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sudden popularity of the “safety” bicycle, as opposed to the treacherous, high-wheeled “ordinary bike” that the safety superseded, changed how women dressed and engaged with the world.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.
Category Archives: Travels
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’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.
Here are a few shots from a visit last week to Illinois and my hometown, Alton, on the Mississippi River:
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:
In Texas this Labor Day weekend, we began that season of football frenzy, played out under stadium lights in towns big and small all across the state, from Alpine in the west to Navasota in the east.
I wrote about high school football on this blog in advance of my bicycle ride across the United States in the fall of 2009 because our route across America’s southern tier of states would take us through many of those towns during the height of football season.
Last week, when I was working part-time on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s editorial board as a retired “on call” editor, I had a chance to reprise that 2009 piece on that autumnal period in many a small town where a high school football game is the highlight of the week.
You can read the story that appeared on the Star-Telegram’s op-page on Friday by clicking on the link in this sentence.
Bicycling and books are two topics that I can get pretty excited about. So a combination of the two is sure to catch my attention.
Such an instance is an online compilation by the editors of Bicycling magazine of the 10 best books about bicycling.
Topping that list, at No. 1, is a book by a friend, David Herlihy, Bicycle: The History, which Bicycling called “a comprehensive guide to the early evolution of the bicycle.”
David’s book, published in 2004 by Yale University Press, has proved to be an excellent reference for posts in this blog.
He is also the author of the 2010 book The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of An American Adventurer and His Disappearance, about which I’ve written in this blog.
Here’s what Bicycling magazine had to say about Bicycle: The History:
Filled with anecdotes from the late 19th and early 20th century, along with hundreds of photos, drawings and catalog excerpts, this is a book that can be consumed in bits, browsed or read with careful attention.
Herlihy examines not just the machines and riders, but the changes in society and the world brought about by “the poor man’s horse.” The marketing of bicycles, the role of the machine in liberating women from the confines of Victorian society, the development of paved roads, and other tales fill more than 400 pages, yet the book does not drag or feel padded.
While Herlihy’s history gives context to our current age, those looking for details on modern developments had best look elsewhere. No single book can adequately cover so broad a subject with such a long and rich history, so Herlihy has wisely chosen to focus the bulk of his energies in examining the first 50 years of bicycling.
Here’s the rest of the list of Bicycling’s 10 best books:
– The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle, Frank Berto
– Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, Dervla Murphy
– Ghost Trails: Journeys Through a Lifetime, Jill Homer
– Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet, Mia Birk
– Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer, Andrew Ritchie
– Need for the Bike, Paul Fournel
– Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, C. Calvin Jones
– Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, Richard Moore
– The Wonderful Ride: Being the true journal of Mr. George T. Loher who in 1895 cycled from coast to coast on his Yellow Fellow wheel, George T. Loher
New York is a notoriously tough town to try out anything, whether it be a Broadway play, a comedy act – or bicycle lanes.
Everybody’s a critic.
Such was the case in 2006, when the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to greatly increase the number of traffic lanes designated for bicycles instead of motor vehicles.
The decision prompted a lawsuit by some residents of Brooklyn’s Park Slope, who argued in part that bike lanes reduced space for cars; some merchants claimed that the lanes impeded truck deliveries; others grumbled generally about government overreach.
But now, six years after the city has added about 255 miles of lanes previously used only by motor vehicles, New Yorkers seem to be coming around to the idea that bike lanes aren’t so bad after all, judging from a survey published Wednesday in The New York Times.
“When asked simply whether the bike lanes were a good idea or a bad idea, 66 percent of New Yorkers said they were a good idea,” the Times reported, citing a poll conducted by the newspaper.
“A majority in all boroughs said they thought the lanes were a good idea, with support highest in Manhattan.
“Twenty-seven percent of residents called the lanes a bad idea, and 7 percent had no opinion or did not answer,” the Times said.
“The poll results suggest that residents have gradually become accustomed to bike lanes, which have been frequent targets of tabloid ire and are already emerging as a flash point in the 2013 mayoral race.”
New Yorkers who told pollsters that they favored the bike lanes “cited environmental, health and safety benefits, as well as the addition of more space for bicyclists to ride. Some respondents said they were simply happy that the lanes had encouraged bicyclists to stop riding on the sidewalk.”
The Times said the poll of 1,026 adults was conducted Aug. 10 to 15 using landline phones and cellphones. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
So there you have it. To paraphrase the Frank Sinatra song “New York, New York,” if bicycle lanes can make it there, they can make it anywhere.
We hope, anyway.
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.”
BOULDER, Colo. — A visit to Boulder wouldn’t be complete without a stop at University Bicycles, the oldest bike shop in this university town and one of the best I’ve ever found.
It’s the sort of town where, on a Sunday morning, say, throngs of Boulderites are out at sunrise, biking, jogging or hiking. It seems as if a city ordinance requires all residents to engage in early-morning physical activity, with heavy fines for slugabeds.
A focal point for the fitness buffs is University Bicycles, on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder. The shop opened in a small basement on Pearl Street in March 1985. Within eight months, the growing business moved to its current location at Pearl and Ninth streets.
For any cyclist visiting Boulder, University Bicycles is an obligatory stop.
IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. — The climb up 14,265-foot Mount Evans on the highest paved road in North America has got to be one of the toughest bike rides in the United States.
I gave the cyclists as wide a berth as I could on the road, with its hairpin turns and precipitous drop-offs.
The road, which has no barriers on its outer edge to impede a plunge into oblivion, climbs about 14 miles from Idaho Springs, which is at an altitude of 8,700 feet, to a U.S Forest Service station where cyclists pay a fee of $3 and motor vehicles $10.
The first four miles out of Idaho Springs on Colorado 103 are relatively flat, followed by grades of 4 to 6 percent to the Forest Service station.
The next 14 miles from the entrance station to the top is not a journey for the faint of heart — whether on a bicycle or in a car.
The last five miles have grades of 2 to 5 percent, says a website about Mount Evans, but because you are above 12,000 feet it will feel like a 10-15 percent grade to the top. At 14,000 feet, there is one-half the amount of oxygen in the air as at sea level.
At the parking lot just below the summit, which has to be reached on foot, my wife, Mary Ellen, and I talked to a couple of local cyclists who had made it to the top.
Although it was sunny and warm in Idaho Springs about 5,500 feet below, storm clouds were gathering on Mount Evans, the temperature was in the low 40s and freezing rain called “gropple” was beginning to fall.
Cyclist John, a teacher in the Denver school system, had set out from Denver that morning and rode 65 miles to the summit of Mount Evans. We probably talked longer than we should have because John had to get down off the mountain and back to Denver, making the ride a roundtrip of 130 miles. He later e-mailed to say he had arrived home safely and attached a photo he had taken of me, my wife and our dog, Bailey, at the summit.
The other cyclist, Mike, had set out from Idaho Springs and would finish the day with a total of about 60 miles.
I’ve ridden in the annual Bicycle Tour of Colorado five times and climbed over many of Colorado’s highest passes, but I don’t recall a climb quite as daunting as Mount Evans.
The highest I’ve ever been on a bicycle was 12,095 feet at Independence Pass above Aspen.
So on Thursday I relived my Colorado climbs vicariously through John and Mike and wondered if my aging body would still be up to such a challenge.