Bicycles

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Woman with Bicycle.jpg
Cabinet card portrait of a young woman posed with a bicycle, Zanesville, Ohio, ca. 1896-1897.

Bicycles dramatically changed life in Ohio during the late nineteenth century. Ohioans, especially teenagers, formed bicycle clubs, allowing young people to share their common interest. Bicycles allowed people to escape from cities or to make more parts of the city accessible to them. This mode of transportation also allowed children to escape the eyesight of their parents, as youths would visit neighbors or go out on dates with each other, without parents accompanying them.

By the 1890s, many Americans believed that bicycles would eventually replace horses. Bicycles were significantly cheaper than horses, easier to use, and provided a much smoother ride once improvements occurred in roads. Before the advent of bicycles, Ohio's best roads were usually gravel ones. Complaints from bicyclists prompted the state and local governments to make significant improvements in roadways, including paving them with bricks. Several communities in the twenty-first century still utilize a few of these roads. During the twentieth century, automobiles resulted in even more dramatic roadway improvements, including the use of concrete and tar.

Bicycles also greatly assisted the rubber industry in Ohio. Originally, bicycles had wheels made of iron or steel. These types of wheels did not make for a comfortable ride. With the application of rubber to the wheels and the eventual development of pneumatic tires, bicycling became much more enjoyable. Rubber tires allowed rubber manufacturers, like B.F. Goodrich and Goodyear, to grow quickly, making Ohio a leader in rubber manufacturing during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.

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