Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shake & Roll: Put A Bike In Your Disaster Kit

Fault Lines (USGS photo)

1906 Earthquake Aftermath

William McKinley by Roman Eye.

McKinley Monument in Panhandle Park (Roman Eye flickr photo)

Riding a bike will often be the best way of moving around when the Big One strikes. With the damage and disruption expected from a major earthquake, arterial streets may be closed to non-emergency vehicles, leaving side streets clogged. Public transit may be limited or stop functioning altogether. Walking will be the only option for safe passage if too many obstacles disrupt the streets and sidewalks, but being on foot allows for very limited hauling of supplies or travelling greater distances quickly. San Franciscans with bikes may not get from Point A to Point B as easily as they do now, but having a bike may be critical to their welfare and that of their friends and family.

NOPA managed well during both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, and it may luck out once again. But anyone with bicycles will likely have an easier time checking on family and friends who live in more vulnerable and damaged areas of the city. In fact, anyone who can travel with first-aid kits – and know-how – may become life-savers around town.

In the 1906 disaster, Western Addition residents transformed the McKinley Monument in Panhandle Park at Baker Street into a meeting place and bulletin board for finding others or leaving contact information. In the aftermath of the next disaster, land lines, cell calls, emailing and text messaging may all be disrupted, and the city’s thousands of bicyclists may create a new kind of social networking on wheels, carrying messages to others desperate to know the condition and whereabouts of loved ones.

Leela Gill, mother of two young sons and a long-time NOPA resident, gives one more use for bicycles during a disaster: a way for her family to get out of town. With that in mind, she and her husband and two sons have made bicycles part of their overall disaster plan.

Bicycling won’t be without its own limitations and hazards. The City of Sausalito cautions (note: this is a pdf link) that disaster riding will be far different from recreational jaunts around town. The streets may be littered with debris and sharp tire-puncturing objects. People may throng the streets, and confused, erratic movements are likely. Fires may block routes and fill the air with smoke, impairing visibility. Bicyclists should consider a few precautions now: getting puncture-resistant or airless tires, and also strong rims that can withstand rough terrain. Hauling gear – from bike baskets and panniers to trailers – could be critical accessories.

To help get you disaster-prepped – but will they mention bicycles? -- San Francisco hosts “The Big Rumble,” a jumble of disaster education, remembrance, and entertainment in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. First up is a statewide “Shake Out Drill” on Thursday, October 15 at 10:15 a.m. Millions of Californians will participate in the drill, and so can you. Register at www.shakeout.org/sanfrancisco . The city is also sponsoring Big Rumble Resource Fairs in four neighborhoods – the Mission, the Bayview, the Sunset, and the Marina – on Saturday, October 17, 11 am- 4pm.

Stay in NOPA, if you choose, for our own “Where Were You in ’89?” party on Saturday, October 17th, 4 – 7 pm at Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton, between Masonic and Central. The neighborhood gathering will feature films and photos of the 1989 quake, disaster prep materials and a chance to win disaster prep safety kits. Perhaps most important: the event will give neighbors a chance to discuss their own disaster plans, recognizing that we will be each other’s first-responders in the immediate aftermath of the Big One.

No comments:

Post a Comment