Posts Tagged ‘Horatio Earle’

Troy opposes transportation investments… again

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Troy, the “City of Tomorrow… Today” has been in the news lately with their recent rejection of federal funding for a transit station.

Now Brian Dickerson’s Free Press column, “In Troy, an all-too-familiar fear of the other” drops an H-bomb by calling them “hicks.”

To be a hick in 2011, then, is to be in a state of denial — which is why “hicks” is precisely the right word to describe Troy Mayor Janice Daniels and the like-minded elected city leaders who’ve sent Troy reeling backward in time, grasping for a past that is not so much racist or unsophisticated as it is, well, past.

But their real motive was transparent: the fear that outsiders currently disinclined to visit Troy may do so if enticed by a modern train station and convenient parking, at an incalculable cost to Troy taxpayers and their way of life.

This reminds us of a speech given by Horatio Earle in the late 1890s. Earle led the Good Roads committee for the League of Michigan Wheelmen — the state’s cycling body. He was in Troy to promote government investments in building good roads.

From his autobiography:

One night in Troy Township Hall, in Oakland County, where I was holding a meeting, it almost became a riot. I told them that they showed lack of intelligence, and gave me less consideration than would be shown a man in the center of Ethiopia; that some time they would be ashamed of themselves. And they have been; since then, they have made profuse apology.

The farmers said the muddy roads were good enough for them. They felt they were taxed enough already and they didn’t want city folks, especially bicyclists riding through their community.

Sound similar?

Now to be fair to Troy, Earle garnered the same negative reaction in nearby Royal Oak.

Then again, it’s likely that federal funding to improve the Royal Oak transit station would be greeted with celebration rather than controversy.

We should also mention again that Troy also created a citywide plan for non-motorized paths and Good Roads, now called Complete Streets. That plan also appears to be going nowhere.

TechTown: Plugging into the Green movement

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Dodge Brother's bicycle ball bearing patent of 1896

At 4pm on June 3rd, I will be presenting at TechTown’s First Friday networking event on the connection between entrepreneurs, greenways, and bicycling. The event will be held at NextEnergy, 461 Burroughs in Detroit.

As currently planned, the presentation will begin by recognizing Detroit’s early bicycle entrepreneurs such as William Metzger, Henry Ford, Horatio Earle, and the Dodge Brothers .Though not from Detroit, the Wright Brothers will get mentioned as well.

Horatio Earle, the cyclist who founded MDOT, wrote this in his autobiography:

The bicycle is to be given credit, not only as the pioneer of the good roads movement but also as the parent of the automobile; for whoever heard of ball bearings and pneumatic tires until they were used in bicycles? Where did the expert mechanics come from, if not the bicycle industry? So, this is the rightful order of the origin of modern means of transportation: first, the young American; second, bicycles; third, good roads; fourth, automobiles; fifth, airplanes.

While early bicycle entrepreneurs were integral to Detroit becoming the Motor City, there are many examples today of entrepreneurs lessening Detroit’s car dependence and making it more green — the primary focus of this presentation.

There is a $5 fee payable at the door.

Detroit museums and bike history

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

John Dodge's fixie cruiser from 1898

Detroit has some amazing bicycling history. Those early cyclists led the Good Roads movement, founded MDOT, and were instrumental in creating the automotive industry and motorspots.

We’re fortunate that we have the opportunity to see some of this history up close.

Detroit Historic Museum

We’ve mentioned in the past how the Museum has a replica of the famous Huber and Metzger Bicycle Shop in the basement.

But, there’s more bike history in their collection according to their curator:

We try to get everything out from time to time. We have the medals and Wheelman trophy in our Velocity exhibit now through August. There also is a 1899 F.J. Martz & Co., Detroit-made bicycle in the exhibit. I had hoped to use the Whipple, but not enough room – the perennial problem.

Some of the medals and trophy were won by Ernest Moross. Moross raced on the velodrome, was a “longtime associate of the first American auto racing superstar, Barney Oldfield… [and] obtained distinction as the first Contest Director for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway“.

The “Whipple” being referred to is a “watercolor promoting the League of American Wheelmen. Shows a woman cycle riders on good road contrasted with wagon on poor road.” It was painted by Detroit artist Seth Whipple (1855-1901), who is perhaps more famous for his maritime paintings.

But perhaps what we’d like to see most is their Evans and Dodge Bicycle. It was John Dodge’s bike from when his company built it in 1898 until 1905. It’s an aluminum frame fixie with some chrome/nickel plated parts, and black wheels with a “large gold stripe around the center.” It looks like he pushed a big gear too. Unfortunately it’s not currently on display.

The Henry Ford

The League of American Bicyclists sent the following request out to its members:

Today we had an interesting request that we thought that you all would be able to help answer. The Henry Ford museum is researching images for a new exhibit on the automobile in American life for the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich. Part of their story describes alternative choices to the automobile, past and present. They are looking for a portrait of Horatio Earle, who was instrumental in the early League of American Wheelmen, as well as a force in the Good Roads Movement in the early 20th century. If you have one the archive could use, they prefer a 300 dpi tiff digital file. Please e-mail Brynn Raupagh at

We contacted Brynn about contributing. He said he was “buried with responses!” and got a photo from MDOT — which Horatio Earle founded.

We’re looking forward to seeing this new exhibit.

And if you decide to go, don’t forgot to visit Orville and Wilbur’s original Wright Cycle Shop just next door in Greenfield Village. Henry Ford moved their bike shop from Dayton to Greenfield Village in 1937.

Oakland County puts window salesman on road commission

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Blame the cyclists from the 1890s.

Back then, counties weren’t involved in building roads, but farmers were. That was a problem for bicyclists. These roads weren’t well engineered, didn’t drain properly, and were hub deep in mud during the spring.

But the roads were good enough for horses.

And at that time, a popular sentiment was that county government had no role in building and maintaining roads.

Cyclists began the Good Roads movement and one of their first victories in Michigan (thanks to Edward Hines) was an 1893  state law that allowed the creation of county road commissions. These commissions were separate from county government and had enough autonomy so that they could ignore the naysayers in the farming community and improve the roads.

By the 1920s, according to Horatio “Good Roads” Earle, the cyclist who founded MDOT, the debate over the importance of good roads was over. Even the farmers agreed that building good roads was a good investment.

However, the road commissions that were separate from county government remained.

Unified form of government

All but Wayne and Macomb Counties operate on what’s called a “unified form of government” which is defined by state law. This law allows Michigan counties to hire a county manager to oversee departments for planning, economic development, health, environmental protection, parks, libraries, sewage, airports, garbage collection, human services, and more.

See what’s missing?  (more…)

Give your answer at the ballot box

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Detroit cyclist Horatio “Good Roads” Earle ran for Michigan Senate in November of 1900. With his win, he went to Lansing and created the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

By the way, the Good Roads of Earle’s time are the Complete Streets of today. In 1900, there were very few motorized vehicles on the road, no stop signs, no traffic signals, no crosswalks. Everyday was a Ciclovia. If a road were paved, it was a Complete Street.

This is an excerpt from The Autobiography of “By Gum” Earle:

My fourth effort was in 1900 as a candidate for state senator from the Third District in Michigan, and I won, which gave me a chance to officially promote the good roads cause in which I was so interested. Every paper in Detroit opposed my nomination, and when they lost out, they said the doughnut won, but I went to Lansing, and by gum, Michigan has shown the world how to build good roads.

A good deal of my success in the campaign was due to the efforts in my behalf made by the “Detroit Wheelmen.” One of the most effective pieces of campaign literature was the one which follows, recalling the laws and privileges secured for the bicyclists, who were at that time in the hey-day of their strength and influence.


Baggage law for you,
Dry strip for you,
Bicycle shelter for you,
Bicycle ordinance for you,
Hotel discount for you,
Path protection law for you,
Toll knocked out for you,
Equal rights with horse for you,
No tags on wheels for you,
No lamps on wheels for you,
No bells on wheels for you.

Chief Consul Horatio S. Earle has been one who has worked without a cent of pay for these things. Will you get out and vote, and get others to vote for him for state senator, Third District, next Tuesday? Give your answer at the ballot box.

League of American Wheelmen Committee

This list echoes the one made my Edward Hines when he solicited bicyclists to join the Michigan Division of the L.A.W. Hine’s list provides more details on each item.

Yes, nearly 110 years later we are fighting the same battles. We fought mandatory bicycle registration (“tags on wheels”) and are working on getting roll-on bicycle service with AMTRAK  and the M1 Rail (“baggage law”).

And of course we’re still fighting for Good Roads.