It’s no accident that today Seattle is known as a bike-friendly city. An avid breed of bicyclist has been with the city almost since its inception in the mid-1800s. Indeed, much of the infrastructure in the Queen City was built specifically for bicyclists at the insistence of bicycling lobby groups.
This is the story of the Queen City Cycling Club
Seattle is a relatively young city. A little over a century and a half ago it was little more than a collection of buildings in the Washington Territory, an outpost on the West Coast of the United States. The first bicycle arrived in Seattle from San Francisco on a steamer ship in 1879. This novel form of transportation enthralled the public. Seattle’s first bicycle was prominently displayed in the window of a stationery store in Georgetown, where it sold after four days. This kicked off a wave of bicycle mania in the Queen City.
Unfortunately, early Seattle streets weren’t kind to pneumatic tires. Wooden boardwalks and unpaved streets weren’t amenable to smooth travel. Nails, slivers, pedestrians, potholes, and mudslides made for a hazardous go on two wheels.
Enter the Queen City Bicycle Club. By the turn of the twentieth century, about 10,000 Seattle residents rode bikes — more than 12 percent of the city’s population. The Bicycle Club was a natural evolution of emerging cyclist concerns, a group dedicated to lobbying for better bike paths. The advocacy of this zealous group paid off. In the late 1890s, the city of Seattle put in its first 25 miles of dedicated bike paths. Some of these first paths became the basis of city streets that we still use today. Soon as many as 20 bike shops lined a given street in downtown Seattle.
The city’s progression from Pacific Northwest wilderness to a bike-friendly urban area wasn’t linear. As they continued to lobby for better infrastructure, Queen City cyclists still had to contend with gopher holes, overzealous bike cops, and the occasional black bear ambling across a bike path. Even so, the city soon earned a national reputation as a mecca for recreationists on two wheels – a reputation that the hilly, seemingly non-cyclist-friendly Queen City retains to this day as an integral part of its DNA.
Next time you’re sipping your to-go coffee outdoors, at a cafe, or pedaling down a well-structured bike path in Seattle, take a moment to pause and thank a Victorian straddling a bicycle frame. The Queen City is great today because of the early cyclists who cared and spoke up for a better future.
Visit this link for an extensive list of biking clubs you can find around Washington today.