Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bicycles Would Aid Transportation After a Disaster

A bicycle can make a big difference in coping with a natural disaster. In fact, a bike may be the only mode of transportation available if an event on the scale of Hurricane Katrina happens here.

Last year, I visited New Orleans with other local leaders to see firsthand some of the challenges of coping with an emergency. Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana city of nearly half a million people on August 29, 2007. The levees guarding against the flooding broke, and much of the city was submerged, leaving stranded thousands of residents who did not or could not follow the government’s evacuation order.

When I got back to San Jose after witnessing the progress New Orleans had made toward rebuilding, I started thinking about what would happen if we were faced with a similar disaster in Santa Clara County. If a mighty earthquake rocked our community, how would our residents get to the hospital? How would they evacuate the area? How could they check on loved ones on the other side of the county?

If the power is knocked out for an extended period of time, as it was in New Orleans, no one will be able to use credit or debit cards to purchase gasoline, and the gas pumps wouldn’t work without electricity anyway. Even if your car has a full tank of gas, the roads may be severely cracked or shattered, and sections of freeways could collapse, making it impossible to drive to a safer location.

This leaves the bicycle as the most reliable mode of transportation. A bicycle is narrower and much more maneuverable than a car, so it would be easier to guide down damaged roads.

Bicyclists wouldn’t have to worry about finding cash for gasoline or searching for working gas pumps. Flat bike tires are also easy to repair on the road.

I hope many of you will add a bicycle to your list of items for emergency preparedness. It never hurts to be ready.