Report: How to Use Bicycles For Disaster Response

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By Charles Pekow — The Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California Davis has highlighted a potentially significant but overlooked use of bicycles and other forms of micromobility. In disasters, these vehicles can serve as getaway and delivery options. The report “Bicycles and Micromobility for Disaster Response and Recovery” suggests that bicycles have the capability to evacuate people from various types of mass emergencies effectively.

A scene from the inaugural Disaster Relief Trials in Portland, Oregon (2012). Photo by Will Vanlue CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED
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The study underscores that bikes can navigate quickly and traverse informal trails, ensuring they do not impede the movement of emergency vehicles. According to the research, bicycles have played a crucial role in saving lives during hurricanes and earthquakes, and they could provide similar benefits in densely populated areas facing floods, tsunamis, or wildfires. Additionally, bicycles can maneuver through challenging terrain, and the use of bicycle trailers and cargo bikes enables the transportation of supplies to affected areas or the evacuation of passengers from hazardous situations.

While acknowledging the limitations, such as being ineffective in strong winds or intense fires or floods, the report emphasizes the potential of bicycles in disaster response and recovery efforts. To access the full report, visit https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/68899

Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration is working on a Disaster Relief Mobilization Study to see how bicycles can be included in community disaster preparedness and response, according to its Vulnerable Road User Research Plan (https://highways.dot.gov/sites/fhwa.dot.gov/files/FHWA-Vulnerable-Road-User.pdf)

Since 2012, the Disaster Relief Trials (https://disasterrelieftrials.com/), originating in Portland, Oregon, have been a fun way for cyclists to test their own ability to provide assistance during a disaster.

 

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