Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bikes in emergencies

For various reasons, I've been thinking a lot about disaster preparedness lately. What would we do if a Greek or Argentina-style economic disaster would happen, or if a solar flare disabled electronics (including car computers)? What about a prolonged blackout after heavy storms?

Obviously, storing water and food is just smart - FEMA even says to store enough supplies to get through the first 72 hours on your own, because it will take at least that long to get disaster relief to a stricken region. Keeping your car's gas tank at least half full at all times is smart too - if a crisis occurs and the power is out, gas pumps may not even work.

So what if, for whatever reason, your car won't be operable - no gas, circuits are fried, the police have asked that cars stay off the roads for a time - how will you get around? If your children are stuck at school 8 miles away, or you ran out of water, but you heard that FEMA set up a relief station 3 or 4 miles away - getting there might not be that hard, but getting BACK with your child or supplies could prove exhausting. That's where a well-equipped bike could save you hours and loads of precious energy.

Honestly, any bike in good repair will do the job of moving YOU around. It's when you need to use that bike to pick up people or supplies that it becomes a challenge. So here are a few ideas about how to move people and supplies by bike in an emergency.

The cheapest way to move people on your bike is to install a set of trick feet pegs on your rear axle, and let your passenger stand behind you. I live near the city, and I've seen as many as 3 kids riding a single bike with front and rear pegs. Not very safe, but effective. Another method, if your passenger is small and you ride a "men's style" bike is to mount an extra saddle to your top tube in front of your standard saddle.
From humofthecity.com

If your kids are small, consider investing in a bike trailer. In general I'm not a big fan of how they handle, but the fact is that for $80 - $200 you can haul 2 small kids and supplies with a minimum of fuss and rigging. In fact, the baby trailer is an outstanding grocery hauler, so it may be worth keeping it around long after your kids are too big to use it.

A link to the instep trailer on Amazon - but look on craigslist first! ;)


But if you are riding to pick up your 5+ foot tall kid from school and have a distance to bring them, you may want to look at other options. For $150 the Companion Bike Seat will mount above your rear wheel, and will support a 200 lb load!
The seat back costs extra, but it looks like it would be worth it.
As a bonus, that seat will also carry pannier bags on the side, making it good for more than just carrying passengers.

For a bit more money ($375 - $515) you could get a Caddyrack from cycletrucks.com - they turn most standard issue bikes into a cargo bike capable of hauling people, stuff, and even two rider-less bikes! I'm eyeballing this rack for my Wicked Witch 3 speed, since I would be able to carry a bike to a stranded kid and then they could follow me home, or if one gets too tired on a ride I could hitch the bike to mine, and they could ride on the deck.

See the panels at the bottom? You stick the front wheel of the other bike in there, and bungee to the deck.
All these are reasonable items that don't peg you as a prepper or psycho cyclist - just nice add-ons that have utility in everyday life. If you want to go full bore and get a longtail cargo bike like the Yuba Mundo or Bike Friday Haul-a-day, or a bakfiets like the CETMA Largo or my own Virtue Schoolbus trike, good for you! You'll get a lot of use out of it anytime, and feel especially smug  when the gas pumps are down. But if you're not ready for that big of a step, those other options are good to have on hand.

Oooo - just spotted this folding bike with a bonus seat on aliexpress - http://www.aliexpress.com/item/22-Inch-Foldable-Bicycle-Folding-Bike-mother-and-child-bicycle-picture-car-lightweight-folding-parent-child/32363308641.html

Seriously neat! I need to investigate further!

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