I was poking around on the Library of Congress' old newspaper site and decided to see when bicycles were first mentioned in a DC newspaper. The first reference in their available papers is from February 9, 1869. It is part of a space-filling list of interesting facts and the fact is this:
It has been demonstrated out West, that women can ride the bicycle velocipedes by wearing bilegular garments.
There you go ladies. Thanks to some enterprising scientists you can now enjoy your bicycle velocipedes with the aid of bilegluar garments.
The first mention of "velocipede" goes back to 1838, and then it was the name of the first steamboat to navigate the Sabine River. The first mention of it as a bicycle-type device is from an February 1849 advertisement for a Ware Room on Pennsylvania Avenue near 9th Street that sold an assortment of items including Velocipedes.
Jim Hurd, the former curator of the Bicycle Museum of America, says that at the turn of the century there were two buildings in Washington DC that held every patent in the U.S. One building held patents covering every type of product you can think of. The other building was reserved specifically for bicycle patents. It’s a manifestation of how much energy had gone into refining the bicycle and it’s the reason why it’s such a challenge for modern designers to make any sea-change improvements.
So where was the Old Bicycle Patent Building in DC?
The trail has become so popular since it opened in 1973 that it now draws more than a half million cyclists a year, many of whom the rangers say zoom along the narrow, winding paths at dangerous speeds. In response to the heavy traffic, the bike patrol was increased to five rangers three years ago. Before that, one ranger periodically monitored the trail.
On weekdays, the path, like the roadways, is most congested during morning rush hours. Traffic picks up again around 10 a.m. when pleasure cyclists begin to cruise the trail.
On weekends, when two rangers are on patrol, the trail gets so congested that there have been frequent accidents, some serious.
And yet, despite the congestion, the trail has not yet been widened to 6 lanes like I-66. OK, some.
Though I do believe that half a million understates it. I seem to recall it now being nearer to 750,000 annually.
On July 4, an elderly man walking on the trail suffered a cracked skull after a bike struck him from behind, she said. Dents in trees along the path show the impact of handlebars. Last September, Shirley Metzenbaum, wife of Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), suffered severe head injuries in a fall.
This was mentioned before, but here's the article about the fall which seems to be a single-bike crash. She's still alive and seemed to recover fine. When Mentzenbaum was at Ohio State, btw, he ran a bicycle rental business.
In an attempt to reduce the number of injuries, rangers have begun painting yellow lines down the middle of dangerous lengths of the path. In the next few months, White said, they may install 15-mile-an-hour speed limit signs that would be enforced at some spots with radar.
Two of the most treacherous areas along the path, White said, are at National Airport, where cyclists must cross busy airport entrances, and along the southernmost part of the route between Dyke Marsh and Mount Vernon, where the trail is hilly, woody and winding.
Plans are under way to create a special tunnel that would bypass the airport entrances and to level a dangerous curve at the southern end of the path, White said. Park officials say they face a constant dilemma because straightening paths and cutting down trees may make paths safer, but many cyclists feel such measures also make the trails less enjoyable.
Update: Here are some photos of the current "widening" project underway, as well as the current way of counting bike traffic. Photos by M.V. Jantzen
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8a31563. David Myers.
"Washington, D.C. Aerial view of a street corner, in front of the Willard Hotel, at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue showing pedestrians and rather dense traffic in autos and street cars"
I noticed a cyclist at the top of this image, riding on the dotted line and it struck me that this is in the center of the street where the protected bike lanes are now (and where the streetcars ran in this photo), not all the way to the right. I'm guessing the dotted line is the "edge" of the streetcar space and the sign the cyclist is stopped at is the sign for a streetcar stop?
The photo below is from a 1973 issue of National Geographic, which means it predates the Mt. Vernon Trail. The article is entitled "Bicycles are Back - and Booming!"
"Cyclists claim two out of four lanes in the eight miles between Alexandria, Virginia, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.” Reads the caption.
I think this is the Mt. Vernon Parkway, but someone else thinks it's Route 1.
The article also mentions Marie Birnbaum, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s bicycling-program officer at the time. I recogonized the name, because someone of the same name was on the board at WalkDC not too long ago, and I would guess still lives in the DC area. Same person? She also contributed, along with WABA staffer Cary Shaw, to this classic 1974 EPA document on Bicycle Transportation.
You might be able to read the whole NG article here.