Posts Tagged ‘League of American Wheelmen’

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.

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.

Old time bike laws and bloomers

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Ann Arbor Chronicle recently published this interesting article on local bicycling history, but especially on bike law and bloomers.

The 1876 Ann Arbor city charter contains no mention of bicycles — it wouldn’t be until two years later that A. A. Pope manufactured the first bicycles in the U.S. The invention spread across the nation, threw city fathers into consternation as they scrambled for their city charters, and incited Ann Arbor’s “Bloomer War.”

The Chronicle also notes that Ann Arbor’s recent debate on banning sidewalk bicycling is not new.

In Michigan, state law does not prohibit bicycling on sidewalks though it does allow cities to prohibit it. Some have prohibited sidewalk riding citywide (e.g. Royal Oak) while others have limited the ban to their business district (e.g. Ferndale.) Often such bans provide exceptions for children.

State law also requires these city specific regulations to be adequately signed, otherwise they’re not enforceable.

The intention of these laws is not always clear, though it seems reducing pedestrian-bicyclist conflict is often cited. Are they also intended to promote safer cycling by reducing vehicle-bicycle collisions? Studies have shown that riding on sidewalks is significantly more dangerous than roads.

A recent review of police crash reports in Royal Oak and Troy found that nearly all crashes occurred on sidewalks or in crosswalks.

It should be noted that many Metro Detroit outer-ring suburbs ignore national AASHTO guidelines and best practices by designating sidewalks and sidepaths (locally known as “safety paths”) as bicycle routes. In these cases it could be argued that vehicle mobility — getting bicyclists off the road — is the fundamental justification, not safety.

Souvenir of Detroit highlights cycling in 1891

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Souvenir of Detroit booklet from 1891I recently purchased a Souvenir of Detroit booklet which contains “a sketch of Detroit’s History, Resources and Points of Interest to Visitors.”

It was written in 1891 during the golden age of bicycling. Sure enough, the booklet contained this text on the city’s cycling scene:

The Detroit Wheelmen are the outgrowth of the two Bicycle Clubs, the Detroit and the Star. These, after several meetings, united in the spring of 1890, everything seeming favorable for re-organization. Wheeling up to this time, owning to many reasons, had been indulged in by but the few, and was looked upon as a pastime. Since that time the club has grown in membership, and among its members may be found many of the brightest and most energetic young men in the city.

The Club House, 64 Washington Ave., is cosy and comfortable, where any visiting wheelman finds a welcome. The twelfth annual meet of the League of American Wheelmen fell in good hands, and was the largest and most successful in the League’s history, and stamps Detroit as an important cycling center, around which the rider will find many delightful tours.

The booklet also highlighted Detroit’s early parks, including Belle Isle and Clark, and concludes that “the city is wonderously well provided with lungs.”

And while describing Belle Isle, it notes its “perfect roadbeds furnish facilities for wheelsmen and their ‘bikes’ not excelled anywhere.” It’s not clear why “bikes” is in quotes unless that was a newer term in 1891.

Rules of the Road: Detroit in 1900

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Harry Sale, Norfolk, VirginiaThere were certainly fewer rules for Detroit cyclists in July 1900. Unlike today, bells and lights were not required on bicycles.

However there was a common speed limit of 12 miles per hour (and 8 MPH around corners.) This speed limit was lower than Grand Rapids (15 MPH) but higher than Chicago’s (10 MPH.) In Des Moines, Iowa the speed limit was “a moderate gait,” which makes one think these limits were originally set for horses.

Given the road conditions in 1900, these speed limits may have been reasonable. The Michigan LAW didn’t seem to take issue with Detroit’s limits.

The League of American Wheelmen (LAW) also made these suggestions.

Wheelmen will find it advantageous as a precaution against arrest to govern themselves in accordance with the following suggestions covering points on which some cities have legislated and others have not

  • Keep to the right
  • Ride no more than two abreast
  • Keep off the sidewalks
  • Move cautiously around corners
  • Ride straight keep your wheel under control sit so you have a clear view of the road and keep at least one hand on the handle bar
  • Before riding on a cycle path, find out whether or not you are entitled to use it without buying a license tag
  • If you collide with another wheelman or a pedestrian, dismount, and if he asks for your name and address, give it