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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Car passing a trailer uphill when oncoming bike on shoulder

Here’s a scary on-the-road cycling situation Bugman and I encountered this weekend on which I’d love to get an opinion from police officers and expert cyclists. Were laws broken here, or was this bad judgement – on the automobile driver’s part, or ours?

We were headed south/downhill on our tandem on the shoulder of W CR 38E, coming down off a ride along Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The speed limit on that road is 40mph, according to the last sign I saw, but it drops to 20 mph around a couple of hairpin turns on the switchbacks. We were controlling our speed on the descent at around 20 miles per hour because of the unfamiliar terrain, and because we were sticking to the shoulder, which had a pretty good surface.

Suddenly, Bugman braked, and I could hear the roar of a car engine. We suddenly had a high-speed car headed towards us just a couple of feet away.

There was an oncoming pickup truck pulling a boat on a trailer, and a black Kia Optima decided to pass the pickup/boat right as it was passing us, threading the needle between the pickup/boat and us on the shoulder. Here’s a screen grab from our rear-facing bike camera (I haven’t yet figured out how to post these videos online):

scary vehicle passIt was frightening to imagine the possibilities if we’d been out in the lane for some reason instead of on the shoulder.

I wonder – did the Optima driver not see us? Or did they see us and decide to pass anyway?

Was the Optima breaking the law by passing at that moment? We might be able to measure from the video and show that the Optima was breaking the “3 feet to pass” law, but would that apply for an oncoming vehicle situation like this?

Is it safer for us as cyclists to be out in the lane to be more visible as “real traffic,” and to force vehicles to wait to pass, or is it better to “stay out of the way” and keep to the shoulder? I just wonder if we’d be hurt or worse if we’d been out in the lane in this situation.

I would love to see some opinions on what should have been done in this situation, so that hopefully cyclists and drivers can learn from this and avoid similar scary situations in the future.

In support of the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance

Western Nebraska is not the most bicycle-friendly place I’ve lived, but the times, they are a-changin’.

(In case you don’t want to read to the end, I’ll put the appeal up front, too: donate to the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance bike month campaign.)

The Western Nebraska Bicycling Club came together.

WNBC logoThe Scottbluff YMCA now hosts an annual spring community bike ride and a fall challenge ride.

The City of Scottsbluff is installing artistic bike racks downtown and planning to install 5 miles of new pathway (see black lines on image below) that would include a much-needed bridge over Highway 26.

proposed scottsbluff bike path

The City of Gering has already installed several miles of bike routes, as illustrated with brown lines in this excerpt from the Nebraska Department of Roads’ Nebraska Bicycle Map (I didn’t know this map existed!):

Scottsbluff Gering Terrytown bike mapAlso, one of the decorative recycled-bike-frame bike racks in front of the Gering Public Library is featured on the front cover of the map:

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 9.22.07 AMScottsbluff and Gering planning staffers have been reaching out to the cycling community to work on community bike route mapping. (Insider info: I’m one of the folks involved in this project. Hat tip to the folks at Champaign County Bikes for helping to get us started on the right . . . ahem . . . path.)

Scotts Bluff County, the City of Gering and Legacy of the Plains Museum cooperated with Scotts Bluff National Monument to get Federal Land Access Program grant funding for additional bike pathways connecting the city and Monument.

One a statewide level, Nebraska legislators have introduced (so far unsuccessful) bicycle-related bills on vulnerable road users and passing/sidepaths/crosswalks.

And the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance has recently taken a step forward in its organizational capacity and hired its first executive director, Julie Tuttle Harris (who happens to hail from Scottsbluff).

NBA logoAs Julie pointed out in this interview with the Alliance for Biking and Walking, Nebraska ranks 45th on The League of American Bicyclists’ ranking of state friendliness towards bicycles.

I wondered what the ranking was based upon, so I looked it up. It’s a survey of State Bike Coordinators (the Nebraska Department of Roads has an email address for a Bike Coordinator, but I can’t find an actual person’s name to go along with the title) that measures five topics:

  • Education and Encouragement
  • Infrastructure and Funding
  • Legislation and Enforcement
  • Programs and Policies
  • Evaluation and Planning

Here’s a detailed description of what each of those topics includes. And here’s Nebraska’s report card. There are some great suggestions for improvement on that report card. In order to get them implemented, it’s going to take a concerted effort and support from cyclists across the state.

That’s where the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance comes in. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization has the capacity to help improve the cycling climate in Nebraska.

But it’s going to require some of your capacity, too.

One of the ways you can help is by donating to the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance’s “A Dollar A Day During May” fundraising campaign during National Bike Month. Here’s the link to the fundraising campaign. You can donate at two perk levels: $30 for a “Robust Woo Hoo” and $60 for “Robust Woo Hoo + Vigorous Cowbell”.

Wyobraska Tandem recommends going for more cowbell.

I’ll end with an appropriate quote from Julie, from the aforementioned interview:

In Nebraska, we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, we work really hard and we pride ourselves on that. Being able to get around by bicycle is a very self-reliant value, so to use that concept and tie it back to common themes like health and safety, we know those messages resonate across our whole state, both urban and rural.

Bust out those bootstraps and wallets, folks! Let’s work to boost Nebraska’s standing in the national cycling community!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Why I ride

I was prompted to write this post after seeing this infographic from the League of American Bicyclists:

so many reasons to rideI feel like I’ve written about this before, but I can’t find a post, so perhaps I composed it in my head while cycling and never wrote it down.

There are a lot of reasons why I ride.

1. Money

When I graduated from college, I couldn’t afford a car. I rented an apartment near enough to work that I could walk if needed, but cycling was faster. Even after I got a car and got married, we stuck with one car and relied heavily upon bicycles for transportation. We were still just scraping by financially, and gas and parking cost money we didn’t want to have to spend. Today, we still get by with one car and two commuter bicycles because of the financial benefits.

According to a Triple-A survey, the average annual cost of operating a vehicle in 2015 was $8,698. That represents multiple thousands of dollars we can set aside for other things in our budget. (Hot tip: this is how we’ve afforded our international travels – most recently to Ireland and Sweden; we save money by only owning one car and spend some of the savings on incredible vacations.)

2. Exercise

I am, at heart, a lazy person. Given the opportunity, I would gladly become a couch potato. At one time, cycling to work was pretty much the only exercise I got. I can’t stand going to gyms, and I’m not much into competitive team sports. How could I turn down the opportunity to exercise WHILE I was heading to work? It’s multitasking, and I don’t have to go to the stupid gym later!

3. Mmmmm, beer / food

Now that I’ve gotten into road riding for recreation, I’m putting in hundreds of miles a month on the bike saddle in season. That translates into upwards of 7,000 extra calories burned each month, which makes me happy because it means I can indulge in such things as tasty craft beers and gooey slices of pizza without developing a beer-and-pizza butt. (Which in turn means I don’t have to buy new clothes – another money saver!)

3. Convenience

In some places, it’s simply easier to get around on a bike than in a car. Bikes often (and should!) get rock-star parking, with bike racks close up near the front door.

4. The feels

Biking is good for me, emotionally speaking. I get a good start to the day being connected to the outdoors, knowing in intimate detail what the wind’s doing and what they sky looks like and how the earth smells – especially important if I’m inside all day. Also, if I’ve had a rotten day, I can work off the negativity by pedaling extra hard on the way home.

5. Clear head

Something about the increased blood flow and fresh oxygen being delivered to my brain helps me think better. I’ve solved some problems and come up with some creative ideas while pedaling about town. I’ve heard other people have had similar experiences. [cough] Einstein [cough, cough].

Bicycling started for me as a necessity, developed into a habit, and, eventually, became a lifestyle.

It’s just something I do now.