There's an issue with the IFC television series, Portlandia: The only problem is that (as actress Carrie Brownstone noted), “no matter how far out on a limb we went, we always ran into that person [in Portland] within two days.”
It's hard to keep up in a place where the City Council mandated that office supplies be delivered to City Haul by cargo trike; it's like a weirdness competition around here. And the latest entry comes in the form of Portland's plans for disaster relief by cargo bicycle:
"When it comes to preparation for a cataclysmic earthquake, we're playing catch-up in a lot of areas," said Ethan Jewett, co-organizer of Saturday's third annual Portland Disaster Relief Trials outside the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
But Jewett said Portland has one emergency-response asset that most large U.S. cities can only wish they had at their disposal in a disaster: An army of bicycle commuters.
"One of the bright, shining spots for Portland in a disaster like an earthquake is that we're still going to get around," he said. "When roads are broken, when fuel supplies are cut, those kinds of things, you can bet that our city will still get around."
Right. After the Big One, there won't be a bridge standing, the roads will be wrecked, but the bicycle paths will remain unscathed. And while it's true that with a trailer, you can haul a fair bit of stuff with pedal-power around flat Northeast and Southeast Portland (at least until you encounter a rift across the bike path), you won't be able to move from the east side to the west side. Don't count on friendly boaters, as there won't be fuel. Sailboats? Maybe. Paddlers? Unlikely.
Then of course, there's the topography issue on the Southwest and Northwest areas: the Tualatin mountains are steep and prone to slides on a good day - and the odds aren't in favor of the Big One hitting on a good day; chances are it'll be raining and blowing or possibly snowing. But assume that it does hit on a midsummer day, and that the roads aren't too badly damaged (there being almost no bicycle paths in these areas): pedalling uphill with a load of supplies just isn't going to happen.
No problem, Portland says, we'll use electric-assist bicycles. Oh. Really?
And where is this electricity going to come from? Not from the grid, so how many solar power panels do you have that can charge up your bicycle's battery?
Yeah - great plan.
Living up in the hills, I kind of prefer my own plan: we have a lot of camping gear, including tarps, pots and pans, stoves, large propane tanks, crank-up lanterns, freeze-dried foods and other stuff - along with several cords of seasoned firewood and an 80-gallon hot-water tank. And a lot of hand tools, and a fair amount of canned food. If a cargo bike does eventually show up in the area, I can probably knock the rider off it with a couple of well-thrown cans of asparagus....