Bicycle mania swept the nation at the end of the 19th century.
The maps in this post come from an earlier time when bicycle mania swept the nation: the 1890s. The bicycle as we know it—with two wheels of equal size, among other features—had just been invented. “Bikes really took off in cities because they provided the first affordable private transportation,” says Evan Friss, an urban historian at James Madison University. “Horses were expensive, and cars, by and large, didn’t exist yet.”
Then as now, bicycle advocates pushed for road improvements, and for dedicated lanes and paths for bike traffic. Local cycling clubs sprang up around the country (Manhattan alone had more than 50), and in 1897, the League of American Wheelmen boasted more than 100,000 members.