Isn’t it curious how most drivers believe the road belongs to them? Most of them would be shocked to find out that paved roads were initially pushed by cyclists back at the turn-of-the-century, long before cars were a common sight.
In the late 1800s bicycles were used primarily by the wealthy. The creation of the “safety bicycle” changed all that by making bicycles available for the middle class. Author Carlton Reid has written that the “safety bicycle” had most of the features of the bikes we ride today and their popularity created an influx of traveling cyclists. By the early 1900s cyclists were everywhere. The roads were dangerous because they were either unpaved or paved with cobblestone designed for horses and carriages.
The League of American Wheelman (LAW) was formed by a group of bicycle manufacturers and businessmen. They lobbied for the building of roads for “everyone,” while really pursuing their own interest according to writer Joseph Stromberg of the Vox Blog. While the LAW advertised the roads being built and updated were for everyone, they were really lobbying for safer roads for bicyclists. Asphalt and paved roads began being built after the general public became convinced of their idea. This was a huge boom for the cycling industry and for cyclists.
However it was not long-lived. By 1908 Henry Ford created the model T which made automobiles available to the masses. You know what happened next, cars began to flood the roads creating conflicting use with cyclists who had grown accustomed to having the road to themselves.
Maybe we could give a little history lesson to the next motorist who tells us to get on the sidewalk.