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In A Disaster, Could Bikes Be Part Of The Answer?

KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Everyone knows that an earthquake or volcanic eruption could shake our region at any time. The question is how people will cope with a disaster and its aftermath.

Some people are thinking bicycles could be part of the answer. On Friday,Seattle Neighborhood Greenwayssponsored the first Seattle Disaster Relief Trials at the University of Washington to see what could be carried on a cargo bike in rough conditions.

Organizers say bikes can deliver supplies and messages if communications fail. They are light enough to be lifted around debris and they can thread through streets clogged with cars.

Other organizations like the American Red Cross and the King County Office of Emergency Management said they are open to using bikes to move people and supplies but do not currently have plans to deploy bicycles themselves. They also said it’s important for people to come up with many ways to help themselves through an emergency.

Lynne Miller of Emergency Management, said roads may be impassible even to bicycles, and it may be safer to shelter in place than to leave. "That’s the problem with some of the natural disasters," Miller said in an interview. "We don’t know in advance where it’s going to strike, how severe, what roads will be open, what bridges will be down or not."

Emergency planners say it’s important for people to be prepared in as many ways as they can. They suggest people gather supplies in advance of a disaster to get through seven to 10 days and to run through potential scenarios with family members. And, they need to be flexible if the moment comes.

For more information about being ready for a disaster, see also the Regional Public Information Network.