Thank you, cyclists, for those roads / by Tim Querengesser

As cyclists fight for space and safety on today's roads, it might offer them a touch of satisfaction to know they've earned it.

After all, cyclists were the mobility group that pushed governments to build better roads in the first place.

While the common conception of roads is that they were built for and because of motorists and their automobiles, it's plain wrong. Cyclists were the group that got those roads built.

Back in the 1880s, before the automobile much existed beyond fragile prototypes that were liable to catch fire or kill you, a group of rich white men who liked bicycles created the League of American Wheelmen. Out of this came the Good Roads Movement.

The Good Roads Movement pushed the American (and indirectly, Canadian) governments to pave roads. It took nearly a decade in the U.S., and several years more in Canada, but the movement was successful. Both the U.S. and Canada responded to the movement by making road construction a national, rather than regional, priority. 

Among other things to come out of the Movement, aside from roads, were the creation of motor leagues across the continent. 

Sadly for cyclists, once the car arrived in earnest in 1908 and hit mass production in 1913, with Henry Ford's Model T, cyclists quickly lost their place and believed right to be on the very paved roads they successfully lobbied to have built.

© Copyright 2017 Tim Querengesser. No reproductions without license. Image: Flickr/Pat Cletch.