The Bicycling Orchardist

The Human Tractor by Zane Selvans on flickr

My friend Kerry is putting in some fruit trees, and we decided to make a trip out to the CreekSide Tree Nursery on 61st St. near Pearl by bike to pick the first of them up.  It’s fun to serve as a kind of “proof by existence”.  Look, I’m doing it, and I’m smiling, so it’s possible, and it’s okay.  The tree probably weighed 25 kg (50 lbs) and so did the trailer, which even when added to the weight of my bike, is less than my own mass.  Just avoid any serious hills if you can, make sure you’ve got some low gears, and maybe have a snack afterward.  I think 3-4 trees this size would have been totally doable, but then I probably would have broken a sweat!

Jason, who seemed to be the proprietor, helped pick out a tree — a Stanley plum.

Choosing a Stanley Plum by Zane Selvans on flickr

And then he was kind enough to lug it all the way over to the parking area.  No bike racks unfortunately.

Jason Loves Trees by Zane Selvans on flickr

But, maybe that’s not surprising, given that he’d never had anybody pick up trees by bicycle before.  A couple of quick bungees later, the tree was securely lashed down over the axle of the Bikes at Work trailer we borrowed from Community Cycles.  Almost all of the mass was in the pot, so it was very stable, despite being about 3 meters tall.  We did have to make sure we took a route home without any underpasses though.

Proud Plum Owner by Zane Selvans on flickr

This turned out to be more fun anyway, since it meant plenty of drivers got to see a tree biking alongside them.  I think this was probably a gentler way to transport the tree too.  We could leave it standing, so the soil and roots didn’t come apart like it would have in an open pot, lying on its side and rattling all the way across town.  And it was never subjected to the high winds it would have gotten standing up in a pickup.  All in all, the tree seemed like bicycling.

Slow Tree by Zane Selvans on flickr

Kerry said there were a lot of bemused looks on 61st and Jay.  They had some time to gawk as we crossed the Diagonal Highway, and also while we waited to head through a construction zone.  I think there’s a lot to be said for simply putting some other possibilities on display.

Trees in Traffic by Zane Selvans on flickr

By the time we got back to the center of town, storm clouds were threatening.  Luckily trees are waterproof.

Stanley Plum and Storm Clouds by Zane Selvans on flickr

Now she just needs a nice comfortable hole in the ground!

Home Sweet Home by Zane Selvans on flickr

Shortly thereafter, I passed by a UPS truck downtown.  It was nice to see it wasn’t blocking the contra-flow bike lane… unlike some other trucks I’ve seen.

Two Delivery Trucks by Zane Selvans on flickr

UPS has experimented with using bike trailers during seasonal peaks over the last few years as a way to avoid the additional maintenance and capital costs that would be required to keep a truck fleet that can deal with the Christmas rush going all year long.  The company actually started out as a bicycle delivery service more than a century ago in Seattle.  They found that riders could deliver ~50 packages a day, compared with ~150 for the standard trucks, but with no fuel costs and a much lower vehicle investment, saving them ~$38,000 per three cyclists.

Obviously this isn’t going to make sense up in Coal Creek, or other rural communities, but in urban areas (where most of the population lives, and most of the packages go), even for cargo applications, bikes often make purely economic sense, especially if they’re allowed to compete on equal infrastructural footing with motorized traffic.

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One Response to The Bicycling Orchardist

  1. Ann says:

    Once I got to take a tree home by bike and plant it on Earth Day. What could be more environmentally friendly than that?

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