Bike-Powered Disaster Response Gets National Spotlight

One of the most memorable stories of last year’s tsunami in Japan was the 83-year-old woman who escaped the waters by riding her bike.

Last night, MSNBC carried this photo -- taken for the Atlantic Cities by former Streetsblog reporter Sarah Goodyear -- of New Yorkers hauling supplies to the Rockaways by bicycle. Via ##http://bikeportland.org/2012/11/20/national-spotlight-shines-on-role-of-bikes-in-disaster-response-80397?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BikePortland+%28BikePortland.org%29##Bike Portland##

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Americans saw closer-to-home images of how bikes can help people in the face of disaster. We heard stories about New York City commuters who hopped on their bikes for the first time in years, when the subways were shut down but workplaces were back up and running.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland notes that the resilience of bikes was on display on MSNBC earlier this week:

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

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.

Said Maddow: “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.”

There’s more coverage coming, Maus says, as well as a video from Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Management about the role of bikes in disaster response.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Alex Block rebuts Kaid Benfield’s reasons for supporting DC’s height restrictions. And Streets.mn says that using the “passenger mile” as a basis for comparing modes is bound to produce skewed results that make cars look better.

  • J.

    Yeah bikesnobnyc!!

  • fj

    Yes, considering that cycling is three times more efficient than walking and produces vIrtually no emissions it is also the most resilient modality providing both major mitigation and adaptation at the same time and the perfect transportation technology for dealing with accelerating climate change.

  • Davistrain

    At the risk sounding like a “nabob of negativism”, this story proves that bikes can be useful when the usual means of transport are unavailable.  I would like to ask, were these transporters paid for their efforts?  If so, let’s consider the “ton-miles per worker-hour.”  To use bikes for freight transport on a regular basis, either freight rates would go way up (compare how much a truck driver making $10 an hour can move in a day with a bicycle transporter making anything above “coolie labor” wages) or wages would be unacceptable for anyone in an American metro area.  Perhaps when the unsustainability of today’s USA finally whups us upside the head and we have to live much simpler lives bike transport will be the norm, but don’t expect this anytime soon. 

  • fj

    Recently NYC Council Speaker suggested flood barriers.

    This is a true narrative showing the short-sighted of such a proposal.

    A lesson on sustainability


    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/24/1230481/the-soldiers-grove-story-lessons-for-post-sandy-sustainability/

    We must start immediately bringing emissions as close as possible to zero as quick as possible with stuff that is extremely agile and resilient and low cost and producing miminal emissions.

  • fj

    In this regard to going after bike delivery people and hammering cyclists and other net zero modalities is totally inane exhibiting the corrupt and low minimal incompetence of those political types that engage in this.

  • fj

    Climate Change: DO THE MATH!


  • fj

    Kind of suspect Sandy “whups US upside the head” quite nicely . .

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