Monday, July 24, 2006

two wheels good

Unlike the horse-drawn carriage, the bicycle was almost silent. It did not crush people to death, nor did it foul the streets with excrement. There were exaggerated complaints about irresponsible velocipedists, but there was also official support for the ‘feedless horse’. Special roads for cyclists were built in France and the United States.

Herlihy mentions the bike path that ran from Prospect Park to Coney Island (‘about 10,000 cyclists participated in the inaugural parade’ in 1885), but not the more spectacular aerial cycle path, opened in 1900, that ran at roof-height for more than nine miles between Los Angeles and Pasadena. Cyclists could ride four abreast on a surface of oregon hardwood, lit by arc lamps every 200 feet. At the halfway point, a bicycle elevator joined the track to the a café, a restaurant and a cascino. Mechanics with pumps and spare parts were positioned all along the track.

From Graham Robb's review of David Herlihy's «Bicycle: The History» in the London Review of Books

Herlihy wasn't the only one who missed that one -- I lived in South Pas and worked in Pasadena for awhile and never heard a word or spotted a remnant of the path Robb writes about. Reminds me of when they outlawed bicycles in Beijing. Where have all the bicycles gone? They were asked to leave.

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