Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Complete Streets" in 1905??

On the local WashCycle blog, I recently bumped into this new item video. I was only a little surprised to find that in it, as an example of "complete streets" from over 100 years ago, they use video footage from an American Memory collection.

At about 22 seconds the American Memory footage from 1905 starts, ending at about 40 seconds

The piece is about a town in England where they are implementing a different kind of traffic control approach, in effect reducing barriers between different types of transportation modes, including motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. They support this approach (in small part) with American Memory footage taken from "A trip down Market Street before the fire". This is an unusual set of short films created while driving down Market Street in San Francisco in 1905, before the Great Fire of 1906. It is considered valuable documentation of what the street looked like at that time.

Screenshot from American Memory
A number of bicycles are shown riding along with the cars, horses, street cars, and pedestrians

The annotation in the LC record and the statements in the video by the British urban planners reflect different analysis of the 1905 footage. In the annotated American Memory record it states that: "The near total lack of traffic control along Market Street emphasizes the newness of the automobile. Granite paving stripes in the street marking ignored pedestrian crosswalks, making the crossing of Market Street on foot a risky venture." The British urban planners, however, regard this as the "natural order" of things that has been ruined by stoplights and that stoplights (etc) only appeared "in the last 50 or 60 years" - in order to "segrate traffic from other aspects of life."

And, as I noted, they do not identify the source of their film clip, or that fact that it was clearly orchestrated (the cars, for example, have been observed to be the same cars over and over again, apparently driving around the block and getting back into view of the filming camera to make it appear there were more cars in the city than there actually were) and likely nothing like the natural state of SF traffic at the time. The kid on the bicycle shown above, for example, looks back to regard with interest the camera shooting the film that now includes him.

Full version of the film done in 1905, originally in three parts

Bicycles appear with some frequency; the riders seem fearless as they operate near the street car.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Capital Bikeshare Adds Shirlington (VA) Station Today

New Capital Bikeshare station in Shirlington
Not there this morning, there during evening commute

This is about a mile from my house, which is closer than I thought Bikeshare would be getting at this point. I haven't been able to think up a case where this would be helpful or useful but intuitively it seems like a good thing that there is one here. There is one right near my office on Capitol Hill. Who knows ~~~

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"A [Bicycle] Road Race in Japan" - 1896

From Referee & Cycle Trade Journal for March 12, 1896. May of the articles about cycling in foreign countries in this publication reflect the interest of some of the readership in the potential for selling American bicycles abroad but there is also something of a human interest angle evident as well. This article says nothing useful about the possibilities for selling American bikes in Japan but at least describes their being raced there - all the bicycles used in the race described were American. It isn't clear, but if all the riders were not also American, they were at least not Japanese. (In fact, the only Japanese aspects of the race were the locale and the prizes, "all beautifully made and artistically modeled in the best native styles."

I have included here the entire text of the article as published and both illustrations. The text includes some interesting details, such as the "gear" of the bicycles, a number representing the "gear inches" of each, since each bike was a fixed gear bicycle (with only one gear available as ridden). The weights of the riders are also given, and while several of the riders were 150 pounds or less, the winner was surprisingly heavy at 176.

The article is amusingly evangelistic about the different American brands in use by the riders.

Bicycle road race in Japan


Interesting Account in a Letter from Yokohama—Won on a Rambler.

The following very interesting account of a road race in Japan is taken from a letter to the Gormully & Jeffery Manufacturing Company from Mr. MacArthur, of H. MacArthur & Co., Rambler agents at Yokohama. For the accompanying cuts the Referee is also indebted to the courtesy of the Chicago company. The letter is dated at Yokohama, Feb. 11, and reads in part as follows:
"We advised you not long ago that on the 1st of this month, weather permitting, the first road race, properly organized, ever run in the neighborhood would take place, the course being from Yokohama to Kodza, starting outside the city, a distance of thirty-two miles. February 1 happened to be election day for this prefect, and the police authorities, desiring to do all that was possible to help on the race, desired us to select another day, rather than hamper them with too much responsibility on such a busy day. We, of course, postponed the race, and had it rather on the 8th, Saturday last.

"There were nine competitors, rather we should say entrants, two dropping out, while a third fell out of rank on the morning of the race. The weather was perfect, and the men lined up well. We enclose photo showing the starters. Beginning from the left of the picture, the starters are: H. F. Arthur, on a Dayton, gear 68, rider weighing 162 pounds; E. Adet, on a Rambler, gear 66, rider weighing 176 pounds; H. A. Poole, on a Columbia, gear 70, rider weighing 150 pounds; J. M. Scott, on a Dayton, gear 68, rider weighing 140 pounds; L. W. Eyton, on a Rambler, gear 63, rider weighing 138 pounds. One young fellow, S. S. Kuhn, had been by general consent of the riders allowed five minutes start, and does not appear in the picture. He rode a Crescent. This youngster made remarkably good use of his allowance, and was only collared at Totsuka, about nine miles on his journey, by Adet. Kuhn was rather pumped, but Adet was going freely and strong.

"Arthur got rather the better of the start, but Scott shot ahead in a few yards and Eyton was close on his heels. A mile out Arthur's chain snapped, and he was at once out of the race.

Japan Race Winner 1896

Adet had the worst of the start, but at the first hill pulled up on the others and at Totsuka collared the allowance man, and from then seemed to be having it all his own way, riding freely and increasing his lead, till he had ill luck to collide with a native cart on a small bridge, twenty miles out, the driver of which in his excitement and fear of death from the flying wheel carefully swung the cart across, entirely blocking the bridge. Poor Adet got the buttress at full speed, with the very natural result of a front wheel smashed and the chagrin of knowing that he was no longer in the race. Eight minutes later the advance man was up to him, and in another three Eyton passed still going well and stronger than ever. From this on the race was Eyton's, who won as he liked in 1:58. Kuhn came in at 11:03:15, and Poole took third place, coming in at 11:13.

"Eyton had a serious fall at Totsuka, colliding with the ubiquitous cart and twisting his handlebars. Jamming these against a tree, he got them straight and remounted, never observing that in doing so he bad reversed his front wheel. The whole thing had turned in the bearing, and he continued his ride and won his race, serenely unconscious that aught was amiss with his wheel. A bystander, an expert in wheels, seeing the machine at the finish, declared that it had undergone the severest test a wheel could be put to, and come out unscathed. Formerly he had fancied other wheels, but this experience converted him. This makes the second race this identical wheel has won—there have only been two—the other being two miles on the track, when it had to compete against Columbias and other wheels of 70 gear and over. Adet rode it on that occasion, and won a handsome bronze medal, given by us, as first prize. The prizes on this last race deserve a word or two. The first was a gold medal, value $25, the second a silver, and the third a bronze; all beautifully made and artistically modeled in the best native styles."

It is worthy of note that all the wheels ridden in this race were of American make, there being two Ramblers, two Daytons, one Columbia and one Crescent. The unique and most severe test given to Eyton's wheel after his fall at Totsuka was another notable incident of the race and was a splendid advertisement of the sterling qualities of the Rambler.
In articles that are more than 100 years old, there are often surprises in the language used. I was struck by the sentence, "Kuhn was rather pumped, but Adet was going freely and strong." I was surprised by the usage "rather pumped" - presumably this means the same thing that it would to day? Given the comparison to Adet, who was "going freely and strong" it is hard to tell.

Also, the article says that this bicycle race was "the first road race, properly organized, ever run in the neighborhood " - is this supposed to mean that this was the first organized road race in Japan, or more literally in the region of Japan where it took place?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jonathan Winters & the Bicycle Scene in "A Mad Mad World"

The comic actor and performer Jonathan Winters just passed away - I grew up thinking he was terribly funny, although sometimes puzzling. I found myself looking at some of his performances on YouTube and in particular his contributions to the epic (if only in length at 161 minutes) "pursuit" comedy film, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

At 2:22 Winters retrieves the bicycle he has thrown away and eventually uses it to set off in pursuit, after first stomping on it

To my mind, one scene unintentionally makes a statement about the attitude of most Americans towards bicycles at this time, in the mid-60s. Winters' character, Lennie Pike, is determined to continue despite being reduced to a bicycle (and a child's bicycle at that). He manages to get a ride with another character by Phil Silvers and immediately tosses the bicycle away, with evident pleasure. The Phil Silvers character however drives off without him, leaving Pike (Winters) to retrieve the bicycle and continue using it. First, however, he stomps on it several times. Then, left with no alternative, he continues with the bicycle. A bicycle in 1963 for transportation? The last resort.

Completely separate from that, Winters was the best thing about this movie.

1896 Bicycle Built for Seven - the "Sept"

An article describing the (claimed) only seven seat bicycle of the day in Referee & Cycle Trade issue of April 23, 1896. At the time three and four seat bicycles were general used to "pace" riders who would draft behind to set certain categories of bicycle speed records and in certain races - to have a seven seat version would likely not be faster, so this is something of a publicity stunt, I think.
- - -
Sharpless & Watts Are Its Makers, and It Is a Marvel of Constructive Ingenuity.
- - -
Philadelphia, April 21.—There is now on exhibition at the extensive bicycle factory of Sharpless & Watts, at 1520-22 Sansom street, that Goliath among bicycles—an account of the building of which appeared in these columns some weeks ago—the only septuplet in the world. The frame is practically seven ordinary single diamonds firmly joined together, with all the joints securely brazed, forming a sort of truss bridge between the contact points of the front and rear tires—a wheel base of 16 feet. This will give some idea as to the length of the monster.

It is constructed throughout of l 1/4-inch tubing, and, although no special fittings were required in its construction, David Watts, a member of the firm, is authority for the statement that the toy is worth a "cool thousand." As must be imagined, the strain on the front forks will be immense, but Mr. Watts has provided for this by constructing them of inch tubing, into which 7/8-inch tool steel is driven, insuring the necessary rigidity. This feature of providing additional strength at points of greatest strain is a peculiarity of the entire construction.

An innovation in a strengthening way, which is necessitated by the extreme length of the structure and the immense load it will be called upon to bear, is the introduction of long arches of angle steel, extending on either side of the frame from the front to the rear diamond; at every point of contact these angle steels are firmly brazed. This is also an idea of Mr. Watts', and insures a rigidity which he says is noticeably lacking in pacemaking machines of a similar character.

To assist the front man to steer—for it is a single steerer—an ingenious device of springs on either side of the front handlebar has been utilized which will take much of the strain off him to whom is entrusted that important function.
Sept (seven seat) Bike
A photograph of the "Sept" from the next issue of Referee & Cycle Trade of April 30, 1896
Back to the last man the tread is 5 1/2 inches; beyond that point to the rear sprocket it is a half inch more. The whee's are 30 inches in diameter, and the spokes are a little less than an eighth of an inch in thickness and fastened to barrel hubs measuring 2 1/2 inches in diameter in the center. With forty teeth in the large sprocket and ten in the rear the gear is 120 inches. The chains throughout are the best Perry Humber 1/4 inch. The 2 1/2-inch tires, which were specially made by Morgan & Wright, are a half-inch in thickness. The weight of the machine, "all on," is in the neighborhood of 175 pounds.

Mr. Watts, on being questioned as to his idea in building the mammoth -wheel, said, in substance: "We built the 'sept' merely to announce to the cycling world at home and abroad that right here in Philadelphia there is a plant which has facilities for constructing wheels of any pattern or dimensions. Of course, we intend to exhibit, it, and it will no doubt prove a good advertisement in its way. Do I think it can be safely managed at high speed on the track? I most certainly do—provided the track is a properly constructed one; and if we can get seven good men on it, and a track that isn't too small and is properly banked, the records will have to come our way. No; we don't intend to race the Atlantic City 78-mile-an-hour express, although I haven't the slightest doubt that we could hold our own against that world-beater for a short distance. I hope to see our pet on the track before long, when the local public will have an opportunity of sizing it up."

There are modern seven-seat bicycles, but the best known (see below) is a novelty item - in a number of cities you can rent one for your company or organization to use for "team building" exercises, for example.

Orient Quad bike, 1898
A more typical multiseat bicycle of this period used to "pace" racers

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Idyllic Country Bicycle Ride - Monarch Cycle Co. Ad 1896

Monarch Favorite
Full page color ad for Monarch bicycles in The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal issue for January 23, 1896.

According to a short online biography of the founder, John William Kiser, the Monarch Cycle Manufacturing Company was active during much of the 1890s but became part of the "bicycle trust" shortly before an economic crash that (as I understand it) seems to be credited with much of the fall in bicycle sales around that time.

Here is an earlier post with another color ad from Monarch showing bicycles in Egypt, apparently navigating through sand. This journal (Referee and Cycle Trade Journal) must have been pleased to have their full page color ads from time to time since presumably they got more income from them. Color ads in publications like this were rare - most issues that I have looked at do not have any.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The State of Cycling in Russia, June 1897

Американский обзор езды на велосипеде в России 1897

From The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review - an extended overview of cycling in Russia, primarily with an eye to business opportunities selling American bicycles in Russia. What is the market? Who is riding? Why? And so on. The list of regulations governing cycling in Russia are, to say the least, daunting. The Czar's empire took second to no country in this area.

I have reproduced the text of the entire article here as well as including an image of part of the article as it appeared in the original publication (on rather brown paper ~).
In the Land of the Czar

Washington, D. C, June 11, 1897. Consul-General Karel, at St. Petersburg, has transmitted a special report to the State Department concerning cycling in Russia. Mr. Karel prefaces his report by saying that as so many inquiries have reached his office concerning the state of the bicycle trade in Russia he thought that a report to the department on the subject would not be inappropriate.

Of course, on account of the severe climate, bicycles can be used only in the summer.

Very little riding is done until after May 1st. Before any person is permitted to ride he must first pass an examination before some cycling association, of recognised standing and secure a certificate of proficiency. When this is obtained the applicant must present himself before the proper city authority, and by exhibiting his certificate will receive a permit to ride. The permit is issued without any charge, but all riders must pay a certain amount in revenue stamps and must provide themselves with a book of rules and regulations, which is sold by the city and costs about $1.13. The permit is good for one year and dates from May 1st.

Upon the payment of another fee a registered number for the bicycle is issued. This number is in plain white figures on a red plate and must be fastened to the machine both on the front and on the back, so as to be clearly visible to the police and public in case any mishap occurs or there is any breach of the regulations.

Land of Czar

The regulations provide that:

1. Only "low" wheels, or safeties, shall be ridden, and that each rider shall always carry his permit guaranteeing proficiency. Before the permit is issued the rider must file with the City Governor a photograph of himself, to be used in cases of trouble.

2. Every bicycle must be furnished with a bell and at night with a light, and the numbers spoken of must be in sight; that on the front, so as to be seen from either side of the wheel and that on the back, from the rear or the front.

3. Every rider must carry with him at all times, and must show to the police when required, his book of regulations.

4. Fast riding is prohibited.

6. All riders meeting pedestrians, vehicles, or other riders must keep to the right.

6. When passing pedestrians or vehicles going in the same direction riders must keep to the left.

7. When approaching corners or when near pedestrians riders must ring their bells, but bells must not be rung needlessly.

8. If horses take fright riders must get off their wheels and lead them, and when in crowds must do the same.

9. Wheelmen may not ride abreast, and where there is a party of them there must be at least fourteen feet of space between the riders.

10. Riders must not ride or lead their wheels on the sidewalk,

11. Riding in bicycle costume without a coat is prohibited.

12. Riding on certain streets named by the City Governor is not permitted.

13. Any violation of any of these regulations causes the rider to forfeit his permitand it cannot be renewed for another year.

Previous to February 1st, 1897, women were prohibited from using the wheel, but now the restriction has been removed. There are in St. Petersburg four bicycle clubs and in the suburbs three more. In all there are about 7,000 cyclists in the Capital.

Wheels are imported in large numbers, principally from Germany, England and the United States, the proportion being in the order named.

There are five factories in Russia which manufacture bicycles, two being in St. Petersburg, one in Moscow, one in Warsaw, and one in Riga. There are a number of smaller concerns hardly large enough to be called factories where wheel parts after being imported are assembled.

Two of the factories spoken of are English, that at Warsaw being the establishment of the Singer Cycle Co:, and that at Moscow of the Humber Works.

Wheels made in Russia sell for from $42 to $67, the German wheels from $77 to $92.50, the English wheels from $82 to $128.50, and the American wheels from $103 to $128.50. Although the American wheels are the most expensive, they are preferred on account of their superior finish and their greater durability. Only the high-grade American wheels have been imported.

The whole number of wheels imported in 1896 was 10,609. The duty on finished wheels is about $9.26 per wheel; on unfinished wheels in parts, is about $6.18 each.
Sovremennyi velosiped (1895) - my scan (современный велосипед)
Examples of bicycles in an 1895 Russian book

Another earlier 1895 American look at Russian cycling.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Folding Bike Idea - of 1896

In the The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal issue for April 9, 1896 there are a number of pages with smaller ads for different cycling related products and smaller companies selling bikes.

Folding Bike
A folding bike for the 19th century

There are not all that many truly new ideas in basic bicycle design.