Crosscut’s Knute Berger has started a series about urbanism in Seattle with a piece exploring the first bicycle boom in the city.
Around the turn of the 20th century, bicycling was so popular that an estimated 10,000 of the city’s 80,000 residents rode bikes. This popularity manifested as a powerful political force lobbying the city to pave streets for cycling, streets that would become the foundation for the city’s street network.
In some ways, Berger says, today’s bicycle revolution in Seattle is actually a renaissance. From Crosscut:
Twenty-five miles of urban bicycle trails built, funded and maintained with the aid of city engineers, designed for recreation, students and commuters. A dedicated bicycle toll road connecting Seattle to other Puget Sound communities. Bike cops enforcing cyclist speed limits, safety and dealing with the scourge of bike thefts. Bike shops — over 20 on Second Ave. alone — selling the latest models and newest gear. Multiple bike race tracks in the city.
Welcome to the Seattle of the turn of the century. The twentieth century, that is — 1894-1904.
Today, as the city puts a new Bike Master Plan in place, we see urban cycling as a forward-looking path toward greater urban sustainability. But this is not the first time Seattle has awakened to the possibilities of a “bike-friendly” urban complex.