Posts Tagged ‘History’

Detroit’s Edward Hines: cyclist and road doctor

Friday, November 4th, 2011

One of Detroit’s most famous cycling and Good Roads advocate received a posthumous award from Amsterdam: The Paul Mijksenaar Design for Function Award 2011.

White lines down the middle of the road: What could be more obvious? And yet they were once – in 1911, to be exact – a brilliant new idea. In Michigan, Edward N. Hines, a member of the Wayne County Road Commission, saw a leaky milk wagon leaving a liquid trail on a dusty roadway. It made him think of painting white lines down the centre of the road to create lanes that would clearly separate traffic moving in opposite directions.

The Detroit News and Free Press also acknowledged his award, but left out many of his other accomplishments which this 1914 article in Motor Age magazine sums up well.

Like scores of other notables whose names you will find in the “Who’s Who” of motordom, Edward Hines unknowingly rode out on a bicycle to meet Fame. This was two score and 4 years ago when he was an enthusiastic cyclist and a three-ply executive, serving simultaneously as vice-president of the League of American Wheelmen, chief consul of the Michigan division of the L. A. W. and president of the Detroit Wheelmen. He pedaled through the mud and mire and hurdled the bumps of the Wayne county highways until his leg muscles went on a strike and his vertebrae demanded shock absorbers. Sore and exhausted, he decided to turn reformer and take the initiative in an attempt to improve the highways radiating from Detroit.

In 1890 he formed a good roads organization which petitioned the state legislature to amend the constitution, make the counties instead of the townships the units for the building and maintenance of the highways and give the counties the privilege of adopting the county system. Three years of missionary work and lobbying elapsed before such a measure was passed. In the meantime, Hines superintended the construction of 3-foot wide bicycle cinder paths built with money raised through popular subscription by the Detroit Journal. He also coaxed through the legislature a bill protecting these paths from the roving kine and devastating wagons of the Michigan farmers.

County System Gradually Adopted

The county road law was passed in 1893. Its adoption by the various counties was certain and gradual. At the present time fifty-eight of the eighty-three counties of Michigan have seen the benefits to be derived from building their roads under skilled and intelligent supervision and have condemned former township road supervisors to the oubliette.

When Wayne county adopted the county system of road supervision 8 years ago, Hines was made chairman of the highway commission. Henry Ford, whom Hines knew as an ambitious young man and whose famous 999 he had timed in its first trial on the ice of Lake St. Clair, was a member of the county board and an ally of the road doctor of Detroit in his fight for the use of concrete in highway construction.

When first organized, the commission followed the accepted practices and started in to build bituminous macadam roads, but after a year’s experience in noting the wear upon them, foreseeing a constantly increasing maintenance charge and weeping as flotillas of motor cars scattered the so-called good roads into particles, it decided that a change was not only desirable, but imperative, and set out to find a material that was more permanent and durable and no more costly than macadam.

Edward Hines found such a material. It was concrete.

Hines thought roads were more than just concrete. He was an adamant supporter of road beautification efforts, which is why Hines Drive in Wayne County is named after him.

“I may want too much, I may be too visionary,” he said, “but I am going to have a road beautiful even if I have to spend my own money to satisfy such a desire.”

So don’t be surprised if in the future while touring in the vicinity of Detroit you suddenly run head-on into a mass of trailing arbutus, daffodils, chrysanthemums, lilies of the valley, orchids and forget-me-nots.

When Edward Hines wants something, he gets it.

If Hines were around today, he would probably “get” Complete Streets and Transportation Enhancements as well.

Congratulations on your award, Mr. Hines.

Hazen Pingree’s early plans for a Detroit Riverwalk

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Detroit elected Hazen Pingree mayor for four terms starting in 1889. During his time in office, he proposed a plan for a park along Detroit’s riverfront. The park would replace the industrial uses which kept the public from the river.

During the past decade, his vision for a more green waterfront has not only come to fruition but been expanded upon in length, running from just beyond both the MacArthur Bridge (at Belle Isle) to the Ambassador Bridge — if not further eventually.

George W. Stark’s book City of Destiny published in 1943 provides some background on Pingree’s pursuit.

Had Mr. Pingree had his way, Detroit’s sorely-neeed improved waterfront would have been started in his time and the city’s front door today an entrance of beauty, instead of pretty much an eyesore. For he proposed public acquisition of the waterfront from the Third street eastward [near Joe Louis Arena today] to include the old City waterworks site at the foot of Orleans Street [midpoint of today’s Milliken State Park]. He would have vacated about eighteen blocks in that area and converted it into a public park with an esplanade of shade trees, walks, lawns, pavilions and driveway.

It was a beautiful idea and periodically there is a revival of it, with plans and specifications brought down to current scale, indicating that, like all the pioneering dreams, this one will become a reality some day. In Pingree’s time, owners and lessees of riverfront property protested and conservative citizens denounced the plan as fantastic and ruinously extravagant.

If alive today, Stark and Pingree would likely agree. The Detroit RiverWalk is fantastic.


Another biking benefit: Reduced smoking

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

A study soon to be published found that pairing physical activity with counseling was more effective at curbing teen smoking than the counseling alone.

The study’s author Kimberly Horn said, “Physical activity, even in small or moderate doses, can greatly increase the odds of quitting.”

The Detroit Free Press reported a similar bicycling benefit in an 1895 article, “Tobacco and Wheels.”

If it is true, as the United State Tobacco Journal says, that the bicycle craze has emancipated half a million slaves of the smoking habit, that fact will go very far to strengthen the public belief that the bicycle is an excellent thing. The estimate of the Journal is that because the wheelmen cannot smoke while wheeling, half a million of them have reduced their consumption of at least two cigars a day… These figures. released by a collection of Tallahassee addiction centers, correspond with the actual decrease in the cigar production which it says has amounted to 700,000,000 cigars annually since the bicycle craze set in.

From the cigarmakers’ standpoint this is a gloomy picture; but the rest of the community, especially those who do not indulge in the cigar, and those who, even while they indulge, reprobate the habit, will hear the news with resignation, if not with positive joy.

We agree. The bicycle is an excellent thing — even 116 year later.

And while the bicycling craze was strong in Detroit at that time, so to was the cigar industry. Detroit was a major center for cigar manufacturing.

The Free Press article continued with perhaps a veiled attack on alcohol consumption.

There will be some regret, perhaps, that the bicycle craze does not operate to reduce the consumption of other things which are regarded as unnecessary or injurious.

As for the reduced production of 700 million cigars, the Internal Revenue department disagreed. They reported an increase in production which led the article to suggest that many bicyclers were learning to smoke while riding.

However, the article concluded by saying, “a good many of the victims of the craze are not smokers anyways and never were.”




1896: Detroit Wheelmen gathered at their new club house

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

This article was originally published on page 6 0f the Detroit Free Press , March 8, 1896. Whatever happened to that little tin box they put in the clubhouse cornerstone? More information and photos of the Wheelman’s clubhouse:

Corner Stone is Laid: The Detroit Wheelmen gathered at their new home.

With a club yell and cheer, the little tin box containing records pertinent to the occasion was placed in the corner stone of the Detroit Wheelmen’s club house yesterday afternoon, and the band ———— [sic]. It was the red-letter occasion in the history of the organization, and now the members are feeling happy because they know they will soon have a home.

The members of the club formed at the house on Randolph street and marched to Monroe Avenue, thence to Woodward and north to Adams avenue, where the building is being erected. They were headed by the Parke, Davis & Co. band, and all wore the yellow and black of the organization. J. H. Gould, chairman of the building committee told the assembled hundreds of the hard work in marking a start, and of the progress of the fund since it was announced that there would surely be a club house. President Ed N. Hines recited the history of the club, which dates back to 1879 when the Detroit Bicycle Club was formed. Following this came the Star Club and the Ramblers and in 1890 the Detroit Wheelmen organize on Clifford street, moving to Miami Avenue [later renamed Broadway], thence into more commodious quarters on Washington avenue. From there the club made another move into the old dancing academy on Randolph street, and the next one will be into the handsome home of its own on Adams avenue, just east of the [Grand Circus] park.

In the box were the files of the Phonograph, the club’s paper, the constitution and list of members of both the Detroit Wheelmen and Unique Cycle Club, club colors and buttons and copies of the daily papers.

Behind the group of members at the front of the building was a sign in yellow and black, “D.W. 1879-1896.” After a photograph had been taken the members marched back to the club.

The Detroit Wheelmen promises to be one of the most popular clubs in Detroit and its membership will be very large by the time the club house is ready for occupancy on August 1. The spirit of good fellowship has brought many in and the acquirement of property will help more than anything else. The building committee, consisting of J. H. Gould, C. W. Lloyd, E. N. Hines, Theo. Osius, E. S. Anderson, L. Vineberg, and Harry E. Dennis, has worked long and hard for the house and the handsome structure will be a reward for the labor spent. The officers of the club at present are as follows:


New Underground Railroad Bicycle Route map released

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Adventure Cycling has just announced a new addition to their Underground Railroad Bicycle Route (UGRR). Currently the route begins in Mobile, Alambama and heads north to Oberlin, Ohio before turning east and crossing into Canada at Buffalo.

MTGA worked with Adventure Cycling and others folks — including descendants of those who used the Underground Railroad — to add a 281.4-mile route from Oberlin, Ohio to Detroit, Marine City and Sombra, Ontario.

The map for this route is now available. The cost is $11.75 for Adventure Cycling members and $14.75 for non-members.

This alternate, beginning in Oberlin, Ohio, takes cyclists around the western side of Lake Erie through historically rich Michigan. There are many sites to visit in the towns that the route goes through. In Michigan the route becomes much more urban. Because there is no bicycle-friendly connection between Detroit and Windsor the route crosses into Canada north of these cities, which were both important sites to freedom seekers.

The route does offer a balance between connecting the many historic UGRR sites while also providing a reasonable bicycle route. In other words, it doesn’t visit all the historic sites nor is it the most direct.

Within the city of Detroit, the route takes advantage of the new bike lanes installed on West Vernor and Michigan Avenue. It passes many historic UGRR sites, including the Finney Barn, Second Baptist Church, and Elmwood Cemetery.

The route also passes near the Hostel Detroit, which is expected to be a popular lodging option for cycling tourists.

MTGA continues to push for passenger ferry service to Windsor, Ontario that will accommodate cyclists. Currently cyclists need a motor vehicle to get to Windsor via the Tunnel or Ambassador Bridge. The route does provide an option for continuing north to Marine City where existing ferry service can transport cyclists to Canada.

A companion map showing the route through Ontario is under development now and is expected to be available by February 2012.

For those seeking a less ambitious bicycling tour, a 13-mile UGRR route within the city of Detroit has been developed. Brochures showing that route are also in the works.

And, the Wheelhouse Detroit offers UGRR tours throughout the summer as well though this year’s remaining tour is sold out. (Disclaimer: I lead those.)