Forget FEMA. Portland, Oregon's relief – if and when the Big One hits – might just come in the form of an army of bike riders. Most likely fueled by caffeine rations.

The city recently conducted its Disaster Relieve Trials program, which involved rounding up a group of about 40 riders and sending them out on regular bikes, cargo bikes and electric-powered bikes, Oregon Live says. For the drill, which simulated a major Cascadia Subduction Zone that shut down the city's transportation systems, the riders were directed to a 40-mile course, carrying items such as food, water and emergency supplies. You can see the trial heroes in action in Oregon Live's three-minute video here.

Modern plug-in vehicles can also assist in a disaster situation, but we like Portland's attitude here. While bikes aren't traditionally associated with emergency response systems, the fact that two-wheelers could be a major cog in Portland's emergency system should come as no surprise. The city's been incredibly bike friendly for a long time, going as far as painting "blue box" bike-safety areas at a bunch of intersections back in 2008. Today, more than six percent of Portland's commuters make their commute via bike. While that doesn't sound terribly high, it's actually the highest among the 70 largest US cities, according to the League of American Bicyclists, and is 10 times the national average. Minneapolis comes it at second place with 4.5 percent of its commuters using bikes. In other words, Portland residents should be in good hands when the going gets tough.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 11 Comments
      Dave
      • 6 Months Ago
      "As long as you have petrol, which can't be pumped without electricity." What? There are hand pumps. There are 12 volt pumps that can be run from your cigarette lighter. Or, you can even lower a bucket into the storage tank.
      MTN RANGER
      • 6 Months Ago
      Read the "Dies the Fire" book series to see how effective bikes can be in an apocalypse!
      JB
      • 6 Months Ago
      During Super Storm Sandy, only bikes were functional to get around. Car were in gridlock because there was no power. Cars were out of gas and mobile. Subways were flooded and without power. Bikes could thread through gridlock over and under downed trees and don't need power or gas. Your disaster plan should include bikes.
      Dave
      • 6 Months Ago
      A "group of about 40 riders" is not "an army of bike riders." Especially not in a city with a population of over 600,000.
        Ryan
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave
        They have thousands of 'reserves' though who can ride.
      Jim
      • 6 Months Ago
      I know the point is to be green, but it seems like a dirt bike (off-road motorcycle) would be best suited for this application with the ideal combination of speed, nimbleness, and hauling capacity.
        DaveMart
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Jim
        As long as you have petrol, which can't be pumped without electricity. Any disaster plan should not rely on one resource, but should mix together a lot of ways around things to have a resilient response, as you can be darn sure things that have not been thought of will go wrong.
      DaveMart
      • 6 Months Ago
      @Dave: I did not mean to imply that there were no work-arounds for petrol relief vehicles. If I were involved in organising the relief system I would like to see storage tanks with hand pumps distributed around the area, with due care being taken of the fire hazard of course. I was trying to indicate that is you simply went to a petrol station you might be out of luck using the electrically powered pumps. Its all part of normal disaster planning, you go for robust networks with a variety of resources, which would include petrol vehicles and hand pumps, electric vehicles with their capacity to provide refrigeration and other power, and good old, simple bikes.
      BipDBo
      • 6 Months Ago
      That is just not safe or even possible where there are any hills.
        BipDBo
        • 6 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        Do an image search for "cargo bike" There are various designs. For one thing, none of them have the volume that this trailer does. You just couldn't tow this trailer, fully loaded safely, probably not at all with a bike. Just about all of the designs with greatest capacity are this: It's a tad pole design (2 front wheels, one rear wheel) with the cargo in the front. This does a few things: * It puts all the weight on wheels with brakes. * It puts all of the cargo in front of the rider. This way, if something falls off, the rider will see it. More importantly, if something goes wrong, and there is a crash, the momentum of the cargo is safely in front of the rider, instead of behind, running the rider over. Imagine towing this whole trailer full of stuff, and then crashing. Imagine this trailer running you over. This design is a recipe for serious carnage. Just tow it with a car or truck, otherwise you're opening your own stupid accident to be another emergency for the EMS to respond to. Your emergency provision could be a spare jerry can of gas. BTW, I welcome seeing the old comment system, as deficient even as it is, still on this story.
      Ryan
      • 6 Months Ago
      How are you going to refine the oil to make gasoline without power? I lived in Phoenix when 1/3rd of the pipeline into the city was taken out, and without electric/diesel for the pipelines, there are big problems. I biked for the month and had no problems.