“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”
— H.G. Wells, English author (1866-1946)
Robinson was a familiar figure around Fort Worth in the middle of the last century — riding his bike to work and using it for shopping, visiting and hauling.
By the time he was featured in a March 24, 1957, story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he had been riding a bicycle for 48 years.
Robinson made another appearance in Monday’s Star-Telegram as the subject of a fixture on local history called “Time Frames,” which draws on the newspaper’s archive of historic photographs stored at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Robinson “was regularly seen pedaling around town dressed in a gray hat, Army overcoat, 15 sharpened pencils in his shirt pocket, pipe in his mouth, steel-rimmed glasses adhesive-taped together,” the Time Frames feature said.
In terms of bicycle commuting, not a lot seems to have changed in Fort Worth since 1957, when Robinson was considered a rarity. Although Fort Worth has a very nice network of bicycle trails and the city has an ambitious plan to make it more bike-friendly, a bicycle commuter is still a relatively rare site in an urban area dominated by motorized vehicles.
Fort Worth observed national Bike to Work Day on May 15. Sixty to 75 cyclists rendezvoused at the new downtown campus of Tarrant County College (formerly RadioShack headquarters) at 7:55 a.m. and pedaled through downtown to the Intermodal Transportation Center escorted by members of the Fort Worth police bicycle patrol. (See May 15 post, “Making Cowtown more bike-friendly.”)
It certainly wasn’t a mass turnout. But Dick Ruddell, president of the The T (the Fort Worth Transportation Authority), which hosted the event, noted that only four cyclists turned up for a similar Bike to Work Day observance the previous year.
USA Today reported Aug. 3 that, nationally, the number of bike commuters rose from about 483,145 in 2003 to about 664,859 in 2007, a 37.6 percent increase, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Fort Worth estimates that only about 0.2 percent of its 720,000 residents ride their bikes to work.
“Ridin’ a bike has kept me physically fit,” Robinson told the Star-Telegram in 1957. “I work hard at my job stacking things all day, and I need to be in good health. Everyone should ride a bike.”
A tip of the fedora to Arlie D. Robinson, bike commuting pioneer. Well said!