jewett.

With connection to the iridium satellite constellation, Jewett says “You can send text messages, social media updates, and emails from the bike even if something laid waste to the entire city.”

It’s sister bike is a modified XtraCycle EdgeRunner longtail that carries stretcher and a host of other EMS equipment. That bike was donated by XtraCycle, whose founder Ross Evans will be at the DRT event tomorrow.

You can see all these amazing bikes and the people who are passionate about them at the DRT event which takes place all day tomorrow at OMSI. There’s also an after-party at Velo Cult that starts at 7:00 pm. Full schedule here.

Learn more about the DRT from its organizer, Ethan Jewett, via his interview on Wednesday’s Sprocket Podcast.

Cargo bike responders wanted for Tigard mock emergency drill

Cargo bike responders wanted for Tigard mock emergency drill

Disaster Relief Trials -90

Cargo bikes to the rescue!
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

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.