Remembering How the Roads Got Paved

Today from the Streetsblog Network,
a look back at the early days of paved roads in the United States and
the vehicle operators who led the way for their paving. The vehicles
some of these men were operating, as Detroit’s  M-Bike.org reminds us, were bicycles:

IMG_3039_300x225.jpgWhat’s missing from this cake?

The Woodward Avenue Action Association
(WA3) had a ceremony today to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the
world’s first mile of concrete highway. That first mile was Woodward
Avenue from McNichols to Seven Mile Road in Detroit. It was just 18
feet wide.

This historic milestone was very much the result of decades of
tireless work, often led by bicyclists such as Horatio “Good Roads”
Earle and Edward Hines…

Hines, former chief consul for
the League of American Wheelmen Michigan Division, was a Wayne County
road commissioner (along with Cass Benton and Henry Ford). He helped
oversee this project. Back in 1893, he helped create legislation that
enabled county road commissions.

Earle followed Hines as
Chief Consul of the Wheelmen before becoming a state senator and our
first state highway commissioner. He founded both MDOT and the American Road Builders Association. The National Cement Association called Earle the “Father of the Concrete Roads of the World.”

It’s
highly ironic that some motorists question cyclists rights to the roads
when we were there first and literally paving the way for improved
motoring.

Unfortunately, that kind of history lesson is likely lost on the kind of drivers who see cyclists as "guests" on the road — guests who should ride on the shoulder regardless of how much debris they encounter there (h/t to @cyclelicious for that link).

But let’s not end the week on a down note. Instead, here are a few tidbits for your viewing pleasure:

Via EcoVelo, what may be the most amazing bike metamorphosis ever encountered. Click and believe.

Via Tempe Bicycle Action Group, the story of a bike that was ticketed for "excessive awesomeness." It belongs, by the way, to the woman who created these beautiful miniature bicycle dioramas.

And finally, a short film created for the NYC Bicycle Film Festival in 2009, Andrea Dorfman’s "Thoughts on My Bike." It makes me a little bit happier every time I watch it (thanks to @leejb for that one).

  • soylatte

    I think it would be helpful to make the distinction between streets and the highway system. The former had it’s quaint beginnings with bicycles, but the development of the latter (much more expensive and destructive) was definitely spurred by cars. It was and is one of the prime ways the government is subsidizing the car industry.

  • kit

    Soylatte:

    No doubt. As a lover of old architecture, it’s truly heartbreaking to think about the countless buildings demolished to make way for our nation’s superhighways. As a former resident of Sacramento, I remember leafing through microfiche of all the buildings destroyed when the freeway tore through what used to be a much larger old town region.

    What’s there today is a shadow of it’s former self. This is a story told over and over again in cities across our nation. And what was it all for? So we could build sprawl at incrementally larger distances from our urban employment centers.

    The careless ideas of our ancestors, now the religion of our car-centric transportation culture.

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