From Inventing Green, where WIRED writer Alexis Madrigal is blogging his research notes for a forthcoming book The History of Our Future, a discussion of how bicycling may have given the internal combustion engine an early leg up in its competition against steam and electric-powered automobiles (and eventually made the roads unsafe for bicycling). Here is the start:
The bicycle, quite literally, paved the road for automobiles. The explosive popularity of the human-powered, two-wheeled vehicle sparked road construction across the Western world’s cities. The League of American Wheelmen was a major vector for the political will necessary to build better roads with more than one million members (out of a mere 75 million people) at its peak. Sure they engaged in silliness like racing and bicycle polo (!) but at heart, the group was a potent, progressive social force that inadvertently helped bring about its own end by getting roads paved, thus making long distance “touring” possible in automobiles.
Later in the post Madrigal passes along a selection from the League of American Wheelman’s pro-pavement propaganda, The Gospel of Good Roads, in which, as he puts it, “the state of American roads is compared, through a long and hilarious anecdote, to a drunk-ass husband.”
Recently Madrigal has blogged windmill catalogs and the dangers of steamboat travel, explored the work of 19th-century utopian John Adolphus Etzler, reported on just how many buggy whip makers there used to be in Louisville, Kentucky, and tossed a shout out to the American Wind Power Center and Museum.
Fabulous images accompany many of the posts.