Use of bicycles on Midway dates back at least to the early days when the island was a Naval base, I wasn’t able to find any references to their use during the very early days of settlement (records indicate though that in 1904, a certain Dr. Martin Crook, who’s mobility was hampered by having one wooden leg, had two donkeys shipped in to help him get around the island).
|Bikes have been a popular way to get around on Midway since the "Navy Days" (photo courtesy Roy Warren).|
The only “good pavement” on Midway is the main runway of Henderson Field which is kept immaculately paved according to strict Federal Aviation Administration standards. All the other roads and paths on Midway are much more rustic but serve their purpose well, getting people from their homes to workplaces to the Clipper House and to the (few) recreational facilities that the island provides. From my house it takes less than five minutes to get to the office, the Clipper House, the Ship’s Store, or the beach. More extensive touring can also be had by circumnavigating the island, a total distance of just under 9 miles. I like to do this on Sunday mornings and it’s a great way to re-acquaint myself with parts of the island I don’t typically visit from day to day. Nearly all the bikes on the island are single-speed "cruiser types" with old school "coaster brakes" which took a while to get used to. Visitors are strongly encouraged to rent bikes while long-term residents, such as myself, are given one to use for the length of their stay.
|At just around two square miles in area and with a fairly extensive network of narrow roads, Sand Island is easy to explore by bike. Crossing the runway is the only tricky part as the airport must be contacted.|
It would be misleading to suggest that bicycles are the only way folks get around out here as golf carts and four wheel UTVs (“utility task vehicles”) are also commonly utilized, most often for work purposes that require the hauling of cargo or tools. A golf cart “limousine” that seats eight is used to ferry passengers back and forth from the airport to “town”. Several very small motorcycle/scooter things are also used by some of the Thai workers. I’ve asked where they came from and how it is just a couple of guys have them but have never gotten a straight answer. In addition there are a couple of trucks and some heavy equipment on the island that you see once in a while. It is quite a spectacle to move a front end loader on one of the small roads as it must go very slowly while an escort vehicle moves ahead to clear its path. The most impressive (and most expensive) vehicle on the island is a super fancy fire truck that is dedicated for airport use and probably worthy of its own blog post someday!
The lack of motor vehicles at Midway definitely adds to the peaceful and quiet nature of the place. It also makes you realize how much space automobiles require both in terms of roads, garages, and parking spaces. Lacking the need for extensive paved areas, our little community here on Midway has a whole different character, the narrow lanes and footpaths lending it a much more intimate feeling. Getting around by bike also puts you into contact with your neighbors on a regular basis and makes it easy to stop and have a quick conversation. And , of course, getting around by bike is a great way to get exercise as part of your daily routine.
I’m pretty sure I couldn’t live on Midway forever as the isolation of this faraway place would almost certainly prove too much. But my experience here has me thinking that I would definitely consider sacrificing some of the conveniences that car-centric communities provide if I could live in a place where, like here, people and wildlife take priority over roads and automobiles.