Coney Island Cycle Path, 1896.

Britain’s mid- to late-1930s cycle tracks were modelled on Dutch cycle-specific infrastructure built in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but across the world, there had been earlier phases of provision for cyclists.

The first purpose-built cycleway was constructed in 1892 on Copenhagen’s Esplanaden, a waterfront, tree-lined promenade. An earlier Dutch cycleway — used from 1885 and still in use today — had been converted to a cycleway.

The Netherlands was not a “cycling nation” at the time. Instead, the world’s best 19th-century cycleways were all American. One was even grade-separated. Such vertical separation was common for rail infrastructure — New York’s Central Park also had underpasses for pedestrians when it was laid out in the 1860s — but the elevated California Cycleway made news worldwide when it was erected in the late 1890s.

After forming the “Good Roads” movement in the 1880s, pushing for better roads for all users, especially those on cycles, some American cyclists also started to advocate for “wheelways” adjacent to roads. These “sidepaths” were wildly successful for a short period, with thousands of miles of them across the country, making America by far the most bicycle-friendly country in the world for a short number of years. Side paths were “spreading with unexampled rapidity,” wrote one observer in 1900, and they would soon form a “network of passageways for bicycle riders the continent over.”

By and large, these sidepaths were not created to protect cyclists from other road users but to provide uppity cyclists with smoother surfaces. Separating cyclists from other road traffic has often been divisive.

Starting with Denmark, here’s a country-by-country description of the early provision for cyclists.


“Wherever space is available [in Copenhagen, Denmark], well-paved cycle tracks (about 8 ft. wide) are provided,” Sir Charles Bressey, the outgoing chief engineer at the UK’s Ministry of Transport, wrote to his successor Major F.C. Cook in 1935.

“Pedal cyclists constitute the greater bulk of the road users,” continued Bressey.

“On some narrow roads in the heart of the town, I tried to take a count at a quiet time on a week-day afternoon; cycles were then passing at the rate of 40-45 a minute. At peak times, I do not think I could have counted them.”

This abundance of cycle traffic — which impeded motorists, complained Bressey — was not new. Copenhagen had been a cycling city since the 1890s.

The city’s first cycle track, on Esplanaden, was constructed in 1892. Few others joined it until the 1920s.

“Denmark’s Cyclists Demand Bike Lanes Along Roads!” stated the Danish Cyclists’ Federation (DCF) in a series of adverts placed in 98 newspapers in 1922.

And these bike lanes should be separated with kerbs or bollards, argued DCF.

“If there isn’t a boundary between the car lanes and the bicycle lane, then the bicycle lane isn’t worth much,” said DCF vice chairman Max Tvermoes in 1922.

In Copenhagen in 1923, a separated cycle track was built along Roskildevej to Glostrup. It’s still there. In the same year, use of cycle tracks was made mandatory throughout Denmark.

In 1926, Denmark’s Technical Road Committee (Den Tekniske Vejkomite) published the Dansk Vejtidsskrift traffic guide, which advised placing cycle tracks on filled-in ditches alongside roads or placing them on the far side of the ditches, creating a buffer between cyclists and cars.

The construction of bicycle infrastructure was discussed at the AGM of the Association of County Councils in July 1929. Separating traffic was a compelling necessity, even though it cost money and demanded space, stated vice-chairman Henningsen of the National Tax Council (Landsoverskatterådet) in his AGM speech. Cycle tracks should be of high quality, he argued; otherwise, cyclists would use the road.

County Inspector Troelsen from Aalborg, in a speech about “bicycle stripes,” said that on the country roads of Northern Jutland, cyclists didn’t mind cycling on the narrow painted lanes on the shoulder of the roads. Therefore, the county road administration had widened the asphalt on the sides of the road to allow for one metre on either side for cyclists.

The town of Aalborg had built physically-separated cycle tracks along the roads leading to the town centre but they were little used, the council complained.

In 1930, there were only about 88 km of bicycle infrastructure along roads in Denmark. By 1933, this had increased to 342 km, but that was only four percent of the country’s roads.

1.5 million people — 44 percent of the population — rode bicycles daily in the early 1930s.

Cycle track compulsion, where such tracks existed, was introduced by the Traffic Law (Faerdselsloven) of 1932.

In the mid-1930s, the construction of cycle tracks alongside new major urban highways was made compulsory. The Law on the Establishment of Cyclepaths and Footpaths of November 1938 allowed local authorities to “Build cycle paths and footpaths along roads, where from a traffic point of view they were deemed necessary.”

High-quality cycle tracks were advocated by Danish Road Laboratory’s Road Committee (Dansk Vejlaboratoriums Vejkomite) in Views on the Implementation of Bicycle Lanes, Bicycle Stripes and Pedestrian Paths of 1938.

“Since there are two million cyclists for one hundred and thirty thousand cars, the question of cycle paths is of the utmost importance in Denmark,” said a French cycle touring magazine in 1938. “The Danish judge that the tracks must always be established on both sides of the roadway and that their surface must be perfectly rolling.”

Dutch cyclists, 1889. Credit: Archief Eemland


“We Hollanders,” editorialised De Kampioen, the Dutch cycling and motoring magazine, in 1935, “have the finest cycle paths in the world …” This “thick net of cycle paths … is now spread over the whole of the country.”

The Netherlands had been expanding its cycleway network since the 1890s and had become the world’s leading bicycling nation by 1906.

There are compelling cultural, historical, and socio-economic reasons why the Netherlands is a cycling nation. It is not just because the Netherlands is pancake flat (as are many places), or that parking a car is difficult (the same can be said of many cities outside of the Netherlands), or that Dutch streets are wide (many world cities also have wide streets, but no cycling). It’s a mix of all these reasons and more, including, of course, the fact that the Netherlands now has a wonderfully dense network of cycleways, quiet streets and “bicycle streets” where motorists are “guests.”

Much of the Netherlands was constructed by hand, and infrastructure building and maintenance are well funded and prioritised. The Dutch equivalent of “sink-or-swim” is “pump-or-drown” — pompen-of-verzuipen — and inundation is a constant fear for a low-lying country, much of which was reclaimed from the North Sea. Dutch people have a saying: “God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.” There’s a shorter word for it: maakbaarheid, the need to control one’s surroundings. Saltwater has been turned into grass-and-soil polders since at least the ninth century (“nether land” means “low land,” and polders are areas of reclaimed land protected by dykes). Such reclamations require ingenuity, hard work, and constant vigilance. They also demand communal effort — the rich man’s fields get flooded at the same time as the poor man’s fields, and if they don’t work together to pump the water out, they would both drown. In medieval times, even when different cities in the same area were at war, they still had to cooperate to pump away seeping water. This is believed to have taught the Dutch to set aside differences for a greater purpose. There’s also a deeply held sense that infrastructure is important, that access to this infrastructure should be equitable, and that maintenance of this infrastructure is something for the whole community to sweat over. Dutch people are famously brusque — often to the point of rudeness — but this no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point attitude is thought to have been shaped by finding practical, no-fuss solutions that benefit the common good. Infrastructure is both valuable and valued. It is also constantly renewed.

Britain’s Department for Transport/Ministry of Transport started life in 1919 as the Department of Ways and Communications; America’s Department of Transportation was born in 1967. The Dutch equivalent is the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment — or Rijkswaterstaat — and it was founded in 1798. The Chinese famously take the long view of history, and Dutch nation-builders take the long view of infrastructure.

Because of the folk knowledge that constant vigilance is needed against flooding, the average Dutch person’s attachment to order can reach extreme proportions. When, in the past, poor maintenance of a dyke would result in catastrophic flooding, citizens had every incentive to keep things tidy and well-ordered. An English author observed in 1851: “One of the principal characteristics of a Dutch street is its scrupulous, or it would be more correct to say, elaborate, cleanliness.” This obsessive cleanliness is a cliché, perhaps, but it’s a national trait to want to keep life under strict control. Planning is almost a religion, and everything has to be in the right place. Mixing fast cars and slow bicycles militates against this natural order of things.

“The short distances between housing and facilities (such as offices, shops, schools, nightlife locations, stations, sports centres, etc.) in Amsterdam add to the attraction of cycling as a form of transport,” says Amsterdam’s tourist board. “Cycling is a fundamental part of Dutch culture,” it adds.

Part of the Dutch psyche is said, by some, to be derived from religion. Roughly speaking, the northern half of the Netherlands (where most people live) is Calvinist, a strict and famously thrifty form of 500-year-old Protestantism, and the southern half is Roman Catholic. (Belief in God is not the point here; it’s the cultural baggage that counts.) Cycling goes one theory, appeals to Calvinists because it’s simple, sober, and, above all, cheap. And as Calvinists — and many Dutch people — do not like ostentation or the flaunting of wealth, cycling is the perfect fit, especially on heavy, black, and anonymous Dutch bikes. Riding such a bicycle is egalitarian, not status-enhancing.

Even though plenty of Dutch people do self-identify with these supposed “national characteristics,” and Calvinists do cycle more than Catholics, such explanations have to be taken with a pinch of salt. An eminent Dutch historian believes the “prudent nation” trope to be more of a foundation myth than factual. And according to the author of Why the Dutch Are Different, the Netherlands has never actually been a country “where office workers smoked weed over their desks, visited prostitutes at lunchtime, and euthanised their grandparents in the evening.”

What’s not in doubt is that the Netherlands has been building separated cycleways for longer than any other nation. Even the “unravelling” of modes is not modern. As early as 1595, one-way traffic for carts had been mandated in some of Amsterdam’s alleys, and in 1880 Harper’s New Monthly described a “little town in Holland in the streets of which no horse is ever allowed to come. Its cleanliness may be imagined, and its quiet repose.” The first cycleway in the Netherlands was converted from a sidewalk in 1885 on the Maliebaan, a long, straight road in Utrecht. This gravel cycle path was created for high-wheel riders by 44 members of the Algemene Nederlandse Wielrijders Bond (Royal Dutch Touring Club), ANWB for short, and founded two years previously. Originally a members-only racing track, it was opened for all cyclists in 1887 and was later extended to become a regular cycle path; it’s still used today.

One of the first purpose-built cycleways in the Netherlands was in Eindhoven, constructed in 1896. Factory owners Jacob Tirion and Robert Carlier wanted a cycleway for their workers. Their textile factory was in the hamlet of Eeneind, between Tongelre (now part of Eindhoven) and Nuenen. They originally chose Eeneind because of the railway station — Nuenen-Tongelre — on the track between Eindhoven and Venlo. On June 3rd, 1896, Carlier wrote a letter to the local municipal board of Nuenen asking for permission to create a bicycle path next to the road that runs from the railway station to the centre of Nuenen. The board agreed and the track was created. It was built as a smooth path using coal-ash and clay but was also used by horse carriages, quickly rutting it. In November of the same year, Carlier wrote again to the local municipal board, this time asking for permission to place wooden poles between the road and the bicycle path. This would separate the cyclists from other wheeled traffic. Permission was granted — Carlier paid for the poles. The cycleway was 3 kilometres long and ran from the railway station to the centre of Nuenen, close to where the statue of Vincent van Gogh stands. (The painter often took the train from the Nuenen-Tongelre railway station.) The railway station was demolished in 1972 and from the original bicycle path only the 200 metre piece on the Stationsweg in front of the railway station remains.

The separation of transport modes — alien everywhere else — quickly became standard in the Netherlands. In 1898, The Spectator reported: “On the route from the Hague to Scheveningen there lie parallel to each other a carriage road, a canal, a bicycle track, a light railway, sidepaths regularly constructed…”

The same year, the ANWB created a Wegencommissie, or National Roads Commission, which pressured state authorities to build and improve roads. Later, this cycling club hired its own road engineer to advise local cycling clubs on the technical and legal matters regarding the construction, design, and maintenance of bicycle paths. A. E. Redelé also supplied the clubs with building materials for creating these paths.

Sociologist Peter Cox has said the cycling infrastructure provided for cyclists at this time “played in important role in overcoming the unsuitability of the existing roads because as a policy it was a part of a clear intention to use the cycle roads system to raise the status of cycle users as citizens, indeed to prioritise them.” Those on bicycles at this time were the elites, including those with double names indicating Dutch nobility, and there were not all that many of them. While America and Britain were experiencing the “cycling mania” of 1896—1897, sales of bicycles in the Netherlands were comparatively low — just 94,370 bicycles were being ridden in 1899, a ratio of one bicycle per 53 inhabitants. Six years later, the bicycle total had risen to 324,000, the highest ownership in the world, and by 1911, the number of bicycles owned in the Netherlands had doubled to 600,000, an ownership ratio of one in ten.

Cycle historian Kaspar Hanenbergh has said: “ANWB used their power to lobby for separate roads. Very reluctantly, local government took up this role, but in the early years private initiative was far more effective. The ANWB supported local Rijwielpadverenigingen, or bicycle path societies.”

The first was formed in March 1914 in the Gooi and Eemland region, and others followed, including Drenthe in 1916 and Eindhoven in 1917. These cycle paths were rural, recreational, and largely middle-class. Following the end of the First World War, an economic slump in defeated Germany led to a flood of cheap German-made bikes into the Netherlands, encouraging wider social use of the bicycle, which had already become a national icon. (It also helped that tram-ride prices tripled in the same period.) The excellence of Dutch bike paths was featured in a 1920 report in the German bicycle trade magazine Radmarkt:

We have to thank the efforts of the [ANWB] for the extensive network of good bicycle roads that exist along the main highways of the country. There are equally good bicycle roads leaving the highway into all remote places… In each street there is at least one, but generally at each side, a specially designed “clinker” pavement… [In] Holland accidents fell to a minimum through the exemplary construction of these paths.

In 1921, the Times of London noted “the enormous number of bicycles” in the Netherlands and how it had “ideal road conditions” and an extensive bicycle path network that “testifies to the important place which cycling occupies in the life of the people of the Netherlands.”

“We Hollanders have the finest cycle paths in the world … [This] “thick net of cycle paths … is now spread over the whole of the country.”

De Kampioen, the Dutch cycling and motoring magazine, 1935

According to a Dutch newspaper in 1922, pedestrians found intersections in Amsterdam dangerous not because of cars but because of the sheer number of people on bikes. “That endless, unbroken row of three, four cyclists riding beside each other along the whole length of Weteringschans makes crossing the street deadly!”

On main roads, cyclists accounted for 74 percent of the traffic, compared to just 11 percent for automobiles.

In the summer of 1924, cyclists were slapped with a “bicycle tax.” Initially, it paid for flood defences and schools, but it was soon channeled to cycle-path construction and thereafter also paid for roads for motorists. According to academic Anne-Katrin Ebert, “The bicycle tax put cyclists on the political map and helped create a tradition of traffic engineering devoted to cycling paths and regulation. This would form an important basis for the ‘survival’ of the Netherlands as a cycling nation.”

“Everyone in Holland cycles,” opined a US newspaper in 1924, “and everyone can cycle everywhere” because “there is a wonderful system of roads and pathways for the cyclist…”

In 1926, cyclists were paying more into the Wegenfonds, or Road Fund, than motorists. The following year, the government announced the Rijkswegenplan, a national road-building plan mostly for motorists but paid for mostly by cyclists, although when many of the town-to-countryside arterial roads were constructed in the 1930s, they were provided with separated cycleways, too. Urban cycleways were built on a few major Amsterdam streets in the same period, although cyclists complained that they were often blocked by pushcarts.

The ANWB fought for the removal of the bicycle tax, or at least reduced rates for working-class cyclists. Still, it’s inescapable that by paying this tax, cyclists became important actors on the national scene, and this influence continued even after the tax was later abolished.

Dutch cycle track, Nunspeel, from CTC Gazette, January 1938

Then, as now, Dutch cyclists (especially those in Amsterdam) did not have a very good reputation with other road users. In 1928, an American journalist wrote “traffic in Holland … is as completely dominated by [the bicycle] as in America it is dominated by the automobile, [but the] Dutch cyclist is even more indifferent to the rights of others than is the American taxi driver.”

Because of their sheer numbers, Dutch cyclists ruled on the roads and didn’t pull to one side for motorists, as was expected to happen in Germany. A German visitor to the Netherlands was amazed at how Dutch cyclists had defended “with great doggedness” their right to the roadway. “In Germany, this right has long since been lost,” he noted. “In Holland, this right has remained as a consequence of a true democracy.”

In 1933, Karel Čapek (the Czech writer who introduced the word robot to the world) was impressed not only by the numbers of Dutch cyclists but also how they moved:

I have seen various things in my time, but never have I seen so many bicycles as, for instance, in Amsterdam; they are no mere bicycles, but a sort of collective entity; shoals, droves, colonies of bicycles, which rather suggest teeming of bacteria or the swarming of infusoria or the eddying of flies. The best part of it is when a policeman holds up the stream of bicycles to let pedestrians get across the street, and then magnanimously leaves the road open once more; a regular swarm of cyclists dashes forward, headed by a number of speed champions, and away they pedal, with the queer unanimity of dancing gnats.

An American travel journalist writing in 1934 wondered: “if there really is anything in all this talk about evolution another century will see the Dutch children coming into this world on tiny bicycles.” He added that in the Netherlands the bicycle had become “almost a part of the body.”

A year later, a Dutch newspaper proudly described the nation’s “dense network of cycle paths”:

No other country has started earlier with such an elaborate and systematic construction of special roadways for cycle traffic. What we have achieved … commands admiration from compatriot and foreigner alike. …. With regard to cycling traffic, our country has taken a position like no other. The traffic counts for 1932 have shown that of all traffic on national highways fifty percent is that of cyclists. In such a situation it can be considered important, not only for cyclists, but also for other road users, that cyclists have their own roadways, the cycle paths, as much as possible.

In 1935, the Netherlands had 3,308,000 bicycles for a population of 8,390,000, or 40 cycles per 100 people. At the same time, there were only 89,575 motor cars in the country. In the same year there were 1,396 km of main road cycleways, covering approximately two-thirds of the Dutch road network. There were also 2,400 kms of off-carriageway cycleways.

A giant two-level roundabout was constructed during WWII in Utrecht from 1941 to 1944 — it kept cyclists and motorists apart. The Berekuil — or “Bear Pit” — had been designed in 1936, and is still in use today, although it has been modified over the years.

According to a report in an English newspaper in 1939, Dutch cyclists “had roundabouts of their own at crossroads, and these tracks were sunk below the road level.”

Munich cycle track from “Roads and Road Construction,” 1937. Right: A Dutch cycle track, from “De Kampioen,” 1935.


Bremen, Hamburg, Luneburg, Hanover and Magdeburg all had extensive, leisure-oriented cycle path networks by the early 1900s, created by such organisations as the Magdeburg Association for Bicycle Ways, Magdeburger Verein für Radfahrwege, a middle-class cycling organisation founded in 1898. These paths were modelled on those in the Netherlands and led from the city to recreational areas

By 1926, the city had established a 285-km network of tracks, jointly paid for by the municipal council and the Magdeburg Association for Bicycle Ways; the tracks were reserved exclusively for club members. The prime mover behind the 1920s cycle tracks in Magdeburg was traffic planner Dr. Carl Henneking.

While the first cycle tracks in Germany had been wide, well-designed and constructed for the (paying) convenience of cyclists, those that followed in the late 1920s were inferior. The cycle paths called for in 1926 by the Research Association for the Construction of Automobile Roads, STUFA, were good on paper (Henneking was a STUFA member and drafted the group’s cycle track guidelines) but when built by Central Office for Bicycle Ways, Zentralstelle für Radwege, they were narrow, made from cheap materials and indirect. Magdeburg’s model of cycle tracks paid for by subscription — in effect, a voluntary fee — did not work in other cities where the majority of cyclists were working class and could ill afford such fees.

In 1933, Fritz Todt, the Inspector General of German Roads, aimed to reduce bicycle traffic on the streets to favour motorists; cycle tracks were to be used as a deliberately demeaning way of separating cyclists from motorists. The Reich Association for Bicycle Path Construction, created in 1933, absorbed the tasks of the Central Office for Bicycle Ways, supervised by Todt.

The new and inferior cycle tracks were referred to as “the roads of the little man.” A period French cycling magazine estimated that there were 17 million cyclists in Germany in 1936.

Under the Nazi regime, the 1934 Reichs-Strassen-Verkehrs-Ordnung regulated the separation of traffic and the Radwegebenutzungspflicht forced cyclists to use cycle tracks. Use of such tracks, when provided, was mandatory even if the cycle track was poorly designed, surfaced or maintained. There was no outcry from cycling associations because they had been either outlawed or brought within the fascist fold as the Nazi-controlled Deutscher Radfahrer Verband (German Bicycle Association). In the run-up to the Berlin Olympics of 1936, Nazi propaganda crowed: “Let us show the marvelling foreigners proof of an up-and-coming Germany … where the motorist has bicycle-free access not only to the autobahns but to all roads.”

The technical director of the Reich Association for Bicycle Path Construction was the road engineer Hans-Joachim Schacht, who was still involved in German bicycle planning until the 1950s. In 1935, the charity organised a Berlin exhibition, ‘Germany needs bicycle paths.’ The exhibition calculated that the country had 5,000 km of existing cycling paths available and would soon need 40,000 km. Between 1934 and 1939, 6,000 km of new cycle tracks were constructed, mainly funded by municipalities.

In August 1935, Schacht invited the MoT’s chief engineer, Major Cook, to visit the cycle tracks exhibition in Berlin, which would be staged until 7th September of that year. Cook replied that he couldn’t attend but said he would be “grateful for any literature … bearing on the question of cycle tracks.”

Literature was duly sent by Schacht, which Cook said included some “interesting documents” and that the MoT would hope to “take every possible advantage of.”

According to a 1937 article by Schact in a British road construction magazine, Germany had a highway length of 291,000 km, [with] approximately 5,200 km of cycle tracks and 2,100 km of cycle paths.

“In Breslau,” he wrote, “the device the cycle track has been hit upon of subdividing into two paths, a track proper of 1.42 metres wide and safety path of 0.42 metres wide, the latter as a rule not being ridden on but serving only for passing.”

“As a further means to eliminate risks, may be mentioned the precaution taken of leaving the cycle track on the turnpike from Munich to Starnberg below the road. This example has already been copied at five other similar positions in Germany, subterranean cycle tracks have also been built.”


In 1890s New York, there was a wildly popular bicycle-specific “pleasure route” from downtown Brooklyn to the happening resort of Coney Island. On the West Coast, there was an ambitious cycle path on timber trestles, a road-in-the-sky for cycle commuters between Los Angeles and Pasadena.

Elsewhere in America, Good Roads activists — frustrated by the continued poor quality of the nation’s rural roads — took matters into their own hands and built “wheelways” for use by cyclists. These cycle paths — also known as “sidepaths” — were long-distance demonstrations of how Good Roads could be built.

“The paths are being built from city to city and from town to town … and [are] proving invaluable object lessons in the good roads movement,” claimed a newspaper in 1900:

A farmer travelling along an almost impassable road with a dry, smooth and durable cycle path alongside does not need to be told the advantages of good roads. The object-lesson roads built by the Office of Road Inquiry in the mid-1890s were short. Cycle paths were narrower but just as soundly constructed, and there were thousands of miles of them. Today, this forgotten cycle path network lies hidden beneath modern roads. In some regions, the cycle path network was dense. Outing magazine claimed in 1900 that “over one hundred and twenty-five miles of excellent wheelways, perhaps the best in the world, gridiron the territory about Rochester, N. Y.

Some of America’s first cycle paths were utilitarian, built ruler-straight from city to city, such as the 15.2-mile Albany—Schenectady path in New York State, which became the modern State Route 5. Others were meandering and scenic, such as the 41-mile path around Chautauqua Lake, also in New York State. Plans were to connect many of the city-to-city paths into long-distance routes. In 1900, The New York Times reported on the proposed 968-mile “trunk line” cycle path between New York and Chicago. “Work will begin in the near future …” to connect those cycle paths which had “already been constructed.”

Cyclists paid for these cycle paths themselves, paving the way, as it were, for the later taxes on motorists, which helped pay for the interstate roads that, ironically, poured asphalt over the cycle paths, wiping them from the map and memory.

In the late 1860s, Charles Anderson Dana, the velocipede-riding editor of the New York Sun, advocated the building of “an elevated railway from Harlem to the Battery — from one end of New York to the other — for the use of riders of velocipedes only.” This was “to be thirty feet wide, on an iron framework, and the flooring of hard pine.”

The structure remained a dream, but thirty years later, the call for dedicated cycling infrastructure had become louder and more insistent. An elevated bike path between Harlem and the Battery was again considered, with cyclists dreaming of a “delightful tour” on a midsummer night, “catching glimpses of the Hudson at the cross streets, until the moonlit bay bursts upon the view in all its silvery glory!”

(Of course, the reality would have been far different, with cyclists close to trains and facing the not inconsiderable difficulty of how to get a bicycle onto a trestle without long, shallow and space-hungry ramps.)

There were also proposals for cross-country cycle-path trestles. In 1895, one newspaper reported that “it is proposed to construct an elevated cycle roadway, 16ft wide, of wood paved with asphalt, between Chicago and Milwaukee, a distance of 85 miles …”

During the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-9, an American entrepreneur proposed building the “greatest bicycle roadway in the world” in order to help those would-be prospectors setting out to reach Canada’s Yukon region on bicycles. Many miners-to-be set off from Seattle on beefed-up “Klondikespecial” bicycles, but they never got the “Klondike bicycle track.”

Today, the concept of a city-to-city grid of bicycle paths would be considered for recreational use only (outside of the Netherlands, that is). In the 1890s, city-to-city bicycle paths were built for day-to-day use. A significant number of cycle paths were created in upstate New York, Denver, Minneapolis, Portland and California. In 1900, cyclists believed long-distance cycle paths would enable them to “go from New York to any point in Maine, Florida or California on smooth roads made especially for them.”

While bicycle-only paths were the fervent desire of many cyclists (to get away from pesky teamsters — the truck drivers of their day — and at least have a well-surfaced path, even if it was a narrow one), this desire was not shared by all — the building of bicycle-specific routes divided cyclists. There were arguments over whether or not the provision of paths diverted attention from the need to improve roads for all users.

Officials in the League of American Wheelmen (L.A.W.) were torn — some felt that their 20-year push for Good Roads had achieved little in the way of tangible improvements and that, despite a great deal of cajoling, it had been shown that farmers had no genuine interest in joining with them in demanding better highways; others believed victory was in sight and that to create bicycle-only routes would detract from the we-are-all-in-this-together message.

The widest and grandest path of them all — the Coney Island Cycle Path in New York — was loved by many cyclists, but not all. Some refused to ride on it, believing such dedicated routes, while superior to the rutted roads of the day, would become the only ways open to cyclists. They feared being restricted to a few recreational wheelways, and banned from all other roads.

Many in the broader Good Roads movement wanted cyclists to keep fighting to improve all roads, and not be diverted by improvements to just part of the highway.

However, an editorial in the L.A.W.’s house magazine in 1895 showed which way the wind was blowing: “The time is getting ripe for wheelmen to demand separate roads or cycle tracks of their own along the leading highways and such plans should be made and provided for in the new systems of roads which are being planned and built.”

Chief Consul Isaac B. Potter expressed a change in L.A.W. strategy in newspaper interviews and was condemned for it by many members of the organisation he led. An editorial in The New York Times in 1896 was also dismissive, hoping that Potter would “consider, on more mature reflection, that his suggestion was a mistake.”

For the wheelmen to seek provision of their own cycle paths would be a “public calamity,” thundered the newspaper, adding:

What is needed is to convince the rural public that good roads are economical, so economical that they cannot afford to have bad roads. Even if the wheelmen were to agree that, so long as a cinder path was provided for them, they would not object to the rest of the road being by turns a mud-wallow and a dust-heap, they would defeat their own purpose, for the full and combined force of all the elements enlisted in favor of good roads is necessary to produce good roads, and has not yet availed for that purpose.

Potter refused to budge. In a follow-up article, he wrote:

It is perhaps unfair to say that the public roads should be improved at great expense because bicyclists alone should seem to demand it, but it is not unreasonable to ask that a narrow wheelway should be improved at moderate expense on many country roads, which would otherwise be impassable to the great body of cyclists who have occasion to pass over them.

Perfecting just a slice of the public highway smacked of elitism, worried the Times:

More or less talk is now heard concerning special paths for cycling. Money is being raised, too, in some sections to cover the cost of building them — some by contributions, some by taxation the wheelmen only being levied upon for the necessary sums. [It] is doubted to be wise by many wheelmen to promote the building of pedal paths. It is better, they argue, to have good roads, which are a benefit alike to all classes, not to … merely those who ride bicycles … It has been the aim of the leading officials of the League of American Wheelmen to impress upon the minds of the members that no special path favors were desired, only good macadam roads …

That cyclists could one day find themselves confined exclusively to “their” part of the highway was felt by many to be a slippery slope, and for some, it was “class legislation,” a big no-no.

The author of an article on the “Gossip of the Cyclers” page in The New York Times — a weekly page in 1896 — reported that the construction of cycle paths was “assuming large proportions,” and that:

The wheelmen have for years been anxious to assist in the improvement of country highways, but since others who use the roads have not been as enthusiastic, the wheelmen have preferred to avoid further delays and secure what they might on their own account.

However, on the same page on the same day, the civil engineer General Roy Stone — who was not a wheelman — urged cyclists to stay within the wider Good Roads movement rather than go it alonThe general movement for improved highways in the State of New-York through the action of the existing legislative commission has taken such promising shape that I earnestly hope the influence of the wheelmen of the State will not be diverted in the direction of constructing separate cycle paths. Their help will be greatly needed in bringing about the general improvement of highways in the State, and such combined movement … will be of great value in its effect on the Legislature and upon public sentiment generally. If the bill for State aid which will be offered by the State legislative commission prevails, you will see many hundred miles of good roads built in the State of New-York …

This plea from General Stone went unheeded, in some quarters at least. Many cyclists had seen the future and it would be one of separation from the inferior road network, with superior provision for those riding bicycles.

Even the powers-that-be, it seemed, were often in favour of what detractors thought was pandering to pedallers. In 1895, Charles Schieren, the Mayor of Brooklyn, said:

… the cyclers rightfully demand good roads or paths for their accommodation. We must therefore plan additional facilities and build practicable roads for the exclusive use of the wheel … We must … set aside a portion of the roadway for the exclusive use of bicycles, or make additional paths for them … Good streets and roads will attract many people to a city or town which has them … Brooklyn is now seriously considering a plan for building a system of good roads and cycling paths … which will give from twenty to thirty miles of excellent paths to the lovers of the wheel, and will prove a great attraction.

In later years, cyclists demanded cycle paths as a form of protection from motor cars, and motorists were staunch supporters of cycle paths because this would remove cyclists from “motoring roads.” However, in the 1890s, those pushing for separate cycle paths were doing so to provide cyclists with a superior running surface.

Potter was not originally a supporter of cycle paths. He had long advocated “Good Roads for all.” His 1891 Gospel of Good Roads was a widely distributed L.A.W. pamphlet that demonstrated with data how good roads would benefit farmers economically. It encouraged them to join with cyclists to call for a radical overhaul of the antiquated system of building and maintaining roads. Conservative, stick-in-the-mud farmers, suffering from an agricultural depression in the early 1890s, would have no truck with radical ideas, especially those espoused by “them bicycle fellars.”

Most bristled at the idea of having to pay taxes to make good roads — at that time, they were still “paying” for roads with annual statute labour, a form of sweat equity. Farmers also feared that all-weather roads would be of most benefit to the urban elites on their recreational bicycles.

Potter despaired of this rural stubbornness and, by 1896, he was arguing in favour of cycle paths, in tandem with the provision of good roads. “I do not for a moment admit that this work for cycle paths can be substituted for the wheelman’s agitation for better roads,” he wrote, “but rather do I regard it as a valued auxiliary for the greater cause, which seems to have taken new impetuous [sic] in those sections where cycle paths have been put down.”

In 1898, Potter published Cycle Paths, an 86-page booklet which claimed that:

Every cyclepath is a protest against bad roads, a sort of public notice that the public wagon ways are unfit for public travel, a wit sharpener to every highway officer who has seven holes in his head, and a splendid example of the charming relations which the [bicycle] and the roadway may be made to sustain each other.

Potter wrote that cyclists paid “heavily to maintain a wasteful system of mere mudways and whose every effort for improvement is opposed by the ‘old settler,’“ — by which he meant farmers — “who insists that the road is good enough.” He added that the farmer was “not easily converted, and we may wait for centuries before he or his ilk will shout for better roads.”

Other wheelmen went further. “Why should the bicyclist carry the farmer like a millstone around his neck?” complained a cyclist in 1896, asking: “What has the farmer, the man most interested, done for good roads when left to himself?”

Seattle sidepath

Another wrote:

… we gladly welcome every law which tends to give us better roads. But while we are waiting for the action of the State, and the County Board of Supervisors, and the farmers we are quietly building some good roads of our own, which we call “side paths” …

These sidepaths were to be examples to spread the Good Roads message, wrote Potter in Cycle Paths:

The bicycle path is a great object lesson for good roads and should be encouraged instead of frowned upon … It is a declaration of independence which for the time being lifts the bicycle out of the mud and puts the wheelman on a firmer ground of argument for good roads, takes from his critics the charge that the cyclist’s warfare is a selfish one and supplies to every traveller an impressive exhibition of the value of a good wheelway.

Before the building of cycle paths, cyclists had created short stretches of object lesson roads in towns and cities, with the L.A.W. advocating such methods from 1891. In 1894, the L.A.W.’s Sterling Elliott — editor of the organisation’s Good Roads magazine — was the first to push for the construction of short stretches of rural roads in order to “impress upon the farmer the value of such roads,” but it was the network of cycle paths in rural areas that were the first long-distance model roads. By 1897, the creation of “object lesson roads” had become the most important activity of the Office of Road Inquiry.

In its day, the Coney Island Cycle Path was the finest bicycle path in the world. Petitioned for from 1892 and finally built in 1894, it extended from Prospect Park in Brooklyn to the popular resort of Coney Island, a distance of 5½ miles. It added to the 1870s Ocean Boulevard, a “pleasure parkway” from “the City of Churches” to the Atlantic Ocean. Opened in mid-summer, the Cycle Path was an instant success — so successful that the path’s crushed limestone surface had to be repaired within a month of opening. A year later, three feet were added to the original width of 14 feet.

Those who owned stalls, rides and eateries at the Coney Island pleasure beach thrived from the increase in business brought by the cyclists following their “straight run to the sea.”

In June 1896, a return path was built on the opposite side of the boulevard. This was opened with a gala parade organised by the L.A.W., attended by 10,000 cyclists and upwards of 100,000 spectators.

The New York Times reported:

Attired in holiday garb and colors, the throng presented a picture pretty to look upon. That nearly every person in it was a cyclist or wanted to be was very apparent … Every public house on the boulevard was decked in flags and bunting, and many private residences were prettily decorated for the occasion … [a] juvenile rider had on a snow white Fauntleroy waist and red stockings with shoes to match. He was a cute little fellow, and somebody named him the ‘Red Spider’ … The bloomer girls received much attention, as usual. One plump lassie startled the reviewing stand with her green bloomers, but she didn’t mind.

The Coney Island Cycle Path was “for the exclusive use of the silent steed” — carriages used the macadam road, and equestrians were provided with a soft, sand path. The bike route was paid for in part by cyclists.

The L.A.W. paid $3,500 of the $50,000 necessary for its creation. Monies were raised by individual contributions, by newspaper campaigns (the Brooklyn Daily Eagle stumped up $50) and by fund-raising events such as theatre productions.

An appeal in The New York Times in August 1894 spelled out the advantages of cyclists part-paying for the proposed cycle path: “It is now within your power to have the most delightful and attractive wheelway ever provided for the exclusive use of cyclists: a smooth, clean continuous wheelway …”

The cycle path was “the first path in the world devoted exclusively to bicycles,” claimed the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, incorrectly.

“No wheelman who has ridden on it has complained, as the completed sections are so perfect that it is not possible to find fault with them,” continued the newspaper.

City authorities liked the path because it got cyclists off the road, away from pleasure carriages and horse-wagons. According to The New York Times, “the path is looked upon as an improvement [because] wheelmen do not interfere with driving at all, as the large driveway is now used exclusively by the lovers of horses and carriages.”

Brooklyn’s Transport Commissioner “had two roads constructed on the Ocean Parkway entrance so that the bicyclists may enter or leave the Park without danger of collision with vehicles … At the Plaza entrance, he has had Flatbush Avenue asphalted, so that the bicyclists may cross the [tram] tracks safely, and this path has been carried through one of the walks in Reservoir Point Park, so as to enable the bicyclists to reach the Eastern Parkway cycle path without danger.”

By and large, the Coney Island Cycle Path was for leisure rather than being a practical route, a point made snootily by Referee magazine in 1895:

Did you ever hear of the Coney Island Cycle Path? Never? Then you have not been in Brooklyn this season, for no cyclist can step his foot into that sleepy town and draw a full breath before he gets this shot at him: “Seen our Cycle Path? No? You should do so at once. Finest thing in the country. Just grand, sir; perfectly GRAND.” There is nothing like the Path. It is the favorite haunt of [the] boulevardier and is thronged each afternoon by crowds of these butterfly riders, who meander up and down its level stretches and call that cycling.

As Brooklyn had an estimated 80,000 cyclists it was perfectly natural to cater to the needs of a large, politicised and active group of citizens. With numbers, and the support of high society, creating bicycle infrastructure was a given. New York City’s Park Commissioner Timothy L. Woodruff was a wheelman. It was he who led the parade of 10,000 cyclists that celebrated the opening of the return Coney Island Cycle Path. In a speech to the cyclists, he said:

I am prepared, in my official position … to do everything within the limits of my powers as such to care for and advance the interests of the wheelmen of Brooklyn. I am anxious to do this not that I may cater to the comforts of a certain class of citizens, not because I am actuated by personal devotion to wheeling, but because I believe the safety bicycle is the most beneficial instrumentality of this wonderful age.

The cycle paths that came to national prominence in the late 1890s had been metaphorically built on the foundations laid by Charles T. Raymond of the canal city of Lockport, close to Niagara Falls, New York State.

Coney Island cycle path

“When our numbers were few, the road was good enough,” Raymond wrote in 1894, “but now our number is myriad and we need a road of our own which shall always be dry, smooth and hard, and may be used as comfortably in rainy weather as in dry.”

Raymond didn’t like the term “cycle path,” preferring “side path.” He had been the founder of the Niagara County Side Path League, founded in 1890, and which used club subscriptions to pay for short stretches of urban cycleways. (His organisation also received cash from the Pope Manufacturing Company and the Overman Wheel Company.) Raymond became convinced that cyclists would pay directly for improved rural paths, and he “adopted and promulgated the doctrine that ‘what all use, all should pay for.’”

Sidepaths were cheaper to build than improved roads — “Good sidepaths can be constructed at a cost of $100 to $300 per mile, while good roads cost from $2,000 to $5,000 per mile,” he wrote in 1898 — and “every mile we build makes the wheelmen hungry for more.”

In 1896 he helped to draft a county law allowing Niagara to tax bicycle owners and build cycle paths with the proceeds. Naturally, not all bicycle owners welcomed this general tax, and when there was a proposal for the tax to be extended state-wide, the Niagara chapter of the L.A.W. came out in opposition, urging “all wheelmen to strenuously oppose the passage of any such bills.”

Newspaper claims that the “sidepath movement” was “growing with irresistible momentum” were threatened when cyclists mustered to block further taxation on their activity. Cyclists in the city of Rochester in Monroe County, New York — “the greatest bicycle town in the country,” claimed the local newspaper in 1895 — argued against a tax on bicycle ownership. Urging the state governor to veto the bill, the editor of the Rochester Post Express railed against the “vicious principle” of “class taxation.” He wrote that “there is no more reason why the bicyclists should be taxed for cinder paths than that owners of vehicles should be taxed for the construction of better highways.”

Raymond pushed on and, following a sidepath convention held in Rochester in 1898, he helped to draft state legislation that encouraged localities nationwide to build cycle paths funded not by taxation on all cyclists but only on cycle-path users. New York’s General Sidepath Act of 1899 allowed a county judge, “upon the petition of fifty wheelmen of the county,” to appoint a commission of five people, “each of whom shall be a cyclist,” to represent the cities and towns of the county. These commissioners were “authorized to construct and maintain sidepaths along any public road, or street.”

Those cyclists who chose to use cycle paths had to attach “sidepath badges” to their bicycles. “Spotters” stationed themselves on cycle paths, checking which bicycles sported up-to-date “tags.”

Paying for cycling facilities was a familiar concept. Cyclists in Denver funded a 50-mile cycle path to Palmer Lake entirely by subscription. And in 1895, in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis—St. Paul, Minnesota, city workers built six miles of urban cycle paths paid for by cyclists, with the St. Paul Cycle Path Association stumping up the majority funding for another 14 miles of cycle paths in 1897 and 1898.

Payment for a cycle path “bicycle tag” was, in effect, an annual user fee and was to be the only money raised for building and maintaining cycle paths. Central Point, a small city in Jackson County, Oregon, passed a law in 1901 to construct “bicycle paths on either or both sides of all public highways of the state for the use of pedestrians and bicycles.” Cyclists — but not pedestrians — had to pay an annual tax of $1, for which they received a tag which, the law decreed, “must be securely fastened to the seat post of each and every bicycle.”

The “object and intent” of the law, the legislature said, was “to provide for a highway separate from that used by teams and wagons.” A similar law in Jacksonville, six miles from Central Point, said: “It is made unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a bicycle path without having paid the license tax.”

This “provides a license for riding and [was] not a tax upon the bicycle.”

Portland, Oregon, had a turn-of-the-century network of 59 miles of six-foot-wide cycle paths, paid for by a cyclists’ user fee. Many American states had no legal mechanisms for raising taxes to pay for road improvements. Cycle-path taxes helped to usher in funding regimes that would be later used very successfully to raise money from motorists.

In 1949, an Oregon newspaper reminded readers that the “road tax” levied on cyclists was “the precedent for and the granddad of the present system of automotive licenses, gasoline taxes, fines and penalties which were established … and dedicated to the task of constructing the state highway system.”

However, there was a major difference, as revealed in 2012 by American historian Christopher W. Wells. He showed that the Interstate highway network was successful because of the invisibility of its financing, hiding the cost from end-users and not allowing the funds raised to be used for anything other than building yet more highways, a self-perpetuating system.

Not everybody was in favour of setting aside a portion of the public highway for bicyclists. Court cases in 1900 halted the construction of several cycle paths. In Spokane, Washington State, property owners secured injunctions against a proposed cycle path, claiming — as many anti-bike-path campaigners do today — that such a path would be “an obstruction of the street … that it shortens the width of a highway already none too wide … that it is a menace to children … and prevents owners of vehicles from reaching their conveyances with ease.”

Authorities countered by saying the path would be an “ornament to the street” and that the “path is desired by the thousands of wheelmen in the city.”

(4,000 of the 17,000 adult population of Spokane at the time were cyclists.)

A “wealthy resident of West Islip, [Long Island]” argued that the building of a cycle path in front of his house was “unconstitutional.” All of the court cases were lost, and county Sidepath Commissions felt emboldened to extend both urban and rural cycle paths. For two years there was a frenzy of cycle-path construction. Abbot Bassett, editor of L.A.W. Magazine and Good Roads, wrote in 1900 that cycle paths were “spreading with unexampled rapidity” and that they would form a “network of passageways for bicycle riders the continent over.” He asserted that “no other feature of cycling life … has a greater hold upon the hearts of American cyclists.” Cycle paths were the “very thing essential to their happiness,” and cycle paths “defeated bad roads in a manner not foreseen by those foes of progress who decried the cause of improved highways.”

While he admitted that cycle paths “[benefitted] none but wheelmen,” he wrote that it was “bosh” to claim that their provision amounted to “class legislation”:

When the first sidewalk was legally constructed, the law took into consideration a difference existing between pedestrians and [horse carriage] drivers … If pedestrians are by law entitled to a portion of the highway set aside for their exclusive use, why are wheelmen, when they exist in numbers sufficient for the law to take recognition of them, not entitled to a portion of the highway for their exclusive use?

Cycle paths were segregated both from the adjoining highway and from sidewalks, and were for bicycles only — other traffic could be fined for using them (and this use was tempting because cycle paths, while narrow, were far better surfaced than the adjoining roads).

Many cyclists — especially long-time riders, who were older and tended to be richer — were heartily in favour of cycle paths. They even had their own magazine, Sidepaths, published in Rochester, New York.

However, as localities quickly found out, not all cyclists took kindly to being charged for using cycle paths, and avoidance of the “bicycle tax” was rampant. Even if every cyclist in a town paid the annual $1 fee for a “bicycle tag,” this wasn’t enough to pay for a dense network of cycle paths or to maintain the existing ones.

When the town of Hoquiam in Washington State tried to prosecute a tag-free cyclist, the action was overturned by the state Supreme Court, with justices ruling that the “streets of the town are … public highways, common to all the citizens of the state,” and that access could not be denied to unlicensed cyclists.

Many bicycle advocates had long argued that local and national governments should fund infrastructure projects out of general taxation rather than user fees. Historian James Longhurst wrote that

… voluntary funding streams were insufficient for the construction and maintenance of serious infrastructure … Like roads, sewers and water works, the sidepath project required large-scale physical infrastructure demanding a steady and long-term investment. Voluntary funding was neither of these things. … Weak, partial funding for infrastructure might as well be no funding at all.

America’s most ambitious turn-of-the-century cycle infrastructure aimed to secure a more regular funding stream — the elevated California Cycle Way was a toll-road, barred to all but ticket-holders.

The first elevated highway between the cities of Pasadena and Los Angeles was built by one of the region’s richest residents, and paid for with tram-style journey tickets. In the first year of the 20th century this grade-separated highway towered over train tracks, road junctions and slow-poke users of the rutted roads beneath. The wooden trestle was billed as a “speedway” and was to provide a flat, fast scenic route for Pasadena’s thousands of cyclists, who could fly 50 feet high over the deepest section of the oak-studded Arroyo Seco river valley.

California Cycleway, 1900

The “ingenious scheme” was to be an uninterrupted “paradise for wheelmen.”

The reality for the California Cycle Way turned out to be far different. Only the first mile-and-a-bit was erected, which wasn’t long enough to attract sufficient paying customers. Within just months of opening, the cycleway had become a loss-making stub of a route rather than a profitable commuter cycling road for Pasadena’s wealthy cyclists. Had it been built to length the year after it was first proposed, the cycleway might have turned a profit, and could have become the “splendid nine-mile track” that, in 1901, Pearson’s Magazine (falsely) claimed it was.

Built with pine imported from Oregon, and painted green, the would-be superhighway had a lot going for it. For a start, it had high-society support: it was constructed for a company controlled by Horace Murrell Dobbins, Pasadena’s millionaire mayor, and the investors included a former governor of California, as well as Pasadena’s leading bicycle shop owner.

The California Cycle Way was first mooted in 1896. “The idea was originated by Horace Dobbins … who is himself a wheelman,” said the Los Angeles Herald.

The cycleway was meant to run for nine miles from the upmarket Hotel Green in Pasadena down to the centre of Los Angeles. The first 1¼-mile stretch opened to great fanfare on New Year’s Day, 1900, as part of the route of that year’s Tournament of the Roses Parade. Three hundred and fifty bicycles, decorated with floral displays, took part in the main parade and no doubt many of them were ridden down the wooden track by some of the 600 cyclists who took part in the cycleway’s inaugural ride.

In 1899, Scientific American called Dobbins’ plan an “elaborate wheelway” where “cyclists will … be permitted to view the beautiful scenery without having to look out for ruts in the road.”

The cycleway was wide enough for four cyclists to ride side by side, with another nine feet available alongside to plank another lane. This add-on was never needed: the cycleway was scuppered, in part thanks to rights-of-way objections lodged by a railroad magnate. Henry E. Huntington didn’t want speedy competition for his growing streetcar network. (The competition would be cheaper, too — a trolley car ride from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles cost 25 cents, while the cycleway cost 10 cents one way and 15 cents for all-day use.)

Dobbins and Huntington’s Pacific Electric Railroad company would continue to fight over the rights-of-way for the cycleway long after the cycleway had ceased to exist as a route for cyclists. The California Cycle Way Company secured an injunction against plans for new lines from Pacific Electric and, in turn, Pacific Electric tried to condemn that part of the cycleway that it wanted to cross. It wasn’t until November 1902 that the two companies agreed to compromise.

By this time, cycling was on the wane in Pasadena and Los Angeles. The future, it seemed, was in fast public transit, with the building of streetcar lines the sensible thing for speculators to invest in.

A local newspaper reminisced in the 1950s: “Many Pasadena old-timers have happy memories of moonlight rides up and down that historic strip … the Cycleway was Pasadena’s pride and joy.”

Pride and joy it may have been but as a usable route it was short lived. By August 1900, a local newspaper reported the “Cycleway will do no more work now …”

Because the truncated cycleway wasn’t terribly long, didn’t go where people wanted to go and didn’t have enough entry and exit points, it was of little practical value, and hence not used and not profitable.

A built-to-length cycleway would have had an income of approximately $20,000 a month “if half of the wheelmen in two cities patronize the road once a month,” the company’s prospectus had claimed. Most of the period photographs of the cycleway show it empty. This wasn’t because there were no cyclists in Pasadena. The small city had 15 bicycle shops in 1900 and, according to the *Los Angeles Herald, in 1898 the city’s 9,000 residents owned 4,000 bicycles, with the Los Angeles area having “fully forty thousand bicycles.”

Pasadena’s many cyclists shunned the cycleway because its enforced short length made it more of a fairground attraction for hotel guests than a transportation option for locals.

Had the full nine miles been built in 1897, the cycleway would have been the quickest, slickest way to get from upper Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles (the plan was to also offer one-way rental of bicycles). Dobbins also imagined that it would be used at the weekend as a fast, flat way of getting from downtown Los Angeles to the foothills of the Sierra Madre and San Gabriel mountains.

The plans for the cycleway had been ambitious. The idea was for it to be grade-separated, to fly over the rutted dirt roads of the city and to soar over the Arroyo Seco river. Its incandescent lamps, at 50-foot intervals, would make the curving cycleway visible at night down in Los Angeles. There were also plans for the cycleway to snake past a lavish casino to be built in the Moorish style, complete with “a Swiss dairy … for the refreshment of the thirsty.” Neither the casino nor the Swiss dairy ever got off the drawing board.

Dobbins had begun acquiring the rights of way down the Arroyo Seco valley at the height of the bicycling boom in 1896. He incorporated the California Cycle Way Company on 23rd August 1897.

The company prospectus said that the route would be open to “bicycles or other horseless vehicles” (motor bicycles, rather than motor cars).

Dobbins was the company president and majority stockholder. Other investors included Henry Markham, who had been Governor of California two years previously; Ed Braley, owner of Pasadena’s biggest and oldest bike shop, the Braley Bicycle Emporium (now a Scientology church) and “Professor” Thaddeus Lowe, a Civil War balloonist who, in 1891, had helped create the Pasadena & Mount Wilson Railroad Company, which ran a steep-incline railway to the top of Mount Wilson.

From 1900 to 1901, Dobbins was chairman of Pasadena’s Board of Supervisors (precursor to the City Council — mayor in all but name, then) but, despite this leading role, and earlier elevated positions in the city’s administration, he had been initially unable to secure permission for his cycleway during the first year of his company’s incorporation. It took another city vote in 1898 before he got the required licence, a costly delay.

Erection of the structure didn’t start until November 1899. The Patton and Davies Lumber Company of Pasadena supplied the Oregon pine, and builders erected the first stretch of cycleway in just three months (grading cuts through the foothills had taken place in the preceding two years). On the first day of construction, the Pasadena Daily Evening Star said the “first section” of the cycleway would be “rushed to completion.”

The cycleway ran downhill from the luxurious Hotel Green, adjacent to the Sante Fe railroad station, to The Raymond, a resort hotel with its own nine-hole golf course. Pasadena was not yet friendly to “autocarists.” Arthur Raymond, owner of The Raymond, didn’t much like the first vacationing motorists. A sign outside his hotel read “Automobiles are positively not allowed on these grounds.”

Another sign outside the hotel pointed the way to the Dobbins’ Cycleway, which is how the route was known locally. To the outside world it was the Great California Cycleway and it was claimed to be a rip-roaring success. In September 1901 the mass-circulation Pearson’s Magazine devoted three pages to the cycleway.

“On this splendid track cyclists may now enjoy the very poetry of wheeling,” puffed T. D. Denham.

At Pasadena they may mount their cycles and sail down to Los Angeles without so much as touching the pedals, even though the gradient is extremely slight. The way lies for the most part along the east bank of the Arroyo Seco, giving a fine view of this wooded stream, and skirting the foot of the neighboring oak-covered hills. The surface is perfectly free from all dust and mud, and nervous cyclists find the track safer than the widest roads, for there are no horses to avoid, no trains or trolley-cars, no stray dogs or wandering children.

Denham claimed that “industrial activity will be so quickened [by this splendid track] that the country will enjoy such prosperity as it has never known.”

California cycleway

His article stated that the California Cycleway was nine miles long, as did most of the other press reports about the structure. Given that the cycleway had closed for business a year before, it’s rather strange that Pearson’s Magazine printed such a misleading piece — the magazine also reported as fact the supposed existence of the casino and the Swiss dairy.

Pearson’s wasn’t totally wrong — the cycleway did exist in September 1901 and it was probably still used. (The moonlight trips mentioned in the 1950s newspaper article may have been illicit rides — and dangerous, too: “A Mexican boy took hold of a live electric wire on the cycleway and received a shock which made him unconscious,” reported the Los Angeles Herald in 1906.)

In March 1901, a local newspaper reported that the cycleway was “to come down from Central Park tract” and that Dobbins “agrees to turn his franchise back to the city free of cost — to be paid only what that section of the structure cost.”

In October 1900, Dobbins told the Los Angeles Times: “I have concluded that we are a little ahead of time on this cycleway. Wheelmen have not evidenced enough interest in it …”

There are photos of the cycleway still standing in 1905, although by 1906 a newspaper said that it was “an eyesore to some people.” The following year, the Los Angeles Herald said the “old wooden trestle” was “objectionable” and that Dobbins had applied for it to be pulled down. Permission for the demolition wasn’t granted because the Board of Supervisors believed Dobbins “desires to use the old right of way for other purposes.” He did; he wanted to build a rail-road.

While at least parts of the structure may have been extant in 1919, most of it was pulled down in stages, and the lumber sold off. Some of those parts of the right of way owned by the city were used for a curving, scenic motor road. In December 1940, at the opening ceremony for the Arroyo Seco Parkway, Governor of California Culbert L. Olson declared it to be the “first freeway in the West.”

The 45-mph Parkway used short stretches of the former cycling route. Today, there’s a modern cycleway that follows some of the flood-control channels down the Arroyo Seco and this also uses a few short stretches of the Dobbins’ Cycleway route.

In 1958, Pasadena mayor Harrison R. Baker said that Dobbins was “way out in front of all of us” in dreaming up what would become, in part, the main asphalt route between Pasadena and Los Angeles.

An urban myth has since grown up around the California Cycleway. Newspapers and blogs claim that the cycleway was killed off by the motor car. “The horseless carriage … caused the demise of the bikeway,” wrote the Public Information Officer for the City of Pasadena on her blog in 2009. In 2005, a feature for the Pasadena Star News claimed that “Automobiles spelled doom for the cycleway.”

Numerous mentions of the cycleway have trotted out the same angle. In January 2014, the architecture correspondent for Britain’s Guardian even claimed that the structure, abandoned in 1900, was “destroyed by the rise of the Model T Ford,” a car not introduced until 1908.

There’s no proof that the advent of the automobile had anything whatsoever to do with the financial collapse of the cycleway. In 1900, motor cars were still fresh on the scene and very few people thought they had a certain future, and even fewer thought they had an all-dominant future. It was another 15 years before automobiles started to proliferate in the Los Angeles area.

Ironically, there’s a photograph from 1900 showing Dobbins on the cycleway in his steam-powered Locomobile motor car. He told the Los Angeles Times that “we will lie still for a time and use [the cycleway] for automobile service,” but this would have been 14 years too early and it would have also needed a great deal of modification. A short pleasure track for automobiles would have been just as pointless as a short hotel-to-hotel cycleway.


“In Sydney,” reported a Scottish newspaper in March 1901, quoting the Sydney Morning Herald, “a Public Cycle Paths Committee has been successful in getting a ten-feet wide cinder path, nearly two miles length, laid down in Moore Park, one of the principal parks of the city, and the committee has now in hand … to have a cycle path ten miles in length formed on both sides of one of the best roads leading out of Sydney.”

According to the Spectator “in Sydney the cycle has its asphalted separate course,” stated an English newspaper also in 1901.


“The history of cycle paths in France … is little more than a series of hopes met with very few achievements,” complained a French cycle touring magazine in 1938.

“Before the [Great War], there were 1,180 kilometres of cycle paths on our territory. Their number was especially significant in the northern regions where the roads were paved. Everything was well maintained and the cyclists were satisfied with it. In short, this network was perfectly suited to the time when two million, eight hundred thousand cyclists were travelling, and when the number of motor cars was still insignificant. In short, it was more a question of convenience and comfort than a question of security.

“The problem today is no longer the same. On the one hand, the tracks were no longer maintained. Some even, like the famous Luzarches track, were broken up as soon as they were finished. Most are cut off by gutters, cluttered with materials or rubbish, in a word usable only on short sections.”

Cycle track in Rouen, from The Cyclist, 3 February 1937.

“On the other hand, the roads have been resurfaced using a new technique which has given our roads perfectly rolling surfaces. The result was that cyclists abandoned the cycle paths which had become impassable for the roadway, and often even declared themselves hostile to cycle paths in the face of the excellence of the roads.

“In the plan of major national works, which in 1935 provided for the creation of major highways, there was not once any mention of cycle paths.

“Just fragments of cycle paths are being built here such as on the National Road 10, between Paris and Rambouillet [near Chartres].”

“It is obvious that the cycle path will only really constitute progress in the traffic problem if it will offer cyclists as much comfort as security. Until recently, cycle paths were abandoned to their fate, and very quickly became rutted. Following complaints made to the Ministry of Public Works, it instructed Chief Engineers to better maintain the tracks laid out on the national roads.”

Despite the poor quality of French cycle tracks their use was mandatory, cheered a British motoring journalist. H. E. Symons, the Birmingham Daily Gazette’s motoring correspondent, wrote in 1936 that the “compulsory use of cycle-tracks has been introduced,” adding that on the “busy road from Fontainebleau onto Paris there is one rather narrow track on one side of the road only and at all intersections are newly erected discs warning cyclists that they must ride on the track.”

Recognising that this narrow track was inferior provision, Symons imagined that the “French cyclist would think himself in Heaven if he were given cycle tracks like those which Mr. Hore-Belisha provided alongside our newest by-passes: wide, well-surfaced and often available on both sides of the road.”


“The development of cycle paths is recognized as necessary and around large cities work is being done to establish them,” reported a French cycle touring magazine in 1938.


The modal share of bicycle traffic in Stockholm increased from 20 to over 30 percent during the 1930s, and reached higher levels during the Second World War, exceeding 70 percent.

Beginning in the late 1920s, bicycle lanes were established on some access roads to Stockholm.

In the 1936 Regional Plan for Greater Stockholm, the engineer Einar Nordendahl was dismissive of cyclists: “The construction of separate cycle and pedestrian lanes is largely motivated by the desire to free the road from such traffic elements that reduce both its traffic capacity and safety. This is particularly the case with the pedal cyclists.”


The Touring Club of Belgium and the Belgian Cycling League were responsible for installing cycle paths in Belgium, according to a French cycle touring magazine in 1938. “The results are magnificent,” said the magazine. “Out of nine thousand kilometers of roads there are already nearly three thousand kilometers of cycle paths. Their width is just 1.5 m and their construction is excellent. The track is almost always separated from the roadway by a strip of around 50 cm which is generally grassed or covered with rolled stones.”

Since January 1936, “cyclists can no longer follow the roadway unless the public road is devoid of a cycle path or if the latter is impassable or congested,” noted the magazine. “In this case [cyclists] must line up at the far side and wait for the approach of another user!”

“In Belgium, out of the total road mileage of 5,500, 1, 800 miles (32%) are furnished with cycle tracks,” reported Britain’s Transport Advisory Council in 1938. Representatives of the body visited Belgium, and other countries, seeking information on cycle tracks.


A French cycling magazine said that Switzerland “has recognized the need for cycle paths to reduce the number of accidents and has put the problem under study. However, implementation is not yet very advanced due to the difficulties encountered in widening the roadways.”


The experimental two-and-a-quarter-mile “Track for Pedal Cyclists Only” retrofitted to London’s Western Avenue in 1934 was the first of the 102 such cycle tracks built in the 1930s and 1940s, but transport minister Oliver Stanley hadn’t been the first to call for such measures. Since the late 1890s, several other groups and individuals had called for similar infrastructure, at first to provide smoother ways for cyclists and only later to protect them from the growing numbers of motor cars on Britain’s roads.

British cyclists had started wobbling along Britain’s roads at the end of the 1860s. These riders, generally from the elite of society, didn’t require separation from the road traffic of the day because this road traffic, at least outside of cities, was light, sporadic, and generally far slower than the cyclists. Instead, the pioneer cyclists — on large wheel bicycles — essentially had Britain’s roads to themselves. So did those cyclists, including women cyclists, encouraged to take to cycling thanks to the introduction of the lower-to-the-ground Safety bicycle in 1885. For the best part of 30 years, cyclists ruled the road. This created in cyclists a feeling of ownership (and guardianship) of roads, helping to explain why the later motor-age imposition of separated cycle tracks rankled with many from “organised” cycling, especially touring cyclists who had travelled long distances on former turnpike roads that had fallen into disuse after the arrival of railways and the collapse of the stagecoach trade.

Similar to the impetus for “sidepaths” in the US, the first calls for British cycle tracks were for the amenity of cyclists.

Alfred Harmsworth, far right. Pic via Teresa Stokes.

In an 1897 article in the Christmas number of The Rambler, a weekly cycling magazine created by Daily Mail founder Alfred Harmsworth (who had been editor of Bicycling News in his youth), a writer asked, “Why Not Cycle Paths Everywhere?”:

Cycling is such an established institution now-a-days … that it is quite time something was done towards providing special bicycle paths on our roads … At present in this country there are over one million bicycles in use … Thus a greater proportion of persons ride bicycles than use carriages or ride on horseback … it is quite possible … to lay an asphalte strip on main roads for the exclusive use of cyclists …

A “strip” sounds rather narrow, while civil engineer Sir John Wolfe-Barry, the son of Houses of Parliament architect Sir Charles Barry, imagined a future with “bicycle roads.”

“No one who has lived in London can doubt that the pressure on the streets is getting yearly heavier and heavier, and becoming more and more unmanageable,” Wolfe-Barry said in a speech given at the Imperial Institute in Kensington in November 1898. Wolfe-Barry was speaking in his role as chairman of the Royal Society of Arts. His long speech, published as a pamphlet the following year, was one of many similar plans for fast-growing London, which was crippled by chronic congestion long before the motorcar.

In an obituary, it was reported that Wolfe-Barry, the person in charge of building London’s now famous Tower Bridge, had an “interest in traffic problems.” Sir John was “clear about two things: the immense pecuniary loss resulting from congestion and overcrowding, and the unwisdom of temporary makeshifts to alleviate those evils.”

What the 1918 obituary did not mention was that Wolfe-Barry’s congestion-busting proposal was for London to build wide arterial thoroughfares with separate “bicycle roads.” In his November 1898 address to the Royal Society of Arts, he used the word “bicycles” eighteen times. He mentioned motorcars not once. Motoring was still at the teething stage in Britain by 1898 and Wolfe-Barry clearly had little inkling that motorcars would soon clog the streets of London.

In his speech, Wolfe-Barry recognised that the building of London’s public transport network had done little to alleviate congestion. In fact, it had added to it as more people started to make more and more journeys, which had a knock-on effect once people exited the stations.

“My plea then,” urged Wolfe-Barry, “is that what is wanted to meet the requirements of the traffic of London is not so much additional railways, underground, or overground, traversing the town and connected with the suburbs, but rather wide arterial improvements of the streets themselves.”

The builder of Tower Bridge had a soft spot for bicycles but thought cycling — booming in the mid-1890s and largely the preserve of the upper and middle classes — was doomed unless it could be made safer:

…the numbers of [bicycles] are only kept down in the metropolis by the dangers which their riders encounter in our streets…It is a form of vehicular traffic which should not be undervalued or lost sight of, but which is, practically speaking, impossible at present in Urban London…[Yet] one cannot but recognise that the bicycle, as a means of rapid and cheap locomotion, is a new endowment to mankind, and even now we can see what an advantage it would be to the bulk of Londoners if they could travel safely and at perhaps eight or ten miles an hour, on their bicycles from their homes to their work and back again.

Wolfe-Barry’s proposed solution to the problem of congestion — and cyclist safety — was the creation of wide thoroughfares “about 120 feet wide, that is to say, as wide as Whitehall, opposite the Horse Guards.”

These thoroughfares ought to be segregated, thought Wolfe-Barry, with lumbering horse carriages and carts getting a ‘slow lane,’ faster trams taking over another portion of the carriageway, and speedy cyclists getting centrally-located “bicycle roads”:

All these new routes should have a raised or sunken road throughout for bicycles and [trams], so that these should not mix with either ordinary vehicular or pedestrian traffic. Communication between the streets and the sunken roads could be given by ramps at selected spots for bicycle access, and by steps, and stables for the bicycles could be provided at the level of the sunken road by excavations.

There should be a “central bicycle road 30 feet wide, lighted at distances of about 150 or 200 feet by well-holes at the street refuges.”

London’s Tower Bridge.

The proposal would be costly, admitted Wolfe-Barry, but reminded listeners of the great costs spent on London’s rail network:

When one contemplates the cost of such a work as an arterial street 120 feet wide through the length and breadth of London, the prospect is, no doubt, somewhat alarming. A street of this kind four or five miles long, with side streets and the works of construction, must mean an expenditure of many millions of money, though the recoupment from the ground-rents of such a new street would be very important if no undue haste in their realisation were made. This, however, is the kind of undertaking required for the London of the future, and if foreign capitals can undertake [to build] great streets…why should we take such niggardly views of what is really important for the public good of our metropolis?

Wolfe-Barry stressed a bicycle-friendly London would be an attractive London and his plans ought to be considered in other British cities, too:

The expenditure involved, heavy as it no doubt must be, would be repaid by the increased facilities both for trade and pleasure. London would be more convenient and more attractive for all than it now can be. The stress of life would be lightened, and the saving of time to the millions using our streets would be enormous…I cannot but think that the relief of the present congestion of our streets by a systematic and well-considered enlargement of the arteries of London, is a subject which must commend itself as of primary importance to the whole city, nay more, to the whole nation.

Wolfe-Barry’s ideas were not actioned.

“A hare-brained proposal has been made to build a special cycling road from Croydon to Brighton,” reported “The Man on the Wheel,” a writer for the illustrated weekly magazine The Sketch, in 1899. “The idea [for this pay-per-use road] germinated in the brain of Mr. W. T. Chadwin,” continued the cycling sceptic.

“Supposing for a moment special cycling roads were made along our favourite routes, they would at once degenerate into the happy neck-breaking ground of the [speed-fixated] scorchers,” he scoffed.

“Ordinary cyclists, who wheel for pleasure, would keep away.”

“The cycle-way would probably be wood-fenced, to prevent non-payers of fares using the track. Fancy cycling through Surrey with new palings six feet high on each side of you. No, that will never do. The charm of cycling for pleasure is the little heaves by the way, the little climb, the little bit of coasting. Of course, we all want our roads improved. But we don’t want to leave the roads, all the same.”

But the writer reminded readers that he had already suggested “informal cinder-tracks along the side of our highways. They would be inexpensive. I’ve ridden over such paths in other countries,” he stated.

Three years after Wolfe-Barry’s lecture Arthur Balfour, the then First Lord of the Treasury (he wasn’t Prime Minister until 1902) similarly suggested the building of “radiating thoroughfares” but instead of bicycles these were to be “confined to auto-car propulsion.”

Taking up the idea, The Spectator suggested a compromise instead, the construction of “motor and cycle roads.”

It would be possible, said the publication in 1901, “to have quadruple roads, for horse, steam, cycle, and foot traffic, in which each could have free play.”

“Even if there were no congestion on the main road, the present muddle of vehicles could not be allowed go on,” editorialised the magazine.

“When the motor and cycle roads have been conducted through … new ground to the fringe of the solid bricks and mortar, they might be taken the line of least resistance — that is, least expenditure — as near to the heart of the City the resources employed would admit.”

Traffic segregation was a popular period topic. A front cover story on national and regional British newspapers in July 1900 featured the putative California Cycle Way mentioned above. One newspaper called it a “curious cycleway” and, without checking to see if it was a working project, remarked that similar cycleways ought to be constructed for Britain’s “vast army of cyclists”:

Why should not proper cycleways be built between towns of common interest where the roads are bad or the strain of traffic makes riding a burden? If … local authorities … would take a leaf out of the books of railway companies and construct a proper track they would build up a profitable source of revenue from that vast army of cyclists that increases hugely every year …The experiment has been tried in Southern California … and gives promise of a high degree of success.

No similar elevated cycleway was ever built in Britain. Instead, one of the first cycleways — already called a “track” — was a more modest affair. In October 1900, the Highways and Lighting Committee of Barrow Town Council approved a suggestion from the county surveyor to “lay an asphalt bicycle track 4 feet in width each side of Abbey-road, extending from Luke-street to Crossland, a distance of nearly two miles.”

Today, the ancient Abbey Road is a tree-lined boulevard from the centre of town with multiple lanes. Until 1932, it was equipped with a tramway in the middle of the road, running for 6½ miles. The “Proposed Public Cycle Track for Barrow” was probably built to one side of the tramlines in 1900/1901.

Barrow’s cycle track did not seem to inspire the creation of others. It wasn’t until the 1920s that separation of cyclists from motorists was seriously discussed again. It’s not sure that the Purley Way, a bypass of Croydon (and en route to Croydon airport, then the UK’s main international airfield where was built the world’s first air traffic control tower, the world’s first purpose-designed airport terminal and the world’s first airport hotel) opened in April 1925, was fitted with cycle tracks but, in 1920, a newspaper reported that it was to “have two tracks — one for motors and the other for cycles.”

Roads Improvement Association was founded by cycle organisations.

“It is rather surprising to find that the two great national cycling organisations are opposed altogether to the principle of providing special tracks for cyclists on some of the more important highways,” highlighted a Scottish newspaper in 1922 stating that plans for such tracks had been drawn up by the Roads Improvement Association, a motoring lobby group formed by the Cyclists’ Touring Club and the National Cyclists’ Union 36 years previously and to which the cycling organisations still belonged.

“The R.I.A., before approaching the Minister of Transport on the subject, consulted the cycling bodies as to their views, and asked whether they would like definite proposals to be made to the Minister in respect of the Brighton Road, the Folkestone Road, and the Southend Road, all of which are now in process of being widened or constructed by the Ministry.”

The cycling organisations told their fellow RIA members that such tracks would offer no advantages to cyclists, but on the contrary would have several serious objections,” continued the newspaper.

The main reason why cycling organisations “do not favour the proposal is because they are afraid that if cyclists are side-tracked in this manner they may ultimately be side-tracked altogether, and not be allowed the freedom of the road at all.”

(The tracks were not installed at this time.)

In 1925, a meeting of the South-West Kent Joint Town Planning Committee was held at Tonbridge Castle where the building of cycle tracks was discussed and thought to be “wise” but there’s no evidence any were built in the region.

At the CTC’s AGM held at the Royal Society of the Arts in central London in April 1926, a member moved that the Club should realise that “the time had come when special cycle tracks on each side of the road should be constructed for the exclusive benefit of cyclists …” He remarked that the roads in the vicinity of big cities were becoming “very congested,” reported The Times, and that the provision of “side tracks for cyclists ought to be pressed forward now [because of] the many schemes of road widening which were being considered in various parts of the country.”

The member added, “all over Belgium there were such tracks, as well as in many parts of Holland, Germany and America.” The motion was defeated.

At the end of 1926, Thomas F. Hunt, an executive of Sturmey-Archer Gears of Nottingham, wrote to transport secretary Colonel Wilfrid Ashley (Lord Mount Temple) suggesting “gantry tracks” for cyclists which, he said, were “being talked about by certain London cycle agents and riders.”

He said the tracks would be “one-way traffic roads, and would not be intersected by crossing tracts.” They should be placed in the “middle of existing roads” and “over railways” and “over the flat roofs of buildings to be erected.”

“A mile of track 12ft wide will carry 3,000 pedal cyclists,” he estimated, adding that “at 12 miles an hour 36,000 cyclists may pass in one hour.”

With polite bureaucratic dismissal, the MoT’s chief engineer, Colonel Bressey, replied that the suggestion had been “duly noted.”

Colonel Bressey received many suggestions from members of the public on all manners of road-related subjects. Writing to him in 1927, Wright Miller of Putney — a long-time cyclist and, he said, “for many years Public Inspector of Roads and Buildings” — wrote to the MoT’s chief engineer to “enlist [his] influence in the construction of special paths for cyclists along all our public roads … I suggest that along one side of all our roads, a path say ten to twelve feet wide be constructed, preferably of reinforced concrete …”

Predicting opposition to such cycle paths from cycling organisations, Wright Miller said cyclists “are opposed to the suggestion of special paths for their use, as they fear that such paths would often be merely narrow mud paths, inferior in every way for cycling on to our present carriageways; but provided that the paths be constructed as suggested, cyclists would be only too glad to make use of them.”

Sir Charles Bressey.

In a 1928 article for The Autocar, a racing driver and aristocrat set out his dream for the road of the future. Mark Everard Pepys — the 25-year-old 6th Earl of Cottenham — wrote that the new arterial roads should have “paths for cyclists.”

Cottenham’s article — “The sort of road I want” — later made it into an anthology of his writings, The Steering-Wheel Papers of 1932.

“This road,” he wrote, “seems almost narrow by comparison with the Watford by-pass of to-day.”

For all that, the piece continued:

… there is comfortable room for cars to overtake. But none meet us, for on our right, separated by some feet of grass, there runs the counterpart — the road for returning traffic. To left and right again are paths for cyclist and pedestrian … All classes of road-user are accommodated equitably. With such fair division of traffic, the three-cornered fight between motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian is abolished. Each type of traveller has his own path. Now that class warfare of the roads is no more, the motorist argues only with his fellow motorist, the cyclists with the cyclist, and pedestrians among themselves; but who minds?

In the same year that Cottenham imagined separation of transport modes, a newspaper reported that the “Ministry of Transport is considering a proposal to provide separate cycle tracks on all arterial roads.”

The Northern Whig argued that this “should [do] much to preserve the lives of these unassuming users of the roads who were once upbraided for their excessive speed but who are now in constant danger through their inability to travel at the high pace of average traffic.”

The Times reported in October 1928 that cycle tracks were considered for the Esher-Leatherhead road between Esher and Oxshott but “referred back for further consideration” by Surrey County Council. The tracks were unlikely to have been built.

The following year, under the headline “Roadside Tracks: Safety Plan for Cyclists,” the Gloucester Citizen reported that the Ministry of Transport was consulting “local authorities on the question of making tracks alongside but divided from arterial roads for the exclusive use of cyclists.”

The proposal, continued the newspaper, was the “result of the increasing number accidents in which cyclists have been involved. One of the official cycling bodies opposes the scheme the ground that it is an interference with the cyclists’ right to the road. There are doubt many cyclists who would welcome the privilege of track to themselves where they could ride comfort and safety.”

“I hear that attempts are being made to test a special cycle path parallel to the Great West Road,” sniffed “Kuklos,” the Daily Herald’s cycling correspondent. This was the pen name of William Fitzwater Wray (Kuklos is the Greek word for a wheel or circle), one of the most widely-read cycling journalists of the 1920s and 1930s. He was a staunch critic of cycle tracks and remained so until he died in 1938.

“It is all made to sound most fascinating,” continued Kuklos in his May 1929 column. “No danger of being run down at night or hustled off the road in the day by scorching motorists — ride on your own track, etc.”

However, he warned, “once this process starts it will continue under pressure of the motoring bodies until cycles are forbidden to ride on the public roads.”

“This movement should be resisted by all the power of the cycling community,” he thundered.

It wasn’t just prominent cycling journalists and cycling organisations opposed to cycle tracks at this time. “A proposal by the Ministry of Transport to construct separate tracks for pedal cycles on the Great West Road [was] opposed by Middlesex County Council,” reported the Essex Newsman in April 1929.

The Ministry of Transport didn’t build any cycle tracks in the 1920s.

At the end of November 1933, some two months before Transport Minister Oliver Stanley charged the MoT’s chief engineer with the task of creating Britain’s first modern-style cycle track, former WWI fighter ace Captain Cunningham-Reid, then the Conservative MP for Marylebone, London, placed a parliamentary question about allowing cyclists to use footways along the new bypasses of the day.

“I doubt the advisability .. of permitting the use of footways by cyclists,” replied Stanley (he was the minister of transport who, in 1933, introduced the 30 mph speed limit in the 1934 Road Traffic Act), “but I am prepared to consider any proposal submitted to me by the appropriate highway authority for the provision of separate tracks for pedal cyclists.”


[2] Roads Were Not Built for Cars, Carlton Reid, Island Press, 2015.
[3] Letter from Sir Charles Bressey, Highway Development Survey, to Major F.C. Cook, Chief Engineer, at the Ministry of Transport, 24 May, 1935, MoT papers, National Archives.
[4] Information from Trafik & Veje, September 2009, by Mette Schønberg, head of Denmark’s Vej og Bro Museum.
[6] Bulletin des cyclotouristes, monthly magazine of the Touring-Club de France., October 1st 1938.
[7] “Nederland rijkdom can rijwielpaden,” De Kampioen, 12th January, 1935.
[8] Speaking academically, this is an example of “path dependence,” a chain of (historical) events that led on from one another, domino-fashion. In short, the Dutch have cycleways because The Netherlands was the world’s leading cycle nation by 1905 and, even when motoring challenged cycling, the levels of bike use in the country was so high that even large drops in use still left high modal splits for cycling. Cycling’s die was therefore cast in the early 1900s in the Netherlands, and this led to self-reinforcement as Dutch people came to identify cycling as a national trait. Of course, there is no such thing as “cycling DNA” but the theory of path dependence suggests that cycling use can, and indeed does, cascade down the generations, with grandparents passing on their normal, everyday use of cycles to children and grandchildren and so on. Cycling became embedded in Dutch culture, normal, multi-generational, uncontroversial. In many other countries cycling’s path dependence was easier to deflect. Outside of the Netherlands motoring’s path dependence was stronger and that’s what became normal, multi-generational and uncontroversial.
[9] The forerunner to the Department of Ways and Communications was the Roads Board of 1909 and various railway bodies before that. The DOT’s ancestry goes back to the Office of Road Enquiry founded in 1893. While the federal body wasn’t created until the 1960s individual states have had their own transportation departments for longer.
[10] It was founded as the Bureau voor den Waterstaat, the Office of Public Works, or literally the “National Office of Water”. See: .
[11] The Chinese famously take the long view of history – During Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972, the Chinese premier, Zhou Enlai, was asked about the impact of the French Revolution. Zhou famously commented that it was “too early to say.” It’s probable that he actually misheard the question, but the answer was too apposite to debunk.
[12] As an English author observed in 1851 – Twynihoe William Erle, A Pipe of Dutch Kanaster, 1851.
[13] “Cycling is a fundamental part of Dutch culture – See: .
[14] **Even though plenty of Dutch people self-identify – *Cycling and the Dutch: An ever-growing love affair*,
Dutch Knowledge Institute of Mobility Management, 2015.
[15] **And, according to the author of *Why the Dutch Are Different*, the – ** Ben Coates, Why the Dutch Are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2015.
[16] WHAT’S NOT in doubt – London was one of the earliest cities to build great numbers of raised sidewalks (known as pavements or footpaths in the United Kingdom) – Holborn was paved in 1417. Streets directed to be paved in 1539 were described to be “very foul, and full of pits and sloughs, very perilous and joyous, as well for the King’s subjects on horseback as on foot, and with carriages.” See: “A Looking-Glass for London – No. VII. Paving, Lighting, Water, Sewers,” The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, March 18, 1837.
In 1724, a House of Commons Committee remarked that the streets of London were “very much neglected, and ill paved, and that a proper Care has not been taken of the Levels and Declivities; and the Steepness and Depths of the Channels make it extremely difficult and dangerous for all Wheel-carriages that pass through the same: That the Dirt and Soil, for Want of being properly taken and carried away, lie so thick, all over the Pavements, that the Streets are become now scarce passable for Foot-passengers.” See House of Commons Journal, Vol. 20, March 3, 1724.
In 1754, John Spranger published a plan for better paving in London because of “broken or irregular Pavements . . . Foulness and Darkness of our Streets – scarcely passable in Carriages with Safety . . . frequent and melancholy Distresses and Disasters . . . fatal Mischiefs’ daily ‘to Men and Cattle’ [i.e., horses], the ‘Quantity of Filth . . . so great, that Man and Beast, in some Places, can hardly wade through it.” See: John Spranger, A Proposal or Plan for an Act of Parliament for the Better Paving, Lighting, Cleansing…of the City and Liberty of Westminster, 1754.
Spranger’s call was picked up by reformer and philanthropist Jonas Hanway (the first Londoner to carry an umbrella, and who was much mocked by cartoonists for doing so). In a biography of Hanway it was said that: “It is not easy to convey to a person who has not seen the streets of this metropolis, before they were uniformly paved, a tolerable idea of their inconvenience and unseemliness. The carriageways were full of cavities, which harboured water and filth . . . The footpaths were universally incommoded, even where they were so narrow as only to admit of one person passing at a time, by a row of posts set on edge next the carriage way.” See: John Pugh, Remarkable Occurrences in the Life of Jonas Hanway, London, 1787.
Hanway’s promptings led to the Westminster Paving Act of 1762 which saw the improvement of streets west of Temple Bar. Responsibility for the roads and footpaths in front of houses (house-owners were “frontagers”) was switched to paving commissioners. Carriageways were leveled, sidewalks were raised above the level of the carriageway and paved with Aberdeen granite. Street lights and street signs were also erected. Houses were numbered. Sidewalk posts were plucked out. The cost for these improvements fell on a levy on those householders who benefited from them. See: House of Commons Journal, Vol. 29, pp233-8, March 15, 1762. 2 Geo. III c21 London Streets Act 1762, subsequently explained and enlarged by 3 Geo. III c23, 4 Geo. III c39, 5 Geo. III c50, and 6 Geo. III c54. All via Sidney and Beatrice Webb, English Local Government: Statutory Authorities for Special Purposes, 1922.
Once sidewalks were built it seems that pedestrians preferred them to the bumpy macadamised roads or the rutted earthen roads. Period illustrations show that roads were still treated as areas for pedestrians, and it’s likely that this street-anarchy continued right the way through until the 1920s when cars – finally – pushed pedestrians, and cyclists, aside.
[17] As early as 1595 one-way traffic for carts – Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, December 1880.
[18] The first cycleway in the Netherlands – See: .
[19] This gravel cycle path was created – See: .
[20] “Fietspaden van Weleer,” De Drijhornickels, December 2007, provided and translated by Aad Streng.
[22] In 1898 The Spectator reported that – The Spectator, December 31, 1898.
[23] Later this cycling club hired its own road engineer – Anne-Katrin Ebert, “When cycling gets political. Building cycling paths in Germany and the Netherlands, 1910–40,” The Journal of Transport History, Vol. 33, No. 1, June 2012.
[24] Sociologist Peter Cox has said – Peter Cox, “The Co-Construction of Cycle Use: Reconsidering mass use of the bicycle,” paper presented at Re/Cycling Histories: Users and the Paths to Sustainability in Everyday Life, Rachel Carson Center, Munich, May 27–29, 2011. The Rachel Carson Center is named for the American author of Silent Spring, one of the key eco-awakenings books of the 1960s.
[25] Six years later the bicycle total – Dr. Adri. A. Albert de la Bru­hèze and Frank C.A. Veraart,“Fietsverkeer in praktijk en beleid in de twintigste eeuw” (“Cycle Traffic in Practice and Policy in the Twentieth Century”), in Stichting Historie der Techniek, Hg. Mi­nisterie van Verkeer en Waterstaat, The Hague, 1999.
[26] Cycle historian Kaspar Hanenbergh has said – Kaspar Hanenbergh is a controller at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, based in The Hague. He is a member of Historische Rijwielvereniging de Oude Fiets, the Dutch veteran cycling club. See: Kaspar Hanenbergh and Michiel Röben, Ons Stalen Ros, Nederlandstalig, 2015.
[27] The first was formed in March 1914 in the Gooi and Eemland region – Anne-Katrin Ebert, “When cycling gets political. Building cycling paths in Germany and the Netherlands, 1910–40”, The Journal Of Transport History, Vol. 33, No. 1, June 2012.
[28] The excellence of Dutch bike paths was featured – Radmarkt has been published since 1886, and is still being mailed to the industry today.
[29] In each street there is . . .a specially designed “clinker” pavement– Clinker is a type of Dutch brick – a “clinker pavement” is a brick road.
[30] We have to thank the efforts of the [ANWB] for the – Volker Briese, “From Cycling Lanes to Compulsory Bike Path: Bicycle Path Construction in Germany, 1897–1940,” Proceedings, 5th International Cycle History Conference, 1994.
[31] In 1921, the Times of London noted “the enormous – G. A. Pos, “Cycling. For Business and Pleasure. Ideal Road Conditions”, (London) Times, December 6, 1921.
[32] “That endless, unbroken row of three, four cyclists – “Het verkeer in Amsterdam,” De Telegraaf, April 15, 1922, quoted in Pete Jordan, In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, Harper Collins, 2012.
[33] On main roads cyclists accounted – Bruheze and Veraart, 1999.
[34] This would form an important basis for the ‘survival’ of – Trine Agervig Carstensens and Anne-Katrin Ebert, “Cycling Cultures in Northern Europe: From Golden Age to Renaissance,” in Cycling and Sustainability, ed. John Parkin, Emerald Group, 2012.
[35] “Everyone in Holland cycles,” opined – “Hollanders Keep Roads in Excellent Condition,” quoting from Christian Science Monitor, Bedford Gazette, Pennsylvania, February 22, 1924.
[36] In 1928, an American journalist wrote – “One Land Keeps the Bicycle,” New York Times, July 2, 1928.
[37] “In Holland, this right has remained – “Een Duitscher in de bollenvelden,” De Leidsche Courant, April 28, 1933, quoted in Pete Jordan, In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, Harper Collins, 2012.
[38] I have seen various things in my time – Via Pete Jordan, In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, Harper Collins, 2012.
[39] An American travel journalist writing in 1934 wondered “if there – Travel, June 1934, cited in: David Herlihy, Bicycle, Yale University Books, 2004.
[40] No other country has started earlier with such an elaborat – Algemeen Handelsblad, March 17, 1935; see: .
[41] Letter to William Rees Jeffreys, Chairman, Road Improvement Association, 113 Ashley Garden, Victoria, London SW1, from W.G.C. Gelinck, International Commission for Road Congress, Haarlem, Netherland, November 19th 1935
[42] Progress in Cycle Track Construction. By Dr. Schacht, Germany. ROADS AND ROAD CONSTRUCTION
Vol. XV.- June 1st, 1937
[43] This is the sort of infrastructure that, in the same period, the British government said would be too difficult and too expensive to build for cyclists in England. However, a grade-separated roundabout to aid motorists, and supposedly protect pedestrians, was built in 1939 on the A22 Caterham bypass— the Wapses Lodge roundabout was way ahead of its time, and quite the eyesore today, so it must have looked incredibly alien in 1939. Pedestrians rarely use the underpasses. At the beginnings of the 1960s, a number of similar grade separated roundabouts for pedestrians and cyclists were built in Stevenage — they were modeled on the Berekuil.
[44] The possibility of by-pass roads becoming main thoroughfares, and the further possible necessity of building a by-pass to by-pass the by-pass, was voiced by Mr. W. Gibson Martin, motoring correspondent of The Evening Express, when addressing the Liverpool Soroptimist Club on Tuesday. He maintained that dual carriage ways did make for road safety, and quoted statistics which proved that accidents on such roads had been reduced by 50 per cent. Comparing roads in England with highways in Holland and Germany, he said that in Holland pedal cyclists had roundabouts of their own at cross roads, and these tracks were sunk below the road level. The danger of cycle tracks in England was that where the track reached a cross road all the cyclist traffic converged with the motor traffic. In Germany the new highways diverted traffic away from the main towns, and these roads were reserved purely for motor traffic.

Liverpool Evening Express – Friday 15 December 1939
[45] Auburn Weekly Bulletin, May 15th, 1900.
[46] The New York Times, April 3rd, 1900.
[47] Velocipedes, Bicycles and Tricycles, “Velox”, 1869.
[48] Minneapolis Tribune, April 20th, 1896.
[49] Edinburgh Evening News, 24th December, 1895.
[50] Wheels on Ice: Bicycling in Alaska, 1898-1908, Terrence Cole, Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, January, 1985.
[51] “There is nothing visionary about the plan,” said [Charles H. Brinkerhoff Jr.], when asked to give publicity to his ideas on the subject of a Klondike bicycle track. “On the contrary, it is the only correct solution of the problem of how to bring the gold of the Yukon within the reach of all. It isn’t every one who can afford to pay the price of a passage to the Klondike by the expensive routes at present in use, but nearly everyone owns a bicycle nowadays, and when my track is completed the trip to the gold district will be brought down to two or three weeks from the nearest American city.
“To go into details, I may say that the plan provides for a roadway, lightly constructed of steel, clamped to the sides of the mountains where it is not possible to arrange for a roadbed on a flat surface, and put together in the strongest manner known to modern builders. The roadway will be fashioned according to mathematical principles, so as to make the journey as easy for the bicyclists as is compatible with such a rough mountain trip. When it is possible, steep up-grades will be avoided, and the entire road so arranged that the mountain climbing will be done almost without the bicyclist being aware of any uphill work. When the nature of the ground renders it impossible to avoid a steep ascent, I shall compensate the climber for his toil by providing a down-grade run, so that he can recover his strength by coasting. The structure will be absolutely safe, for it will rest on steel supports cemented into the solid rock and capable of bearing a strain of ten times as great as that it will be subject to as a bicycle track. The erection of the track will be an easy matter, for I hope to have the route carefully surveyed, and the girders, supports, etc., made to fit, so that the only thing necessary when the work is ready to begin will be for the workmen to fit the sections together, bolt the girders and supports firmly and attach them securely to the rocky foundation.

I have to work out many difficult problems, but capitalists to whom I have submitted the idea are so much impressed with its feasibility that this much is certain – the road will be built. When finished, it will be the greatest bicycle roadway in the world, and I claim that it will not only bring the Yukon within the reach of all who own a wheel, but will be the means of lowering the death rate in Alaska by providing a route to the gold district that will be safe from the terrible hardships under which so many have succumbed in the past.” The Saint Paul Globe, November 28th, 1897.
[52] Genesee Daily News, New York State, April 18th, 1900.
[53] L.A.W. Bulletin and Good Roads, December 20th, 1895.
[54] The New York Times, January 1st, 1896.
[55] The New York Times, January 5th, 1896.
[56] “Gossip of the Cyclers,” The New York Times, April 11th, 1897.
[57] The New York Times, January 12th, 1896.
[58] The New York Times, May 22nd, 1895.
[59] Michigan Farmer, August 23rd, 1890.
[60] Cycle paths: a practical hand-book, containing the best available information to guide members of the League of American Wheelmen and others in placing in substantial form their PROTEST AGAINST BAD ROADS by the construction and maintenance of those temporary blessings known as cycle paths, Isaac B Potter, League of American Wheelmen, 1898.
[61] “Side Paths vs. Roads,” LAW Bulletin, 24, 1896.
[62] Charles Raymond. Good Roads, November, 1894.
[63] “Getting Good Roads by Sample,” Sterling Elliott, Good Roads, May, 1894.
[64] “Object Lesson Roads,” Logan W. Page, *Yearbook for 1906, US Dept of Agriculture, 1906. The ORI’s first “object lesson road” was built at the International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, 1895. By 1905, 96 short object lessons had been built.
[65] The New York Times, June 28th, 1896.
[66] In 1906, the Good Roads Association of Brooklyn, which had been founded by cyclists, had $650 in the bank, money which had been originally raised for the upkeep of the Coney Island Cycle Path. The organisation – and its cash – was absorbed by the Long Island Automobile Club. Reporting on the takeover, a news story in The New York Times was headlined “Funds For Cycle Paths Diverted to Auto Work.”⁠ The New York Times, November 16th, 1906.
[67] The New York Times, December 25th, 1894.
[68] Referee, November 1895.
[69] The New York Times, March 10th, 1896.
[70] In 1891, he was secretary and treasurer for Jackson Lumber of Lockport, NY, a pulp mill company. The New York Times, May 28th, 1891.
[71] Good Roads, November, 1894.
[72] Sidepaths, February, 1901.
[73] Lockport Daily Journal, May 13th, 1898.
[74] Sidepaths, February, 1901.
[75] The Evening News, North Tonawanda, New York State, December 23rd, 1896.
[76] Rochester Post Express, April 20th, 1896.
[77] Greene, The Highway Law, 246; Ryan v. Preston, 10 N.Y. Ann. Cas. 5. (N.Y.S. 1901).Greene, The Highway Law, 246; Ryan v. Preston, 10 N.Y. Ann. Cas. 5. (N.Y.S. 1901). Via “The Sidepath Not Taken: Bicycles, Taxes, and the Rhetoric of the Public Good in the 1890s”, James Longhurst, Journal of Policy History, 25, 2013.
[78] “Roads for Cyclists,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 24th, 1895.
[79] Annual Report of the City Engineer of Minneapolis (Minneapolis: Harrison and Smith, 1897). “The Cycle Paths of St. Paul,” LAW Bulletin and Good Roads Magazine, September 30th, 1898.
[80] Central Point American, Central Point, Oregon, September 1st, 1949.
[81] Democratic Times, Jacksonville, March 7th, 1901.
[82] Chicago Daily Tribune, January 28th, 1900.
[83] In those states that did have taxation mechanisms in place “abutters” – those with land by the road – paid a “road tax” of from one-tenth to one-third of the total cost of improvements.
[84] Central Point American, Central Point, Oregon, September 1st, 1949
[85] 1956 Highway Trust Fund. “Fueling the Boom: Gasoline Taxes, Invisibility, and the Growth of the American Highway Infrastructure, 1919–1956,” Journal of American History 99, no. 1, 2012.
[86] John G. Ryan. L.A.W. Bulletin, July, 1900.
[87] The third case was in Pennsylvania.
[88] L.A.W. Bulletin, July, 1900. Cycle paths were “not [to] be less than three feet or more than six feet wide … and shall be constructed within the outside lines and along and upon either side of … public roads and streets.”⁠ Greene, The Highway Law, 246; Ryan v. Preston, 10 N.Y. Ann. Cas. 5. (N.Y.S. 1901).
[89] “The Sidepath Not Taken: Bicycles, Taxes, and the Rhetoric of the Public Good in the 1890s”, James Longhurst, Journal of Policy History, 25, 2013.
[90] Act of March 6, 1899, ch. 31, 1899 Wash. Laws 41; People v. Bruce, 23 Wash. 777 (Wash. 1901); cf. “Washington Tax Law Illegal,” Chicago Legal News, 34, no. 56, 1901.
[91] “The Sidepath Not Taken: Bicycles, Taxes, and the Rhetoric of the Public Good in the 1890s”, James Longhurst, Journal of Policy History, 25, 2013. Paying for the use of the highway – even if it was an improved sliver of highway – was never popular. “The public thoroughfares are public property, and their use should be free and unrestricted,” wrote the editor of the St. Paul Globe in 1900: “If it is proposed to tax the owners of bicycles, that is another proposition; but to exclude them from the use of the cycle paths because they have not paid a fee is clearly unjust discrimination and against all true public policy … as long as our streets are not private property, we hope never to see laws which prohibit the use of public roads for any group.⁠ St. Paul Globe, April 7th, 1900. Collection of user fees was also difficult. A cycle path connecting Los Angeles with Santa Monica was paid for with the voluntary sale of “buttons” and 300 of these lapel badges were sold. But, complained the Los Angeles Herald in 1900, “it seems so very strange that in a riding community, such as Los Angeles, with its 30,000 wheelmen, there should be only 300 who take sufficient interest in the improving of the country roads.”⁠ The sale of such buttons was hampered by the fact that the cycle path was open to use by all. Los Angeles Herald, June 10th, 1900.
[92] Arroyo Seco means “dry stream”.
[93] Los Angeles Herald, July 24th, 1898.
[94] Los Angeles Herald, November 20th, 1896.
[95] Scientific American, May 13th, 1899.
[97] Independent Star-News, Pasadena, 23rd November, 1958.
[98] Pasadena Daily Star, 10th August, 1900.
[99] Los Angeles Herald, July 24th, 1898.
[100] “California’s Great Cycle-Way”, T. D. Denham, Pearson’s Magazine, September, 1901.
[101] Pasadena, California: Historical and Personal, J. W. Wood, self-published, 1917.
[103] San Francisco Chronicle, 10th September, 1899.
[104] Pasadena Daily Evening Star, 15th November, 1899.
[105] South Pasadena’s Raymond Hotel, Rick Thomas, Arardia Publishing, San Francisco, 2008.
[106] “California’s Great Cycle-Way”, T. D. Denham, Pearson’s Magazine, September, 1901. How Los Angeles and Pasadena are Connected by a Magnificent Elevated Cycle-track, Nine Miles in Length, Entirely Devoted to Wheeling, Running through Some of the Most Beautiful Country in the States, and Forming One of the Most Perfect Cycle-ways in the World.
[107] “California’s Great Cycle-Way”, T. D. Denham, Pearson’s Magazine, September, 1901.
[108] El Paso Herald, 4th October, 1901. This is just one example of many newspapers which based their articles on the California Cycleway on the Pearson’s Magazine piece.
[109] Los Angeles Herald, January 26th, 1906.
[110] Pasadena Daily News, 11th March, 1901.
[111] Los Angeles Times, October 7th, 1900.
[112] Pasadena Daily News, June 6th, 1906.
[113] Los Angeles Herald, October 23rd, 1907.
[114] Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming, Gale E. Christianson, 1999.
[117] Pasadena Star News, August 22nd, 2005.
[118] Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian, January 2nd, 2014.
[119] CYCLE PATHS ON THE PUBLIC ROADS. St. Andrews Citizen. 9th March 1901.
[120] St James’s Gazette, 25 February 1901.
[121] Bulletin des cyclotouristes, monthly magazine of the Touring-Club de France., October 1st 1938.
[122] *Birmingham Daily Gazette*, 22 April 1936.
[123] Bulletin des cyclotouristes, monthly magazine of the Touring-Club de France., October 1st 1938.
[124] Emanuel, Martin. “Constructing the cyclist: Ideology and representations in urban traffic planning in Stockholm, 1930-70.” The Journal of Transport History, vol. 33, no. 1, June 2012, pp. 67+. Gale Academic OneFile,
[125] Regionplan för Stockholm med omnejd, huvudsakligen anseende förortsområdet (Stockholm: Stockholmsförorternas regionplaneförbund, 1936. Quoted in Emanuel, Martin. (2012). Constructing the Cyclist Ideology and Representations in Urban Traffic Planning in Stockholm, 1930–70. The Journal of Transport History.
[126] Bulletin des cyclotouristes, monthly magazine of the Touring-Club de France., October 1st 1938.
[127] TAC’s Draft report “Accidents to cyclists,” 11th February 1938. MT43/72 National Archives.
[128] Bulletin des cyclotouristes, monthly magazine of the Touring-Club de France., October 1st 1938.
[129] STUFA – Studiengesellschaft für Auto-mobilstraßenbau – was a private research association.
[130] Bulletin des cyclotouristes, monthly magazine of the Touring-Club de France., October 1st 1938.
[131] “Road Traffic Regulation of the Reich” (Reichs-Strassen-Verkehrs-Ordnung ), introduced on October 1st, 1934, restricted the highway rights of cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians: “Where a road is assigned to a particular type of traffic (Footpaths, Cycle Track, Bridle paths), then this traffic is restricted to that part of the road assigned to it.” The later Radwegebenutzungspflicht was stricter, forcing cyclists to use the inferior cycle paths.
“From Cycling Lanes to Compulsory Bike Path: Bicycle Path Construction in Germany, 1897-1940,” Volker Briese, *Proceedings, 5th International Cycle History Conference, 1994. Also: “Cycle track construction before the second world war – back to the future”, Radmarkt, May, 1993. “Cycle tracks, Opium for the cyclist,” Radfahren, January, 1994. “Cycle tracks. Automobile associations determine bicycle policy,”, Radfahren, February 1994. All Prof. Dr. Volker Briese.
[132] While much of the impetus behind the creation of bicycle paths was totalitarian and done in order to get cyclists off roads so cars could go faster there were also plans to include walking and bicycle networks in “New Towns”. Many of the former residents of these towns wouldn’t have had any say in these plans: they were either dead or had been carted off to concentration camps. Heinrich Himmler’s Planning and Design of the Cities in the Annexed East (Allgemeine Anordnung No. 13/II) of 1942 included bicycle path networks. This plan from the SS leader was meant to raze those Polish cities deemed to be Russian in nature and adapt those deemed to be Germanic.
[133] Opposition to the Nazi regime was quelled through road building, believe many academics. The successful creation of major highways showed how the Nazi party had organisational skills compared to the weak and incompetent Weimar Republic. In those regions where autobahns were constructed, opposition to the Nazi regime reduced significantly. Highway to Hitler, Nico Voigtländer and Hans-Joachim Voth, Center of Economics in Society; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), May 2014.
[134] Letter from Dr Schacht, Reichsgemeinschaft fur Radfahrwegebau, 17th August 1935 to Cook
[135] Letter to Schacht, 2 September 1935
Vol. XV.- June 1st, 1937
[137] Novelist Flora Thompson described how England’s macadamised turnpikes, once heaving, became
“deserted for hours together. And in his 1887 novel The Woodlanders Thomas Hardy described the “tomb-like stillness” of these formerly busy main roads. Hardy appreciated the solitude on these deserted highways. He and his wife Emma would ride for many miles on the quiet turnpikes of Dorset. When he rode with others, it was with fellow novelists such as Rudyard Kipling. Both cycled
sedately. There would have been little else on the roads other than fellow cyclists.
[138] The Rambler, December 18th, 1897.
[139] Seven years after this lecture, Wolfe-Barry was in a position to influence policy: he was appointed as consultant engineer to the Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the means of locomotion and transport in London. Bicycles didn’t get a single mention in the report from this committee despite hearing from witnesses from the Cyclists’ Touring Club and the National Cyclists’ Union. (Motorcars weren’t mentioned much either, the report focussed instead on horse-pulled hackney carriages, trams and omnibuses). Segregation of traffic was not advocated in the report.
[140] The Sketch, March 8 1899.

Note the early use of the word “cycle-way.” Eric Claxton, designer of Stevenage’s cycleway network in the 1950s, always used the word “cycleways” for his separated cycling infrastructure. Claxton’s grand-daughter Joanna Brown told me he was very proud of his cycleways and insisted on calling them that: “I remember as a child being pulled up for using the wrong term and being told ‘paths are for pedestrians, tracks are for horses, I built cycleways.’”
[141] Balfour was writing to the Warden of the Browning Settlement in Camberwell on the subject of homes for workers.

“What I am anxious people should bear in mind is that trams, railways, and ‘tubes’ by no means exhaust the catalogue of possible improvements in transit; indeed, I am not sure that they are the means of communication for relatively short distances which some years hence will find most favour. What I should like to see carefully thought out by competent authorities would be a system of radiating thoroughfares, confined to rapid (say, fifteen miles an hour or over) traffic (that is absolutely essential), and with a surface designed, not for carts or horses, but for some form of auto-car propulsion. If the local authority which designed and carried out such a system chose to run public autocars along them, well and good. But this would not be necessary, and private enterprise would probably in time do all that was wanted. In such a thoroughfare there would be none of the monopoly inseparable from trams, the number of people carried could be much larger, the speed much greater, the power of taking them from door to door unique, while there would be none of the friction now caused when the owners of the tram lines break up the public streets. It may be urged-and, perhaps, with truth-that at present the auto-car industry has not devised an absolutely satisfactory vehicle; but we are, I believe, so near it that the delay ought not to be material.”
“It is, of course, obvious,” he continued, “that the present difficulty of locomotion in our streets is almost entirely due to want of differentiation in the traffic. We act as the owners of a railway would act if they allowed luggage trains, express trains, and horse-drawn trams to run upon one pair of rails. The radiating causeways, as I conceive them, would be entirely free from this difficulty. Neither the traffic of cross streets, nor foot passengers, nor slow-going carts and vehicles would be permitted to interfere with the equable running of fast cars. There would be no danger and no block; and as the causeway would be connected at intervals with the ordinary road and street system of the district, and would melt into that system at either end, every village in which there were enough residents who had to be in London at a fixed hour every day could have a motor of its own. It might be well worth a manufacturer’s while, I should suppose, to lodge his workpeople out of London, and to run them to and from his works.
[142] Until quite recently the great roads leading out of and into London were practically forgotten. They were also, to some extent, disused, which accounts for the encroachments and obstacles which have grown up, and prevent their being widened. The period of disuse covered the interval the total absorption of the old waggon transport from the country by the railways and of the coach traffic by the passenger trains, and the growth of greater London. The latter has covered these roads with an enormous and ever-increasing waggon and van traffic, taking goods out of London and from the railways to the suburban houses and shops. Thousands of brewers’ vans are daily carrying beer to the suburban “publics” and blocking the roads while passing and unloading, coal waggons are delivering suburban coal; railway lorries, Carter Paterson’s carts, meat vans, and flour vans, and retail tradesmen’s carts, with the omnibus traffic, and the growing motor traffic, make the entrances to London by road as congested those by rail. Travellers by motor or persons driving in pleasure-carriages find that at certain times in the day it is a matter of difficulty, and even of danger, to leave London at all certain roads. No one ever tries to drive into the City now from the east, south, or north, though fifty years ago rich merchant with a taste for horses would drive his phaeton and pair, or even coach and four, from Denmark Hill or Clapham or Chislehurst to town daily. But a drive from the Old Kentroad or eastwards is almost impossible. The Great North Road by Edgware still remains open, and also those across the hills on the Surrey side of the river; but there the steep hills Putney and Richmond have Always been, and will remain, obstacle.

In order to raise the blockade it is pretty clear that we must not look lo the railways. They are full up to their limit. You cannot widen the lines where they enter London except at a prohibitive cost; and even if this were done the present termini are not uniformly well situated. Tubes, the panacea of the moment, are too expensive also, they will probably answer for passenger traffic only, inside the outer circle. But they are not a means of rapid transport, and they do not carry any goods. Rapid transport of goods is one of the benefits promised by motor-cars, and denied by “tubes.” At present in London the Greater as well as in London the Less, there is no rapid transport of goods either below or above ground. Turn we then to the roads. Shall they be widened, with special tracks for horse-and-cart traffic, for foot passengers, for bicycles and for motors? That is what seems possible to many students of the problem, and, given space or the money to command it, it would involve less effort of mind and less interference with set ideas than any other course. Even if there were no congestion on the main road, the present muddle of vehicles could not be allowed go on. The slowest set the pace for the rest. Costly motor-cars have wait for beer-drays, and muck-waggons to get clear, speedy cyclists creep despondingly behind omnibus steps, a first rate carriage and pair has to conform to the pace of the tradesman’s van. In Holland a light railroad, a cycle track, a foot pavement, a carriage road, and a canal may all be seen running side by side. In American cities and in Sydney the cycle has its asphalted separate course. Here, outside the London area, it would be possible to have quadruple roads, for horse, steam, cycle, and foot traffic, in which each could have free play. Where the New Roads should be Made. We do not know what was the cost per mile of widening the streets Paris, and of making new streets, in the days of Napoleon III. That was a far greater achievement than such an adjustment of the ten or twelve main arteries leading into London from outside. But as all the largest and most expensive buildings form along these great arteries, it is probable that it would be cheaper, to make new and special roads for motor and cycle traffic only, as Mr. Balfour suggests, and regulated entirely with that object, leaving the present main roads for general traffic as at present, lightened the natural diversion of all the future motor-cars, heavy and light, to the special routes. Inside London these new motor-roads could be carried along the back streets, where small gardens, back-yards, and cottages could be bought up cheaply, comparer! with the highly-rented frontages which would have to be taken over if the main roads were widened. Leading to these new roads would have to be connected with the main roads by loops. A survey of a good map of London shows there are various enclaves of unoccupied and unencumbered ground through which these could be brought to distances surprisingly near the centre of London. Fields and open land reach from the north-west, through the open space of Wormwood Scrubs, to within two miles from Paddington and a mile from Holland Park. A loop road could be made through fields and gardens from Hounslow, behind Brentford, missing the long, contracted “gut” of Brentford, and coming in through Gunnersbury, and so the back of Hammersmith, through ground mainly unoccupied or covered with small gardens, to the Tube at Shepherd’s Bush. Meadows still run into greater London from the north at Kilbrn and Tottenham, and on the south at Wandsworth and Barnes. When the motor and cycle roads have been conducted through this new ground to the fringe of the solid bricks and mortar, they might be taken the line of least resistance—that is, least expenditure—as near to the heart of the City the resources employed would admit.

Quoted from The Spectator in St James’s Gazette – Monday 25 February 1901
[143] The Evening Post, Dundee, 26th July, 1900.
[144] Proposed Public Cycle Track for Barrow. —At a meeting of the Barrow Town Council on Monday afternoon the Highways and Lighting Committee submitted for approval suggestion from the surveyor to lay an asphalt bicycle track 4 feet in width each side of Abbey-road, extending from Suke-street to Crossland, a distance of nearly two miles. Councillor Dawson moved that be referred back for further consideration.—Councillor Thompson seconded.—The motion was agreed to,

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Saturday 06 October 1900
[145] 1933 OS map shows the tramway along Abbey Road.
[146] A RELIEF MOTOR-ROAD: AT WORK ON THE NEW HIGHWAY BETWEEN THORNTON HEATH AND PURLEY. The road is designed to relieve the dangerously congested traffic of Croydon and neighbourhood. It will have two tracks—- one for motors and the other for cycles.

Illustrated London News – Saturday 10 January 1920
[147] Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin review; and Forfar and Kincardineshire advertiser, 18 August 1922.
[148] A meeting of the South-West Kent Joint Town Planning Committee was held at Tonbridge Castle on Tuesday afternoon, Major G.E.S. Streatfeild (Chairman) presiding

CYCLE TRACKS. Mr. DAVIDGE (regional planning expert) said he thought it was desirable to consider was the provision of definite tracks for cyclists. At the present moment it was only safe to cycle very early the morning, and with a little expenditure they could make or preseerve several tracks which would make cycling easy avoiding the busy roads, and even leaving the line of the main roads. Very often footpaths or old bridle road could easily converted into a six-foot track. It was done largely on the Continent, many parts Germany and Holland, where there were charming little tracks which wound along, often through woods, and amid pleasant scenery. The CHAIRMAN said there was a very large public which used push cycles, and thought it was a wise suggestion.

Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser – Friday 13 November 1925
[149] The Times, Apr 12, 1926.
[150] Thomas Hunt, of West Bridgford, Nottigham, a representative for Sturmey-Archer Gears Led wrote to Colonel Wilfird Ashley of Ministry fo Transport on Dec 8 1926 suggesting something that was “being talked about by certain London cycle agents and riders.”

In the present circumstance of congested traffic and the increasing danger of pedal cycling small “gantry tracks” might be constructed and reserved for pedal cyclists (and to the exclusion even of pedestrians)

A mile of track 12ft wide will carry 3,000 pedal cyclists. At 12 miles per hour, 36,000 cyclists may pass in one hour.

Letter sent to Minister of Transport by Thos F. Hunt, Sturmey-Archer Gears Ltd., Nottingham, December 8th, 1926.
[151] March, 1927.

I am directed by the Minister of Transport to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 24th instant in which you advocate the construction of special paths for cyclists along all public highways, and to inform you that the Minister does not see his way to take the initiative with reference to the suggestions which you have been good enough to make.
I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,
(Sgd.) C. H. BRESSEY.
Chief Engineer.

Reply to letter sent December 8th, 1926 to Minister of Transport by Thos F. Hunt, Sturmey-Archer Gears Ltd., by C. H. Bressey, chief engineer, Ministry of Transport, December 13th, 1926
[152] Wright Miller, Esq., 1, Galen Road, Putney, S.W.15.

24th March 1927
[153] Cottenham is now largely forgotten but his ideas live on in the safe driving programme that would later evolve into the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ “advanced driving course.”

As I’ve written about in Roads Were Not Built for Cars, the worlds of motoring and cycling were once joined at the hip, and while the connection had been all but severed by the end of the 1930s there were still interactions between key individuals in the middle of the decade. And one of the motoring characters who cycling officials often turned to was the Earl of Cottenham.

In 1935 he was asked to start a relay of 500 riders organised by the Cyclists’ Touring Club. This CTC Royal Silver Jubilee Relay Ride was a suck-up to King George, and started at London’s Mansion House on Easter Monday of that year.

The Earl of Cottenham dropped the Union Jack to start a ride by an organisation that was bitterly opposed to cycle tracks (partly because it might deprive cyclists of the use of the King’s Highway, but also because the first cycle track was so badly built).

Cottenham was chairman of an exclusive motoring club. He led the Order of the Road between 1928 to 1933. This was a chivalrous motoring association (still going strong in the 1950s) that promoted safe driving. Its first commandment was: “To give first consideration to all drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and other road users when driving on any public highway.”

An article in the Leeds Mercury in 1928, describing the organisation’s foundation and possibly penned by Cottenham, stated that “the Order does not … desire to include all motoring sheep in its fold. It appeals solely to the good sheep, and will in fact take every conceivable precaution to prevent any of the black variety from becoming members. In order to join, the motorist has to be qualified in several respects. First of all he must have driven a car for a greater distance than ten thousand miles during the past three years, and during that period he must prove to the satisfaction of the committee that he has neither been responsible for a serious accident nor been convicted of driving to the danger of the public.”

Such was the presumed deference of those days the Order of the Road’s committee was said to be comprised of “individuals of such high standing that their verdict one way or the other is never likely to be questioned.”

One such individual was Colonel J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon, a Tory MP and vice-chair of the Automobile Club (he later became the 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara). In 1940 he was made Winston Churchill’s Minister for Transport and in that role signed off on a number of protected cycle tracks.

While you’d think his earlier executive role with the Order of the Road marked him out as a particular careful motorist this is unlikely. Like others, then and now, he liked to drive fast. Chivalrous motorists weren’t expected to be slow ones. Non-motorised road users were expected to get out of the way of the motorised ones. Talking in the 1930s about the early 1900s, Moore-Brabazon told the House of Commons:

“It is no use getting alarmed over [deaths on the roads]. Over 6,000 people commit suicide every year, but nobody makes a fuss about that. It is true that 7,000 people are killed in motor accidents, but it is not always going on like that. People are getting used to the new conditions …

“No doubt many of the older Members of the House will recollect the numbers of chicken’s that we killed in the early days. We used to come back with the radiator stuffed with feathers. It was the same with dogs. Dogs get out of the way of motor cars nowadays, and you never kill one. There is education even in the lower animals. These things will right themselves. It may well be that we have got to the peak of road accidents, and that, even within a year or two, people will realise the extreme change that has come over our life, and that very much greater care must be taken.”

With “safe” drivers like Moore-Brabazon about it’s no wonder there were so many road deaths in the 1930s. And reducing cyclist casualties was one of the key motivations behind the creation of Britain’s long-forgotten cycle track network.
Thanks to Len Woodman and Fiona Campbell of Sydney, Australia, for sending information on The Steering-Wheel Papers.
[154] Northern Whig, 27 October 1928
[155] Proposed New By-Pass Road At Esher. The Times, 11 Oct. 1928.
[156] Gloucester Citizen – Friday 26 April 1929
[157] Daily Herald – Friday 10 May 1929
[158] Essex Newsman – Saturday 27 April 1929
[159] “When you get to the built-up area, which is all houses and all crossings, then you get to a place where the unexpected usually happens. It is there that you get the child who has been playing on the pavement suddenly running on to the middle of the road. It is there that the errand-boy comes round on his bicycle with both hands crossed in front of him. It is there that the pedestrian with an umbrella over her face suddenly walks on to the middle of the road. If you are going at 20 or 30mph, with your vehicle under control, there is a chance that you will be able to save those people from the consequences of their own mistake. But if you are going at 50 or 60mph they are dead. It is not a question of dangerous driving on the part of the motorist…
“The 20mph speed limit failed because it did not commend itself to reasonable people, but I do not believe that reasonable people will think it a great deprivation to be restricted to a speed of 30mph in these built-up areas while in the open country they are allowed to go at the speed which they consider to be safe.”
Road Traffic Bill
10 April 1934
HC Deb 30 November 1933