If I were in London tomorrow night, an event that I’d definitely have on my calendar would be a presentation by two bicycle historians at an Islington bike shop.
The event, called “Hug an Historian: A night of Victorian pictorial delights,” will feature Carlton Reid and David Herlihy, both of whom I’ve written about in this blog.
Herlihy, a friend and author of Bicycle: The History and The Lost Cyclist, is planning to show newly digitized photographs of and by pioneer round-the-world American cyclists Thomas Allen and William Sachtleben.
The pair embarked on a globe-girdling trip on British “safety” bicycles in 1891, and both figure in The Lost Cyclist, a 2010 book about the search for another round-the-world cyclist, Frank Lenz, who went missing in a turbulent part of eastern Turkey. (See March 26, 2010, blog post, “The search for the lost cyclist.”)
The photos, which David discussed with me during a stay at our house in Fort Worth in March, were scanned from circular Kodak plates that had ended up in the archives of the University of California at Los Angeles. They include images shot by Allen and Sachtleben in Greece, Turkey and Persia.
Reid is author of an upcoming book called Roads Were Not Built for Cars, which tells the story of how bicyclists became a powerful special-interest group in the United States and Britain during that turn-of-the-century period of transition from horse-powered transport to motorized vehicles. (See Feb. 9, 2012, blog post, “How’s that for a thank-you.”)
Reid’s book is due to be published in August after he raised 17,000 pounds sterling (about $25,700) on Kickstarter from more than 600 backers.
So, if you’re lucky enough to be in London Thursday night and have a fancy for bicycles, it would be well worth your while to stop in at the Look Mum No Hands bike shop at has 49 Old St., EC1V 9HX. The program begins at 7 p.m.
Category Archives: History
If I were in London tomorrow night, an event that I’d definitely have on my calendar would be a presentation by two bicycle historians at an Islington bike shop.
American suffragist Susan B. Anthony famously said of the bicycle: It has “done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world.”
“I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel,” the feminist pioneer remarked in 1896. “It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat: and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood.”
Perhaps the machine that helped liberate women in America and Europe in the 1880s could have the same effect in 21st-century Afghanistan.
At least one U.S. woman bicyclist thinks so.
Shannon Galpin, a 38-year-old former Pilates instructor from Breckenridge, Colo., has begun a project to nurture an infant bicycling culture among Afghan women through a nonprofit organization called Mountain2Mountain, which she founded in 2006 to aid women in conflict zones.
Galpin, who has ridden her mountain bike extensively throughout Afghanistan during visits that began in 2008, is headed for that country today with more than 40 duffel bags filled with cycling gear for the women’s and men’s national cycling teams, The New York Times reported.
The Times quoted Galpin as saying that current attitudes toward female cyclists in Afghanistan are similar to this in the United States in the late 1800s.
“Women were often deemed promiscuous if they rode bikes in the street,” Galpin said.
The newspapers cited Sue Macy, author of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom, a book about the bike’s role in women’s rights. (See March 27, 2011, blog post, “Wheels of change.”)
Macy said that the sudden popularity of the “safety” bicycle, as opposed to the treacherous, high-wheeled “ordinary bike” that the safety superseded, changed how women dressed and engaged with the world.
“Since they couldn’t wear hoop skirts and corsets on a bike,” Macy was quoted as saying, “they started wearing bifurcated garments like bloomers. Instead of meeting a suitor in the parlor, they started riding around and meeting people without supervision.”
Galpin, reported the Times, hopes to influence similar changes in Afghanistan. But first the women need some proper equipment.
And that’s the reason for Galpin’s latest visit.
I’ve written several times in this blog about Frank Lenz, a round-the-world cyclist who went missing in 1894, and about David V. Herlihy, the author who chronicled Lenz’s ill-fated journey and the quest to find him in a 2010 book The Lost Cyclist.
David, who passed through Fort Worth last month and spent a night at our house, told me of his efforts to have Lenz honored in his hometown, Pittsburgh.
“On My 15, 1892, thronged by an adoring public,” the sign says of Lenz, “he left his home on Webster Avenue to circle the globe on a 57-pound Victor ‘safety’ with inflatable tires (the prototype of the present-day bicycle).
“Two years later, after pedaling some 15,000 miles on two continents, he vanished mysteriously in Turkey, just as he was nearing Europe for his last leg. Although his life was cut short, he helped spark a great bicycle boom and to establish the bicycle’s enduring utility and appeal.”
Another bit of cycling news that emerged from David’s visit:
The man who was dispatched by Outing magazine to find out what had happened to Lenz, the magazine’s correspondent, was Will Sachtleben, who was from Alton, Ill., which is also my hometown.
Sachtleben had already completed a globe-girdling bicycling trip with Thomas Allen Jr., so he was a logical choice to search for Lenz.
During their own trip, Sachtleben and Allen had carried with them a newly introduced Kodak film camera, with which they chronicled their travels.
Some 400 nitrate negatives that they shot ended up at UCLA, which has been scanning the negatives for eventual publication or display.
David reports that the UCLA technicians have nearly completed the scanning project and that the Hayner Public Library in Alton, which David visited after Fort Worth, “is very keen about putting up an exhibition of the UCLA images.”
I’m hoping to post a selection of the newly scanned images in this blog as soon as they become available.
For readers of this blog in the Fort Worth area, here’s a bit of shameless self-promotion.
After years of putzing around with cameras — mostly filing the negatives in drawers and lately posting photos on Facebook and Flickr, and sometimes on this blog — I’m getting a chance to exhibit some of my stuff.
Stir Crazy Baked Goods, a small, family-owned bakery on Fort Worth’s near south side, has agreed to show some of my photos for the next month or so.
The exhibit, called “Glimpses of a bygone empire,” features a selection of photos shot in Russia during my stint as a foreign correspondent in Moscow for The Associated Press in the early 1970s.
Only one of the photos in the show — a shot of Nikita S. Khrushchev during his last public appearance before his death on Sept. 11, 1971 — was taken for news purposes. The rest are shots from travels around the Soviet Union from 1970 to 1974 — landscapes, portraits, happenings in Red Square.
Stir Crazy Baked Goods, a friend of artists and photographers, hosts a show of local work every month or so.
My exhibit will open on Thursday, Nov. 15, with an “art party” from 6 to 8 p.m. In a bit of serendipity, that day happens to be my birthday.
Stir Crazy is at 106 E. Daggett Ave., just around the corner from the previous location of Trinity Bicycles on South Main Street.
I’d be delighted if some of my bike-riding pals can show up and share some wine, beer and great baked goods from Stir Crazy.
ALTON, Ill. — The Great River Road, to my mind, is one of the nation’s most majestic long-haul thoroughfares.
It’s not an interstate like, say, I-55, which bisects the nation from Chicago to New Orleans with a single numerical designation. It’s a collection of state, county and local roads that track the serpentine course of the Mississippi River as it flows from the heart of a continent to the sea.
The Great River Road runs about 2,340 miles from the source of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico near Venice, La., about 76 miles southeast of New Orleans.
It passes through 10 states that border the great river: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. From Hastings, Minn., south to Gretna, La., the Great River Road runs along both banks of the Mississippi River.
The road is designated by a green-and-white sign showing a steamboat inside a river pilot’s wheel, usually with the name of the state.
I was born and grew up in Alton, Ill., smack dab in the middle of an area where three mighty rivers converge. Alton, a small town with a rich history, is on the Mississippi just upstream from the confluence of the Missouri River and just downriver from the confluence with the Illinois.
The Great River Road passes right through my hometown, and the section running upriver from Alton to Grafton, along Illinois 100, is one of the road’s most magnificent.
Limestone bluffs tower above the road on the Illinois side. Across the river, on the Missouri side, is a vast flood plain that was ground zero during the great flood of 1993, when water from nearly half of the nation, carried by the Missouri and the Illinois and their tributaries, converged near the small farming town of West Alton, Mo., and inundated some of the most fertile farm land in America.
I had a chance in 1996 to ride my bike along a big chunk of the Great River Road, about 740 miles from Minneapolis to St. Louis. But my favorite part — and I’m probably partial because it’s my home turf — is the one between Alton and Grafton.
During a visit to Alton last week, I got in a 40.41-mile bike ride from my sister’s house in Alton to Grafton and back. It was cold and windy, but the sun shone brightly and it was an altogether glorious day to be on a bike.
Here are a few photos shot along the river:
Little did I know, until I made the acquaintance of author David Herlihy, that one of the pioneers of long-distance bicycling was from my hometown, Alton, Ill.
Herlihy wrote about Sachtleben in his 2010 book, The Lost Cyclist, which takes its name from the mysterious case of Frank Lenz. Lenz, of Pittsburgh, was bicycling around the world east to west when he went missing in 1894 in a lawless area of eastern Turkey.
Sachtleben, who had just completed a round-the-world cycling trip in the opposite direction with Thomas Allen Jr., was dispatched on an unsuccessful mission to find Lenz by Outing magazine, which had been publishing reports from Lenz on his journey.
Now, Herlihy has written a magazine piece bout the globe-girdling trip of Sachtleben and Allen, fellow graduates of Washington University in St. Louis who became national heroes just as the “golden age” of cycling in America was about to begin.
“The day after graduation, in June 1890, the men boarded a train to New York City, and thence a steamer to Liverpool, England, where they promptly purchased a pair of Singer safeties, with hard tires,” Herlihy writes in the August issue of Washington, the magazine of Washington University.
“They intended merely to spend the summer tooling around the British Isles. But they enjoyed that experience so much that they resolved to continue pedaling eastward, taking ships only when necessary, until they had completed a global circuit.”
The most arduous leg of that trip was the passage across Siberia and northern China, including a trek through the Gobi Desert. The journey was chronicled in their book Across Asia on a Bicycle: The journey of two American students from Constantinople to Peking.
The pair had with them a newly introduced Kodak film camera, with which they chronicled their travels photographically. David said in a message exchange today that UCLA is scanning some 400 nitrate negatives shot by Sachtleben and Allen and hopes to have the results in about a month. I’ll certainly post some of the best.
Sachtleben and Allen, unfortunately, are little remembered today in their hometowns.
Allen, who lived in the St. Louis suburbs of Ferguson and Kirkwood, became an engineer. Sachtleben eventually settled in Houston, where he was the longtime manager of the Majestic Theater.
The house of Sachtleben’s youth still stands in Alton, on the corner of Seventh and Langdon Streets in an old neighborhood dotted with beautifully restored Victorian homes that the town is noted for.
Born in Alton on March 29, 1866, of German parentage, Sachtleben graduated from Alton High School, the cross-town rival of my alma mater, Marquette High School. His house, which I photographed on a recent visit, was only a few blocks from St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which was called “the German church” when my paternal grandparents were married there in 1907.
Both Alton and St. Louis had thriving communities of German immigrants at the time.
Shortly before his death in 1953, Sachtleben paid a visit to his old hometown and stopped in at the Alton Evening Telegraph on Oct. 28, 1952, for a chat with editor Paul Cousley, whose family still owned the newspaper when I worked there part-time as a college student in the 1960s.
“‘I have often thought of Alton,’ the eighty-six-year-old confided to Cousley, Herlihy wrote in the prologue to The Lost Cyclist. ‘Of my loving mother, also born here, who left us children so early in life, and of my self-sacrificing father, who said to me as we walked down the hill to the Chicago & Alton railroad station the day after my graduation from Washington College: “Well, son, stay away until you get your fill.” Added the aged adventurer with a sly smile: ‘I reckon I did just that.’”
In Sachtleben’s youth, the exploits of globe-trotting bicyclists were much like those of pioneer aviators in later generations. They were national figures on a par with a Charles Lindbergh or Amelia Earhart.
But when the aging Sachtleben dropped in to visit Cousley in 1952, he was largely forgotten, even in the town where he was born and raised.
“Time was when Will Sachtleben was a popular hero in Alton, known to everyone,” the editor wrote in his newspaper with a tinge of nostalgia the day after his meeting with Sachtleben. “His fame was nationwide, and wider still, because of his daring deeds.”
Some readers of this blog may have noticed an absence of posts from Feb. 10 to March 17. The reason: I was editing a book.
The book isn’t by me or about bicycling. But it has a direct bearing on this blog. It chronicles an adventure that I wrote about in Jim’s Bike Blog several times because it overlapped to some extent with my bicycle ride across the United States in the autumn of 2009, and because it was undertaken by a friend.
The book, by Neal Moore and Cindy Lovell, is about Neal’s solo canoe trip down the Mississippi River, from the headwaters of the river at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to New Orleans.
In the spring of 2009, as I was preparing for my bike trip from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., my oldest son, Ben, who teaches English in Taiwan, told me of Neal, a fellow teacher who also was planning an extended journey through America.
Two splendid adventures, two unlikely dreams, I thought, coming to fruition at about the same time!
A line from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden has stuck with me since high school: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Thoreau may have overstated the condition of his fellow New Englanders in his musings about a sojourn in a one-room cabin at Walden Pond in Massachusetts from 1845 to 1847.
But it is probably true that relatively few people get to live their dreams, especially if the dream is, in the view of some, a bit eccentric, bizarre or just plain crazy.
In a succession of emails, Neal told me of his plans to canoe the Mississippi – a journey that he estimated would take about 150 days, from early July to late November or early December of 2009.
I was born and grew up on the Mississippi River, in Alton, Ill., just upstream from St. Louis. My own childhood fantasies about making my way down the river by raft or towboat never materialized. And as I grew older, I came to understand how dangerous the river can be, especially for a traveler in a small craft.
Jonathan Raban, an Englishman who journeyed down the Mississippi in 1980, described some of the dangers in a wonderful book called Old Glory: An American Voyage. I suggested to Neal that he read that book before he set out, thinking — maybe hoping — that he might reconsider.
Even in an aluminum 16-foot motorized johnboat, Raban faced such dangers as severe turbulence caused by the collision of a downstream current with an upstream wind; partially submerged jetties called wing dams that jut out from the banks to guide water into the main channel; waterlogged tree trunks barely floating just below the surface; huge boils, or domes of water, that swell up from the depths of the river; vicious whirlpools that form in eddies at bends in the river; and, of course, the wakes of monster towboats pushing acres of barges loaded with such cargoes as grain, iron ore, coal or gravel.
By comparison, a bicycle ride across the United States seemed like a safe and simple undertaking.
As plans for our adventures progressed, we realized that our journeys would overlap for a time in the fall of 2009. What a bit of serendipity if we should meet!
We began to entertain the fanciful notion that, with the concurrence of the river and road gods, we might cross paths at St. Francisville in southeastern Louisiana.
St. Francisville, a jewel of a town in West Feliciana Parish, was the place where my fellow cyclists and I would cross the Mississippi River on our transcontinental journey along the southern tier of the United States. Neal, of course, would have to paddle past St. Francisville on his way to the Big Easy.
But our rendezvous on the river didn’t take place at the time and place we had hoped for.
When my bicycling companions and I reached the Mississippi on Nov. 4, 2009, Neal was still further up the river in Mississippi doing video stories as an iReporter for CNN and for his blog, Flash River Safari.
We took a ferry across the Mississippi, a major milestone in our cross-country trek. I thought of Neal that day as we waited on the western bank for the ferry to take us across to St. Francisville.
The Mississippi, probably a mile wide at that point, is in the final stages of its 2,300-mile odyssey across the midsection of the United States. It has gathered water from 31 states and two Canadian provinces from the Rockies to the Appalachians, all funneling into feeder rivers along the way – the Wisconsin, the Illinois, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Arkansas and myriad others – and is rushing full bore to the sea.
For good reason, the Mississippi is called the Father of Waters.
After heavy rains upstream, the Mississippi was running high and fast that day, and two men in a canoe were riding the swift current downriver. Their craft seemed so frail on that mighty, mercurial river. I marveled at their skill and courage and was struck anew by the audacity of Neal’s solo journey.
Although our rendezvous didn’t occur when and where Neal and I had hoped for, when it did happen it was in a town very fitting for two people who have a deep association with and affection for the Mississippi: Hannibal, Mo., Mark Twain’s boyhood home.
The graduation of a family friend from the University of Missouri at Columbia in May 2010 prompted a trip to Missouri. After the graduation, I drove to Hannibal.
Neal had been working on this book in Oxford, Miss., but he had decamped to Hannibal to tap the expertise of Cindy Lovell, executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. Cindy’s main role in the book project was to cull the works of Twain for passages relevant to Neal’s journey and to place them strategically throughout the narrative.
“Dr. Moore, I presume,” I said when I found Neal in the Java Jive coffee shop on Hannibal’s Main Street. He had been hunched over his laptop working on his book amid the couches and easy chairs at the back of the shop.
Through Neal’s good offices and Cindy’s hospitality, I lodged in the Becky Thatcher Room at Cindy’s rambling 1890s home filled with Twain memorabilia.
Cindy, a self-described “Twainiac” with encyclopedic knowledge of Twain and his times, has hung her favorite Twain quote above the door leading from the living room into the kitchen: “Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
During my brief visit to Hannibal, Neal and I walked along the waterfront as the rising Mississippi, swollen by seasonal flooding, crept up the brick-paved landing where steamboats once put in. We toured Twain’s boyhood home and the nearby home of Tom Blankenship, son of the town drunk and an outcast from polite society who was the model for Huckleberry Finn.
We signed the whitewashed fence immortalized in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and talked Twain with museum curator Henry Sweets.
We tramped through the cave where young Sam Clemens played and where Tom and Becky got lost.
That evening, we sat on Cindy’s front porch swapping mostly true tales about our respective adventures, drank some robust but flat stout that I had schlepped in a growler from a brew pub in Columbia and watched as a large, well-fed raccoon repeatedly raided the bowls of food that Cindy had set out for the neighborhood cats.
As the book project progressed, Neal and Cindy asked if I would write the introduction – part of which is recycled for this blog post – and then asked if I would edit the manuscript. I also got to help with the cover design and to edit Neal’s photos for the book.
The book is now in the final stages of publication. It will be the first book published by the Mark Twain Museum Press and is to be launched in Hannibal on July 28.
Neal will soon leave Taiwan for an extended visit to the United States before taking up residence in Cape Town, South Africa. On July 24, he plans to fly from Houston to Dallas, where I will pick up him at Dallas Love Field. After a night in Fort Worth, we plan to drive up to Hannibal for the launch event.
I was proud to be a part of the project and hope the book does well. As I followed Neal’s adventure from inception to completion, I never imagined that I’d have the opportunity to help shape it into a book. Thanks, Neal and Cindy. It’s been a pleasure.
Notre Dame prides itself on being one of the nation’s preeminent research universities. So I guess it’s no surprise that in 1869 some students at the still-new school in South Bend, Ind., were researching a new-fangled European contraption that would soon take America by storm: the bicycle.
The Rev. Edward Sorin, a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, had founded Notre Dame in November 1842. In 1868, after he had retired as president, he returned to his native France for a prolonged visit.
“Shortly after his arrival, while strolling the streets of Paris, he heard a frightening rumble,” Herlihy writes. “Wheeling around, he saw a man flash by, straddling a curious contraption. ‘What is that?’ he asked his companion. ‘A velocipede? I must have one for Notre Dame.’’’
Sorin wrote to Notre Dame students that he wished he could have bought a dozen of the machines, but could afford only one, and that it was on its way to South Bend. The bicycle in question had a solid iron frame, two wooden carriage wheels and pedals affixed to the axle of the front wheel. It weighed 80 pounds and cost 250 francs, the equivalent of about $50, “fully a third of the room, board and tuition that Notre Dame charged for an entire semester” at the time, Herlihy writes.
The bicycle finally arrived on Jan. 11, 1869. But — at least at first — it was not a big hit with Notre Dame’s students and staff. Several of them suffered scrapes and bruises as they tried to tame the “people’s nag,” as some called early bicycles because they were seen as replacements for horses.
A student committee, replying to Sorin, Herlihy writes, tactfully acknowledged their struggles: “Many thanks for the beautiful velocipede which you have so kindly sent. That it will be the source of immense amusement we have no doubt, but as yet it has not been found.”
A faculty committee also wrote to Sorin, expressing hope that he would return from France in time for the university’s silver jubilee in the spring and thanking him for the gift of the velocipede: “The only danger is that the reckless swift-footed creature may carry us all to destruction before your return.”
Despite Notre Dame’s misgivings about the velocipede, Herlihy writes, bicycle mania spread across the United States barely a month after Father Sorin’s gift arrived on campus. “The New York Times proclaimed, ‘Never before in the history of manufactures in this country has there arisen such a demand for an article.’ American carriage-makers worked around the clock to produce bicycles. Rinks opened in every major city to teach the new art.”
The St. Joseph Valley Register, published in South Bend, seemed to welcome the trend: “Those who have tried the velocipede say it doesn’t require any more strength and exertion to run it than it does to saw hard wood with a dull saw.”
“The Notre Dame faculty, however, found their model neither fast nor bearable,” Herlihy writes. “In May 1869, the student magazine Scholastic reported that several members had pedaled “some distance from the College,” but that “nearly every one of them returned limping, wincing, and rubbing parts affected.”
It’s too bad that Father Sorin didn’t dispatch a velocipede to St. Edward’s University, which he founded in 1878 in Austin, Texas. By that time, the bicycle was about to entire a golden age, before being displaced by automobiles in the early years of the 20th century. A bicycle from Father Sorin would have been a marvelous historical nugget in the story of Austin becoming the foremost city in Texas for cyclists and the hometown of Lance Armstrong.
If you missed my Aug. 25 blog post about Jeremy Shlachter’s epic ride in the grueling Paris-Brest-Paris endurance event, you can read all about it in Jeremy’s own words.
Jeremy, a friend, neighbor and Fort Worth bike builder, wrote the cover story in the current issue of Bicycle Times: “Randonneuring: A 750-Mile Adventure Paris-Brest-Paris.”
The 2011 PBP ride, held every four years in August, began Aug. 21.
Participants had 90 hours to ride 1,200 kilometers — from Paris to Brest on France’s Atlantic Coast and then back to Paris. That’s equivalent to nearly the distance between Chicago and New York. Jeremy did the ride in 78 hours and 31 minutes, more than 11 hours within the deadline.
Riders in the PBP are an elite breed of cyclists called randonneurs, French for “ramblers.” They train their bodies to ride ridiculous distances of hundreds of miles in a single weekend.
All participants in PBP had to qualify by doing a “super randonneur” series of “brevets,” or rides, of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometers in the year of the event and complete the series by mid-June.
I had hoped to find Jeremy’s story online and to provide a link. But you have to be a subscriber to Bicycle Times via mail or through Apple’s Newstand on an iPad or iPhone. The magazine says on its website that six issues per year delivered electronically cost the same as the print subscription: $16.99. Back issues are also available online.
There’s rich irony in the efforts by members of Congress to eliminate federal funding for bicycle trails and other amenities for cyclists: It was, after all, cyclists who literally paved the way for the age of the automobile.
In the years shortly before and after the turn of the 20th century, Americans and Europeans in the millions took to a new-fangled machine called the bicycle. And when they found that primitive roads limited their mobility, they took action and became a political force to be reckoned with.
A soon-to-be published book by Carlton Reid, Roads Were Not Built For Cars, tells the story of how bicyclists became a powerful special-interest group in the United States and Britain during that turn-of-the-century period of transition from horse-powered transport to motorized vehicles.
In the United States, the cyclists’ lobbying effort resulted in the Good Roads Movement.
The movement, according to Wikipedia, “was officially founded in May 1880, when bicycle enthusiasts, riding clubs and manufacturers met in Newport, Rhode Island, to form the League of American Wheelmen to support the burgeoning use of bicycles and to protect their interests from legislative discrimination.”
“Motorists are the johnny-come-latelies of highway history,” Reid writes on a website promoting his book. “The coming of the railways in the 1830s killed off the stage-coach trade; almost all rural roads reverted to low-level local use. “Cyclists were the first group in a generation to use roads and were the first to push for high-quality sealed surfaces and were the first to lobby for national funding and leadership for roads,” Reid writes.
“Without cyclists, motorists wouldn’t have hit the ground running when it came to places to drive this new form of transport.”
So I guess we can thank bicyclists for helping launch America’s century-long love affair with the automobile.
Some seven decades into that love affair – as cities became more congested and the air more polluted – bicycling began making a comeback, spurred by the efforts of such organizations as Adventure Cycling Association and the League of American Bicyclists.
But now much of that progress over the past few decades is in jeopardy.
Which brings us back to what’s going on in Congress.
A House version of a long-term transportation bill working its way through Congress, officially called “The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act” and written largely by Republicans who control the chamber, is – as might be expected – great news for the oil companies that supply our cars with fuel and terrible news for advocates of public transportation.
Bicycling magazine summed up how provisions of the bill would affect cyclists and pedestrians.
• Completely reverses 20 years of bicycle and pedestrian-friendly federal transportation policy.
• Completely eliminates the dedicated funding for the Transportation Enhancements program that funds the cycling and walking projects.
• Allows states to build bridges without safe access for cyclists and pedestrians, as previously required.
• Completely eliminates Bicycle and Pedestrian and Safe Routes to Schools coordinators in state departments of transportation.
• Repeals the Safe Routes to Schools program.
• Eliminates language that ensures that rumble strips “do not adversely affect the safety or mobility of bicyclists, pedestrians or the disabled.”
How’s that as a thank-you to cyclists for getting our nation’s road system up and running?
NOTE: The e-book Roads Were Not Built For Cars is planned for publication in April. As the book’s website says: Thanks to research grants and advertising support, it will be free to read online and free to download to Kindles, iPads, iPhones and other e-book readers. The free distribution model will be used in order to get the book seen by as many eyes as possible.