|Fred Robie. English photo.
By Hannah Kreitzer
If you happen to be among the hundreds who arrive at the Common Ground Country Fair on a bicycle, you’re sure to be greeted with much fanfare, reduced price of admission, and valet parking for your vehicle. You also stand a good chance of encountering Fred Robie.
Robie, who serves as bicycle parking coordinator, has been integral to the Fair cycling experience since the event was held in Windsor. The early days were “a little higgledy-piggledy,” Robie recalls, “but we’ve learned a lot since then.”
As Robie notes, the role of bicycles in Fair culture has blossomed over the years: “When we started all we did was bike parking, and now … we also do demo talks, bike tire repair, alternative transportation, how to build a trailer … We do some demo rides, because there are some fun bikes … Bicycles come in myriad flavors, if you will.” Many of those flavors are displayed twice daily at the Fair’s human-powered vehicle parade, in which all human-propelled contraptions are welcome to participate.
Robie describes himself as campaigning “somewhat quietly (but not always quietly) for road access … I’ll call it bicycle liberation. Everyone should feel comfortable riding on the road.”
Living that dream, he attests, requires more than just a vehicle and the road-savvy to ride safely – it also hinges on a cultural acceptance of cycling as a means of transportation, rather than just a way to play. The Fair has been a “fertile place” for this sort of shift in perception, Robie says, pointing out that a bicycle “is a sustainable vehicle, and MOFGA’s vision is … a direction of sustainable culture” – a culture he describes as “people-centric as opposed to motor-centric.”
Outside the Fair circuit, Robie walks (or rather, bikes) the talk: He’s on the board of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine (www.bikemaine.org), which is currently celebrating 20 years of promoting a safe cycling environment within the state.
If you plan on cycling to the Fair this year, consider lingering awhile in the bike lot for some inspiration, innovation and information of the two-wheeled variety. Or, as Robie suggests, just “come by and try out a funky bike.”