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Video: Bicycles at heart of Seattle disaster relief contingency plans

Tests next month will use cargo bikes & trailers to ferry essential supplies around - here's a video of last year's rehearsal...

Next month, the city of Seattle on the Pacific Coast of the US will be holding Disaster Relief Trials (DRT) to gauge its levels of preparation should it be struck by a natural disaster such as an earthquake, and the bicycle is firmly at the heart of its contingency plans.

A post on the 2013 Seattle DRT blog says: “Imagine a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hitting the Seattle Fault. Freeway overpasses crumble, a Lake Washington tsunami takes chunks out of bridges.

“Motor vehicles are rendered useless, but following the example of Sandy Relief by bike, Seattle residents with bikes and trailers or cargo bikes are able to transport food and medical supplies.”

Here’s a video of last year’s DRT with cyclists on a variety of cargo bikes or towing trailers rehearse ferrying essential supplies such as water around – although the first rider speaking in the film seems equally concerned with planning his exit route should things really take a turn for the worst.

Disaster Relief Trials Trailer from Cantankerous Titles on Vimeo.


(Is it just us, or do those mock Tudor houses at the end look more like something you’d expect to find in Bromley rather than Seattle…?)

The role bicycles can play in disaster situations was highlighted last year when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City – Giant, for example, donating bikes to enable medical staff to get around in some of the areas that had been worst affected by the disaster.

Film-maker Casey Neistat got out on his bike as the floodwaters came in, as this video shows.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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A V Lowe | 10 years ago

Some other key benefits of bringing bikes in after a natural disaster - proven in Sri Lanka after the tsunami. Bikes were in and being used even before the waters had fully subsided, and needed no repairs to infrastructure. Of course the other nice detail is that after a total immersion, unlike an internal combustion engine a bike starts first time, and the bog snorkellers actually prove that bikes can be used underwater as well.

Ironically for the US the Viet Cong demonstrated this really effectively at Da Nang shipping around 50,000 T down the Ho Chi Minh trail with bikes - each bike carrying up to 250Kg and being pushed by the rider, with bamboo extensions to seatpost and handlebar. Supplies delivered rip off bamboo and ride the bike back for more.

You can ship around 200 bikes in a container which would otherwise take just one truck - that's 200 individual delivery systems that can get around broken roads AND you can mobilise the readily available local population (usually available because their workplaces have been destroyed) to work on their local recovery plan.

Bikes don't need fossil fuels, and 2 wins here, you don't waste vital cargo capacity shipping in fuel to power the trucks, and a major security/conflict of interest issue (fuel for generators or transport, and possible theft for black market sale).

Pick the right sort of bike and even bike spares don't become an issue. Relaxed geometry of the Flying Pigeon and similar bikes means they can be ridden with flat (or no tyres), and rod brakes (or coaster brakes) mean no cables breakages to worry about.

jellysticks | 10 years ago

Superb. As someone else's signature on here says, if the bicycle was invented tomorrow it would be seen as the solution, not the problem. Heartening stuff from Seattle

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