Disaster Relief Trials SF

While working on our Bicycle-Powered Cinema over the summer, we spent a good deal of time with some of the best and brightest minds in the cargo bike industry. One of those bright minds is Mike Cobb, proprietor of Framebuilder Supply, welding superstar, ant-load level cargo bike enthusiast, and creator of the Disaster Relief Trials.

Mike was disappointed with the response to hurricane Katrina and decided to do something about it. He envisioned teams of cargo bicycles working together to deliver supplies, medicine, and information to people who need it.

He saw how cars and trucks couldn't always reach areas that needed help and that gasoline availability couldn't be relied on in these extreme situations. Thus, in 2012 the cargo bike powered Disaster Relief Trials (DRT for short) were born in Portland, OR.

A disaster drill in the form of a cargo bike competition simulating a day 4 supply run. Your neighbors need help- do you have a cargo bike?

The idea is to simulate a day four disaster scenario supply run. An earthquake or other disaster is said to have hit four days ago, and riders must race through a 30 mile self-guided course tackling obstacles, carrying heavy and sometimes delicate supplies, and solving problems they might encounter during a real disaster scenario situation.

It's a proof of concept that Mike hopes will grow into an integral part of disaster response around the country and so far the energy and excitement surrounding the event has been overwhelmingly positive.

Trials have already taken place in Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, and Seattle with even more cities slated for next year. The events have drawn major media coverage and nods from government organizations like FEMA.

DRT Competitor

October 19th marked the 25th anniversary of the disastrous Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco, and the first year for their own DRT event. The event was sponsored by Xtracycle with support from Rock The Bike, 2 Meter Critical Mass Amateur Radio, and Open Air Cinema.

We were excited to get involved with the DRT and support it by developing a pedal-powered leader board for the event. The leader board software was developed by Sam Beveridge and has been open sourced on github. A big thanks goes to Sam who donated his time and expertise to make this happen.

The leader board is powered by our Cinebike and a local web server. We hope to roll it out (pun intended) to other events next year.

DRT leader board

During the event, local ham radio operators were stationed at the headquarters and at each of five checkpoints. When a rider came through the checkpoint, they would receive instructions from the operator, who would then relay their time back to headquarters.

The HQ operators would then relay the information to our leader board station. Everyone could watch as the race progressed and see the real-time status of each rider. Amazingly, the entire operation took place without reliance on the power or communications grid.

In a real disaster scenario the leader board could be used to provide information about missing persons, supply and relief locations, important messages, or just to keep people's spirits up with an entertaining film.
Leader board station at the DRT

You can see the final results of the San Francisco Disaster Relief Trials on the DRT website. We are excited to be involved with the Disaster Relief Trials as races roll out throughout the country and beyond. Keep an eye out for events in your local area. A disaster has struck, your neighbors need help, do you have a cargo bike?

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