When the Big One Hits Portland, Cargo Bikers Will Save You

But then we had a child, and after her first birthday we enrolled her in daycare. As I flipped by the dad or mum handbook, skimming the tips on nut-free snacks and spiritual holidays, my eye stopped on web page 19: emergency provides. The directions informed me to pack boxed drinks, diapers, an emergency blanket, a jar of high-protein meals, and a plastic poncho, all of which the faculty would retailer in a watertight container. The ultimate merchandise was {a photograph} of our household. “Add an encouraging note!” the handbook prompt.

I gamely discovered a clean card in my submitting cupboard, printed out an image, and began writing. “Hi baby!” I started, then stopped. What do you say to your toddler in the aftermath of a disaster? My daughter’s lecturers have been going handy her a photograph and a juice field, in the center of a metropolis in ruins, and inform her every thing was going to be OK? Yeah, no. I’d inflate a dinghy with my very own lungs, I’d paddle by flames, I’d cross miles of smoking rubble to get to her.

Slowly, I began to make a plan. First, my husband and I had one other child, a son. We moved to a brand new home inside strolling distance of our children’ faculty. I purchased a 50-gallon water barrel. I pinged our neighborhood group chat to maintain tabs on who had an emergency generator and vegetable backyard. Then my husband—himself a little bit of a catastrophist—began to stress that I wasn’t quick sufficient on my human-powered bike and trailer to pull our two toddlers out of hurt’s method. So I purchased an electric cargo bike, a cheery yellow Tern GSD S00 that my daughter, then 5, named Popsicle.

I realized about the Disaster Relief Trials from a good friend earlier this yr. The race is designed to imitate 4 days of chaos after disaster hits. It has the format of an alleycat, a sort of unsanctioned avenue race that bike messengers journey in, with checkpoints throughout the metropolis and a laminated map on which race volunteers mark off duties after they’re accomplished. In the DRT, every of the duties takes the type of obstacles that individuals volunteering reduction in a catastrophe may encounter: tough terrain to traverse, rubble to clear, messages to ship, water to hold. As in an actual catastrophe, we received’t know what the route is or what we have to do till we’re handed our maps an hour earlier than the begin.

After the Big One, bridges will collapse. Debris, broken roads, and an absence of gas will make it unimaginable for emergency autos to cross. A motorbike, although, can go virtually wherever. In the decade because it was based, the DRT has developed from an occasion run largely by pedal punks to a coaching train for the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. Neighborhood emergency response groups work the race to serve their volunteer hours. As I learn the web site, I spotted that I’d been making ready for this for years. I had a motorbike; I used to be prepared. I signed up. It was solely after a half-dozen folks identified that I’d be carrying my very own physique weight in gear that I began to wonder if I actually could possibly be the hero I believed I used to be.


Mike Cobb, the founding father of the Disaster Relief Trials, is a former bike mechanic. He obtained the thought for the race after watching footage of the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. Bikes, he thought, may assist clear up a serious transportation drawback. After I signed up, I emailed Cobb with the frank admission that I had no thought find out how to load clunky gear onto my bike. He informed me to fulfill him the following Tuesday in Cully Park, the place the race begins and ends, at what he calls his weekly coffee klatch.

When I confirmed up on Popsicle, Cobb and a few former contributors have been standing round the picnic tables. He supplied me a scorching espresso and an assortment of about 12 various milks. Cobb has unruly darkish hair, a grizzled beard, and is lean in a sinewy, rubber-bandy biker method. His humorousness, I quickly be taught, is bone-dry. He refers to me, his face fully deadpan, as “the embedded reporter.” 

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