Monday, March 21, 2011

Escape by Bike

From Japan an inspiring story of bikes as the ultimate form of transporation!

It's not something that anyone likes to think about much, but my emergency plan definitely involves bikes.   They don't run out of gas,  they don't get caught in traffic jams.  True, you can't take as much stuff with you, but in a true emergency, getting out of town can be more important than carrying stuff.

I've always been struck by the story of H.A and Margaret. Rey,  the authors of Curious George, who escaped the Nazi occupation of Paris by bicycle.
What would you pack in your escape bag?


  1. Water and a sawed-off shotgun of course, what else would you need? Just kidding.
    I would probably bring a large sauce pan(boiling water,cooking)a couple lighters, a leatherman, and bike tools/tube patch kit.

  2. My Macbook, iPhone, iPod, Moleskine journal, camcorder... J/K hehe. :)

  3. oh god, this is actually one of my morbid commuting exercises (especially in winter, and especially after watching and reading The Road)

    basically, it depends on the amount of time between disaster notification and required evacuation. Mid-Atlantic shelf collapse and inbound tsunami with landfall in 2 hours allows for a different level of planning than, say, potentially lethal pandemic where evacuating from the house to an area of quarantine isn't immediately necessary or even desirable (unless, of course, said pandemic involves zombies). Also depends on general duration between disaster and recovery, and general plan for evacuation. Or: where ought we go? how soon do we have to go? will we be able to go back?

    Generally, my 'Go Bag' would have passport, cash, keys, cellphone, insurance documentation, notebook, laptop, multiple pens, post-it notes, first-aid kit, Swiss army knife, map, flashlight\headlamp, a Steripen water purifier and spare batteries for each.

    On top of that, there's the bike stuff - tools, multiple spare tubes and patch kits, spare links, spare spokes, spare headlight bulbs, pump and possibly a spare folding tire.

    For extended evacuation or forced permanent relocation with undefined housing - sleeping bag, tent, camp stove, 3 days of food, couple of days of water (assumes water is heavier than food but also easier to procure), changes of clothes, cooking and eating utensils

    yeah, basically your average bike touring\camping setup but with more paperwork :) ... 'cos hey, when you think about it, what's the difference between disaster evacuation and selectively choosing to spend the next five days in the woods without electricity or obviously safe drinking water? Except, perhaps, zombies.

  4. It's lovely that this woman escaped by bike, and truly inspiring. I know there was also a surge in bike sales in Tokyo after the metro shut down following the quake and friends of mine walked 4,5, or more hours to get home.
    However, the reporting on that CNN article is atrocious, as it has been on many other media sites. I am pasting here the comments I made after following your link to the CNN site. I beg of people to be more critical of how coverage is erasing the real history of war from both the Japanese and American social memories. Eliding history is dangerous business.

    This is what I wrote to CNN:

    This is TERRIBLE reporting. It shows footage of a Tsunami hitting a different city than Hachinohe (which experienced relatively little damage) and then forces a connection to a nuclear attack on a city at the other end of the country. That's like asking people in Boston after 911 if it reminded them of Pearl Harbor. Why is it impossible for there to be accurate reporting on this tragedy that doesn't also force a connection to a past war? Every time someone connects World War II to the Tsunami, it conceals the real differences between man made disaster (and all the contributing historical factors that entailed, both in Japan's role, and the US dropping those bombs) and natural disaster.
    Can we not grieve for the people of Japan without getting lost in generalizations, stereotypes and historical myths?

  5. It is interesting that you bring this up. As I remarked to my husband after this disaster, "what would we do if we survived an earthquake with our house intact, but food and necessities were to run out where we live in the city?", he suggested in all seriousness that we get out of town on our bikes. I think this is totally doable, but I have a few organizational problems: I don't have an "escape kit" ready or any other survival kit, which is probably something I should remediate given where I live. The other thing, is how do you take your housebound, aged cat with you on such an adventure? That might just do the old girl in...I do have a bag for transporting her... I just need a capacious enough bicycle basket to put it in I suppose (which I don't currently have). But I all seriousness, I think the pet problem is a real one that people face in these situations, and I don't have a clear plan or solution.

  6. Yes, a morbid thought but I've often thought that if I needed a means of escape my bike would do the trick. I don't have a go bag packed, although it is recommended where I live since we are prone to wildfires during the summer and fall.