The Early Days of Cycling in Chicago
In 2014 Chicago was declared the second best city for biking, and in 2018 it dropped to number 6. Big changes in 4 years, so imagine what changes occurred in Chicago cycling from the turn of the last century to today! According to Chris McAuliffe, author of Cycling in Chicago, who spoke at the Nov. 13 meeting at Earth Rider, Chicago was a cycling powerhouse at the end of the 19th century.
First there was the manufacturing. More than two-thirds of all bikes manufactured in the United States were made in Chicago. It's prominence was due to its Midwest location, railroads, 2,000 miles of paved roads, a industrial and manufacturing base including over 90 bicycle manufacturers, and the entrepreneurial spirit rising from the rebuilding of the city following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Then there was the culture. Migration to the mass production model resulted in the cost of a bicycle coming down transforming cycling from a sport of the well to do to one accessible to the working class. There were 54 cycling clubs representing 10,000 members. Besides recreational riding numerous road racing and criterium races sprung up of interested not only contenders, but spectators. The first world championships were hosted in Chicago to coincide with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Then there were the personalities.
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