Woodward: the first mile of concrete highway

Woodward celebration

A cake in need of a Blumenauer bike pin

The Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) had a ceremony today to celebrate the 100th anniverary 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. WA3 was generous enough to let me briefly speak at today’s event to highlight the cyclists’ role in this project and the Good Roads movement.

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.”

For this Woodward paving project, Earle helped secure Wayne County’s bond and completed the approval inspection on June 21, 1909.

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.

Moving Forward

In speaking today, I also noted that we got stuck focusing exclusively on automobiles for some time and that’s now changing. Detroit’s non-motorized master plan calls for bike lanes on Woodward. WA3 has contracted Giffels-Webster for non-motorized planning along Woodward from Eight Mile to Maple.

And we are closer than ever to getting light rail on Woodward.

I told the crowd this means “giving people more transportation options,” which elicited perhaps the biggest cheer of event.


So, if you go for a ride today, make sure you thank Mr. Earle and Mr. Hines for the smooth ride beneath your tires.

And here’s an Earlism to consider: “One anvil outlasts hundreds of hammers. If you are anvil-like, a little hammering will not hurt you.”

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3 Responses to “Woodward: the first mile of concrete highway”

  1. Streetsblog Los Angeles » Remembering How the Roads Got Paved Says:

    […] who led the way for their paving. The vehicles some of these men were operating, as Detroit's  M-Bike.org reminds us, were […]

  2. Streetsblog San Francisco » Remembering How the Roads Got Paved Says:

    […] who led the way for their paving. The vehicles some of these men were operating, as Detroit's  M-Bike.org reminds us, were […]

  3. The new CRD Bike/Ped plan – Corey Burger Says:

    […] The main part of Monday night was actually the public advocacy session, attended by 70+ people from all stripes, although the crowd was heavily tilted toward bicycle advocates, a trend that continued the next day. To start the evening off, Tracy Corbett, Senior ManagerĀ of Regional Planning at the CRD, pointed out this isn’t the first bike plan the regiona as a whole has created, showing the 1897 bike route map seen on the right. This is also about the era that bicyclists where leading the fight forĀ paving of roads, something forgotten in the recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first concrete road. […]

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