Which Of These Groups Was Most Influential In The Early Adoption Of Paved Roads?
It would be very easy to imagine that the people who pressed the hardest for paved roads were the early adopters of the automobile or car companies that had a vested interest in road improvement and expansion, but decades before the rise of the automobile drove road expansion, it was bicycle enthusiasts clamoring for better, smoother, safer roads.
The “Good Roads Movement” was a political movement borne out of the increased interest in and availability of bicycles in the last part of the 19th century; what started as a broad and unorganized desire for better roads in the 1870s gelled into a formal movement in 1880 when advocates came together in Newport, Rhode Island to form the League of American Wheelmen (LAW). The Wheelmen published a cycling magazine, pushed for road improvement legislation, and legal protections for cyclists.
The movement was quite successful thanks in no small part to careful political tact; the Wheelmen gained the support of farmers and people in rural communities who, despite not being cyclists themselves, wanted to see good roads in place to make it easier for them to bring their produce to market and travel into cities.
Although the rise of the automobile overshadowed the bicycle and its enthusiasts, we still owe a debt of gratitude to the early cyclists that helped push through the first road improvement legislation.