Judging from the ubiquitous lines of forlorn souls holding red gasoline cans, freight trikes and pedicabs have much to contribute in a time of natural disaster. Trikes are the most reliable option for hauling heavy stuff, and moving people, when you don’t know where your next gallon of gas is coming from.
Trikes, however, have yet to pervade the popular imagination. When most New Yorkers need to move heavy stuff, they think, van. When they need to move people, they think, car. This doesn’t mean that trikes have no role in ongoing hurricane relief efforts. It does mean that if you’re driving a freight trike or pedicab, and you want to help out, you’re probably going to have to create your own role.
This past Sunday, Gregg and I headed out to Red Hook, where Sandy left many homes and businesses flooded and many residents without heat or electricity. At Visitation Church, near Coffey Park, hundreds were standing in line for canned and dry goods, blankets, and cleaning supplies. Many were filling up shopping carts; some were slinging trash bags full of supplies, Santa-style, over their shoulders. For a few hours, we helped people haul their stuff home.
I know of a few other instances of Sandy-related trike activity: Last week, long-time pedicab driver J.C. Rodriguez borrowed an RR pick-up trike to move fifteen bags of clothing from a government evacuation center on West 93rd Street to another center at 49th and 10th. The night before Bellevue Hospital was evacuated, Gregg shuttled a load of donated food to the hospital from a nearby deli. (The next day, he gave an exhausted Bellevue administrator a ride home from work.) On Sunday evening, Andrew Katzander (aka Polerider) dropped a trike-load of baked goods off at the Red Hook Initiative.
Trikes are not your best bet for shuttling people or supplies out to the Rockaways. But there’s a lot they can do, within their optimal radius of a few miles. As of Tuesday, November 5, RR has a pick-up trike stationed in Brooklyn Heights, which makes it more feasible us to move goods within Brooklyn. If you’re organizing relief efforts, and think a freight trike or pedicab might come in handy, please feel free to get in touch with Gregg (contact info here).
It’s clear, in the wake of Sandy, that New York City could benefit from a surge in trike activity. Sandy was not a once-in-a-lifetime storm, and the gas lines around the block, with NYPD vans holding motorists back from mobbed gas pumps, are not going to be a once-in-a-lifetime sight. Yes, Sandy has precipitated much suffering. Some say she’s done fifty billion dollars’ worth of damage. Also, she’s offered us the priceless gift of a much-needed wake-up call.
This is how it feels to be without power. This is how it feels to be without gas. Now’s the time to gallop towards resilience – so we’ll be ready to take the outages and shortages in stride, by the time Sandy’s daughter or granddaughter blows into town.