Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
The roads on the island are getting increasingly busy. The main street in town will soon go from being deserted to traffic jammed, the snow plows have been put away for the year and now the lobster boats are being hauled to the harbor. Soon the out-of-state cars will appear and everything will take off from there; delivery trucks, carpentry crews, landscaping crews, trailers, campers.
Through all this, through all seasons, Dennis and I ride our bikes. Through all this, through all seasons, Dennis and I are the only ones, on an island of 3000 year round residents, that use our bikes to do errands. There are those who ride for leisure or exercise, but with a bike bag to the hardware store? No one, but us. Clearing the 3 mile stretch to the village takes me to the coffee shop, the post office and the pond for summer dips. Even in spring time with snow free roads, that ride is enough to almost get me a round of applause. The 9 mile one way route to the bigger town brings me by the chain saw store, the library, the variety store and the Inn with it's sundeck for afternoon down time. That's enough to be greeted like a hero. Once a year I go on my bike to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners fair, 75 miles from here. It's a very pleasant day's ride through an interior part of Maine I never see otherwise. For people here at home, I might as well set out on Tour de France.
I love bikes and I love riding them. Growing up in Sweden, it was a part of every kid's life, to have a bike, as well as most adults for that matter. If you have a bike, your freedom of moving around is endless. Bikes are swift, easy to navigate where cars sometime can't go, cheap and quiet. You can listen to the birds and you see things you wouldn't in a car. Sometime I take my bike down the same old road I've gone in a car hundreds of times and it's like I've never been there.
Unfortunately the conditions for bike riding here on the island are far from perfect; the roads don't have shoulders to distance a biker from the passing cars, the drivers are often heedless, fast and impatient. Still, I rode my bike year round through the much bigger cities where I lived in Sweden, bike lanes or not. A lot of people here commute short distances with their cars, perhaps it's habit, culture, a narrow view of what's considered possible. Does one dare to believe, that if more people did use a bike for transportation, the conditions would therefore improve?
Sometimes people ask if we even own a car. Well, as much as we prefer our bikes, we still need the car. The farm requires materials to be moved and we have reasons to go further than our bikes could as easily carry us. But instead of having one big pickup to go everywhere in, or one big pickup as a farm vehicle and a smaller car for personal trips, we have a gas efficient Subaru and a home built trailer we can hitch and unhitch as suited. This gives us the cheap car we need to move around with when a car is necessary, and a farm vehicle that doesn’t add any extra costs for insurance or inspections. Between the Subaru and the trailer, we can haul all what's necessary to haul; logs, seaweed, lumber, gravel, wood chips. We can even haul our sawmill, which would still require a trailer if we had a pickup.
So here's my advice for the coming farming season; ask yourself if you can downsize your car. Perhaps a bigger farm vehicle could be shared between many for the times each year you really max out on the capacity. And do see about fixing up that old bike you might have stored away somewhere. Make it nice, then it will be encouraging to use it. Get yourself a good helmet and a couple of bike bags make it normal practice to ride a bike instead of a car. You might notice things along your own driveway you've never seen before.