Monday, August 15, 2011

Cyclists paved the way for roads

Today another motorist shouted out his window that I should be riding on the sidewalk. I guess he didn't read my recent Patch article about this topic, or he didn't agree with it, not to mention the fact that there was no sidewalk on the road we were traveling; it had ended a few feet back. I won't go into all the reasons why we usually shouldn't ride on the sidewalk.

What most motorists don't know is that cyclists were the first proponents of paved roads back in the late 1800's. There's a good article in the Guardian entitled 19th century cyclists paved the way for modern motorists' roads: Car drivers assume the roads were built for them, but it was cyclists who first lobbied for flat roads more than 100 years ago:
Many motorists also assume that roads were built for them. In fact, cars are the johnny-come-latelies of highways.

The hard, flat road surfaces we take for granted are relatively new. Asphalt surfaces weren't widespread until the 1930s. So, are motorists to thank for this smoothness?

No. The improvement of roads was first lobbied for – and paid for – by cycling organisations.

In the UK and the US, cyclists lobbied for better road surfaces for a full 30 years before motoring organisations did the same. Cyclists were ahead of their time.

Cyclists' organisations, such as Cyclists' Touring Club in the UK and League of American Wheelmen (LAW) in the US, lobbied county surveyors and politicians to build better roads. The US Good Roads movement, set up by LAW, was highly influential. LAW (now LAB) once had the then US president turn up at its annual general meeting.
Hat tip to Owen for pointing out the article.



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