An Overlooked Survival Tool: The Bicycle
A. Martin Nov 3, 2012
Before Hurricane Sandy took out power, subways, buses, and some roads this week, New Yorkers stocked up on food, water, duct tape, flashlights, and batteries. After the storm, they stocked up on bicycles. An overlooked survival tool, the bike has become the only realistic mode of transportation for thousands of residents of the nation’s densest and most populous city. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.
From post-Sandy New York to rush-hour in Jakarta, the bicycle steps up where infrastructure falls short. It’s narrow enough to squeeze through traffic, efficient and fast enough to cover lots of ground, and simple enough that just about anyone can operate and maintain one. Consider this wise passage from the Zombie Survival Guide, about the value of the bicycle for survivors of the zombie apocalypse (which the CDC would like to remind you can work as an analogy for just about any disaster situation):
The common bicycle is fast, quiet, muscle-powered, and easy to maintain. Add to this the additional advantage that it is the only vehicle you can pick up and carry if the terrain gets rough. People using bicycles to escape from infested areas have almost always fared better than those on foot.
This week, many New Yorkers or were reminded of just how useful this oft-overlooked form of transportation can be. “I woke up on Wednesday with the feeling I had better be ready for a busy day, but nothing could have prepared me for how busy it was,” said Henry Carter, owner of Brooklyn’s 9th Street Bicycles, when we stopped in for a pair of gloves before riding through the chilly, November afternoon to Manhattan. “We’ve been totally cleared out,” he said, gesturing to an empty wall normally crowded with reflectors, pumps, and tires. A few blocks away at Bicycle Habitat, “we outsold our busiest summer Saturday” on Wednesday, manager Emily Samstag told CNBC.com.”