Monthly Archives: February 2012

Bicycles and beer!

A reminder for anyone who hasn’t seen this on Facebook:
Two of my favorite
local businesses, Trinity Bicycles bike shop and Rahr & Sons brewery, are teaming up Sunday for a bicycle swap meet at the brewery.
Bicycles and beer! That’s a combination that’s hard to beat.
Shop owners, cycling clubs, charities, frame builders and industry reps will be on hand for the event, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 701 Galveston Ave. on Fort Worth’s Near South Side.
The brewery will be open for a special Bike Swap Tour and tasting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For $7, you get a limited edition Bike Swap pint glass and a tour of the brewery. And the beer is complimentary.
Sounds like a great way to spend a chilly Sunday.


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Filed under Products, Texana, Urban cycling

How’s that for a thank-you?

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.”

Sheet music for a march promoting good roads

In Britain, the Cyclists’ Touring Club founded a lobbying group called the Road Improvements Association in the 1880s with much the same goals as the Americans: to make bicycling safe and enjoyable – on good roads.
“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 bicycle ad from a catalogue of Sears Roebuck & Co.

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.
The bill:
• Completely reverses 20 years of bicycle and pedestrian-friendly federal transportation policy.

The League of American Bicyclists sponsors the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C.

• 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.


Filed under Americana, Environment, History, Urban cycling

From ‘the Fort’ to Weatherford — an epic ride in 1887

Today, a bicycle ride from Fort Worth to Weatherford, about 30 miles to the west, would hardly be worth a newspaper story. Members of the local randonneuring club – those elite cyclists who might ride 300 miles in a single weekend – would consider it a short warm-up, nothing to boast about.
But in the 1880s, when rural roads were little more than dirt tracks and bicycles were primitive, a ride from Fort Worth to Weatherford was a considerable bit of derring-do.
Friend and writer David V. Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist and a definitive reference book for cyclists, Bicycle: The History, sent to me by e-mail a clipping from the Fort Worth Daily Gazette of Sept. 12, 1887. It tells of a ride from Fort Worth by a trio of local bankers. The destination was Weatherford, but one of the cyclists failed to make it.
A copy of the story from the Gazette, which at the time was the only North Texas daily west of the Trinity River, is shown above. Here is the full text:

Special to the Gazette
WEATHERFORD, TEX., Sept. 11. – This evening about 4 or 5 o’clock Messrs. J.M. Logan of the Fort Worth National Bank and C.M. Brown of the State National Bank of Fort Worth arrived in this city on bicycles, having made the trip from Fort Worth to-day. They started out this morning from the Fort, accompanied by Mr. T.N. Slack of the First National, but he failed to reach here with Messrs. Logan and Brown, and they were unable to say just where they lost him. THE GAZETTE correspondent learned from Mr. Logan that bicycle riding in Fort Worth is very common, and on Sundays the young men make considerable distances on their bicycles, but none of them have ever made the distance they made to-day coming to Weatherford. He says the roads between these two cities are not at all adapted to bicycle riding, and the next time he starts to Weatherford, he will leave his bicycle and walk, that it is easier to walk without the rolling machinery than it is to walk and roll the machine. The feat is certainly one that few could perform and these young gentlemen certainly should be proud. They did not seem to be very fatigued over the trip. They took the evening train back to Fort Worth.

A few items worth noting:
The ride took all day. The road was so bad that one of the cyclists said it would be easier to make the trip on foot.
The story doesn’t say so, but David Herlihy surmises that the Fort Worth bankers were riding “high wheelers,” bikes with a huge front wheel and small rear wheel; sometimes called “penny-farthings,’ they preceded the “safety bicycle,” a machine with front and rear wheels of equal size.
Bicycle riding in Fort Worth was “very common” 125 years ago; it’s about time it’s making a comeback.
A train once ran between Weatherford and Fort Worth. I’d bet that some of the folks who commute daily to Fort Worth might wish they still had a train to ride to work.

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Filed under Americana, Cool stuff, History, Journeys, Texana, Travels, Urban cycling

Combining two passions

Deliciously warm weather yesterday prompted me to spend an afternoon engaging in two of my passions: bicycling and photography.

View through a leg of "Man With Briefcase" sculpture to a reflected image across West Seventh Street in downtown Fort Worth

So, with the temperature in the high 70s in North Texas, I hopped on my bike, camera in my messenger bag, and rode to downtown Fort Worth to snap some photos of one of the city’s larger pieces of public art.
“Man With Briefcase,” a sculpture by American artist Jonathan Borofsky, soars above Burnett Plaza on the western edge of downtown. Essentially, it’s a cutout silhouette in a huge upright slab of brushed aluminum of a man with a fedora and a briefcase.
Created in 2002, the sculpture is 50 feet tall, 22 feet wide and a foot thick. It weighs 12 tons.
In the months after it was erected, Fort Worthians were ambivalent about the sculpture. Some loved it; some hated it. Some wondered why the figure in the silhouette is wearing a fedora instead of a cowboy hat.
Fort Worth’s nickname is “Cowtown,” after all!
“Whether or not ‘Man With Briefcase’ is still hot conversation fodder is moot,” Fort Worth Weekly observed on April 2, 2008. “He does what most public art is supposed to: Get people thinking about their surroundings and also in new ways.”
Here are some of the photographic results of a splendid day out and about on a bike:

Blue sky fills silhouette of "Man With Briefcase" sculpture in downtown Fort Worth

"Man With Briefcase" sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky in Burnett Plaza, downtown Fort Worth

A passer-by glances at "Man With Briefcase" sculpture in downtown Fort Worth

"Man With Briefcase" sculpture soars over Burnett Plaza in downtown Fort Worth

Silhouette of "Man With Briefcase" sculpture reflected in window of office building across the street

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