Two Wheels

When trouble hits, Portland will turn to bikes for disaster relief

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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