A look back at the bicycle’s meteoric rise to the height of nineteenth century fashion, and its subsequent fall, provides striking parallels to today's bike culture.
On the sunny and cool afternoon of June 17, 1896, a parade was held in Brooklyn celebrating the opening of the Ocean Parkway cycle path. At one p.m. sharp, the inimitable sound of ten thousand approaching bicycles filled the air. Spearheading this procession was the noted rider Charles H. Luscomb of the Thirteenth Regiment, accompanied by a military entourage of three hundred militiamen. They were swiftly followed by the uniformed personnel of more than thirty cycling clubs drawn from across the region, including the Amsterdam Wheelmen and the Ninth Ward Pioneer Corps. Next came the serried ranks of the League of American Wheelmen, the largest cycling organization in the country with more than 100,000 members. Concluding this cavalcade were thousands of “unattached” cyclists ranging from gaily-bedecked children to fashionable couples, whisking their way down the boulevard on their “silent steeds,” past the undeveloped meadows of central Brooklyn until finally reaching the sun, surf and sand of Coney Island.
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