Bicycle history love

Thanks to a friend in the news media, I was alerted to an article sent out by the Nebraska State Historical Society via the Nebraska Press Association, “Advice for Wheelmen,” which features a column published in 1896 in an early Omaha, Nebraska, publication for cyclists – “The Pacemaker.” The column is fantastic! I will quote some tidbits below.

The full text – and more – is included in the winter 2015 issue of Nebraska History, in “Lifting our People Out of the Mud: The Good Roads Movement,” by L. Robert Puschendorf. I’m definitely going to have to get a copy of that!

In searching for these articles online (couldn’t find them yet), I came across this tidbit from a 2002 survey of historic highways in Nebraska:

By the 1880s, interest groups began pressuring the federal government to reevaluate its role in the development of roads. The popularity of the bicycle and the introduction of the automobile in the 1890s raised public awareness of the need for adequate road networks. In response to the poor condition of the nation’s road system, the “Good Roads Movement” emerged. A group of bicyclists organized the League of American Wheelmen, founding the first of many organizations to promote road improvements as part of the Good Roads Movement. With the motto, “lifting our people out of the mud,” they lobbied the federal and state governments for better roads. Advocates of the Good Roads Movement pushed for federal, state, and local support and financing for road building and maintenance activities.

So, you like your federally-funded highways? You have bicyclists to thank!

I also searched “League of American Wheelmen,” and was surprised to learn that this organization still exists, though under a different name – the League of American Bicyclists, which I recently joined!

The spoked-wheel-with-wings logo from the League of American Bicyclists came from the logo of its founding organization - the League of American Wheelmen. (Images screen-grabbed from the LAB website)

The spoked-wheel-with-wings logo from the League of American Bicyclists came from the logo of its founding organization – the League of American Wheelmen. (Images screen-grabbed from the LAB website)

If I still had access to the files at Legacy of the Plains Museum, I would share a photo of a locally-used late-1800s bicycle that was donated to the museum (then the North Platte Valley Museum) and an image of an old article about cycling I found in the Gering Courier, which, if I remember correctly, was about someone cycling from Gering to Alliance – not a quick ride! (I’d include a historic image of a bicycle from the NSHS collection, but their use policies state that I have to pay them 5 bucks to use an image on my website. I make no money off this website, so I can’t really justify paying.)

Getting back to the “Advice for Wheelmen” from “The Pacemaker,” here are my favorite snippets from the NSHS press release:

Never try to make a century rider until you have ridden from 50 to 75 miles in a day without unusual distress.

Indeed! Good advice, and what I followed while training for Cycle Greater Yellowstone.

When meeting anyone in the road in a buggy or wagon look to see if there are ladies in the vehicles, if so give the road to avoid unpleasantness. If not hold for your rights unless the other fellow looks the largest, then for your looks’ sake I would say do as you think best. Always have confidence in yourself both as a rider and as a warrior; it takes it to get through this world on a wheel. . . .

Interesting philosophy of who has the right of way. Sad that I do sometimes feel the need to put on my warrior mentality when I take to the road on my bike.

In distance riding one thing to be remembered, ten miles an hour for ten hours will take you one hundred miles a day, but if you attempt doing thirty-five miles the first hour you won’t last one hour. . . .

I dig this – I’m more of a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of cyclist.

Always remember that ‘accidents will happen to machines of the best construction,’ so never go on a trip without a repair kit and a tool bag (and tools, of course).

Yup! It was good advice 120 years ago, and it’s good advice now!

I just love this! It’s so much fun to see this long perspective on cycling!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw


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