By Theun Karelse

During the summer of 2012 the Resilients have been exploring the European continent in various ways and in various areas. Some of these expeditions have been undertaken by groups: the Peregrini/Pollinator bikers through Central Europe, the Unmanned Resilience hikers in Slovenia and Finland, and the Buratinas and CoC vessel on several rivers. I was present for the first two journeys. What can be learned by overlaying these two experiences? I propose to use UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) mission-planning vocabulary for this analysis and for designing future resilient modes of travel.

  • Takeoff point: after preparations (coffee) the mission starts from this point
  • Rally point: final destination to reassemble the group and decide on base camp
  • Loiter: (waiting) point to reassemble the group for required navigation or food
  • Waypoint: points used for navigation along the trail
  • Failsafe: general ways of resolving unexpected events or failures. If … fails, do …

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Comparing biking and hiking in general


The strain on the body and the amount of food and supplies needed were quite similar for both journeys. The experience of the landscape was somewhat more intimate on foot, but more could be explored on bike. Basically you always have sore legs in each case, but on bike your ass hurts too. Depending on the area cyclists are more flexible in finding food sources, supplies and shelter due to their wider radius of operation. Also heat is less of a factor for cyclists.

Preparation


Try and stay lightweight. As a participant in both expeditions generally the preparations were very similar: bring essential clothing only, but for a range of weather conditions; very basic utensils (cup, knife, spoon, earplugs, sun-cream); tent and sleeping gear. Obviously shoes are less important on bikes, but on the other hand cyclists need to think about tools for repairs.

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During both missions navigation played a very prominent role. A daily mission would be planned, setting a takeoff point and often several options for rally points and loiters (lunches, swimming, final destination, etc.). In both cases setting a daily route would fall back on just a few of individuals in the group. This turned out in both cases to greatly impact group resilience. (See “Failsafes” below.)

For the Peregrini bikers, a trail had to be planned along the fold using place names as crude waypoints. The Slovenian hikers would follow existing marked paths as waypoints, which were much more frequent and which greatly reduced errors. Group travel included many moments for loitering – more so for the cyclists, because at many crossroads the group needed to reorient itself, and because of the many available places for obtaining food supplies (village shops). For the hiking group, loitering only occurred at points where existing markings failed, or for obtaining food supplies (Dario's wild food finds).

Group structure


It's quite clear that traveling as a single group is easier on foot than on cycle where differences in speed are increased by the introduction of gears. Traveling in mountainous terrain, these differences become even more pronounced, both on foot and bike. This can reduce the resilience of the group when some travellers inevitably fall behind; those who struggle can be found at the back. In case of any additional misfortunes this can result in a lack of support.

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Failsafes

Carrying capacity:


In the case of the cycling group along the fold everything was carried by the travellers and the only option was redistribution of materials. For the group on foot a jeep was in place as a failsafe which could carry some equipment.

The hikers relied on a marked trail and familiarity with the area, but the cyclists relied on GPS apps, maps, place names and mobile phones as failsafes for navigation errors. The level of failure was a prominent frustration in the process of reaching the rally points along the fold.

Accidents and breakdowns:


In both groups keeping track of those making up the rear of the group was an issue. Unfortunately accidents happened where little backup was available and mobile phone connections failed. From the tough lessons learned along the fold by the cyclists, the hikers in Slovenia integrated a failsafe by keeping a small group at the rear, especially when a traveller was struggling or even ill. Also the jeep served as a backup but due to the success of our failsafe this wasn't needed.

For resilient travel, a failsafe system might entail: detailed info for the trail including editable starting point, waypoints, loiters, and rally points, disseminated by an independent mode of communication (mesh-network) and accessible to all group members, perhaps even facilitated by UAV.

biking-hiking