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this would be cool to check out. if anyone goes let us know what you thought.

Museum exhibit highlights bike's role in history

By Emanuel Parker , Star News Staff Writer

PASADENA -- Think bicycles are just for recreation or children's toys?

"Wheels of Change,' a history of the bicycle at the Pasadena Museum
of History opening today, highlights the amazing impact of a vehicle
that was the world's first breakthrough in mass transportation and
literally increased the speed at which life is lived.

Ardis Willwerth and Dennis Crowley, exhibit curators, said the humble
bicycle led to women's liberation, road building, road signs and
maps, urban sprawl, the inventions of the automobile and airplane,
Einstein's theory of relativity and the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Pasadena and California played major roles in the history of
bicycles, Willwerth said, and continue to do so. The BMX, or stunt
bike, was born in Palms Park in Santa Monica, she said, while
mountain bikes were invented in Marin County by a handful of bicycle

At the peak of the bicycle craze in 1900, Pasadena had 15 bicycle
shops to serve a population of 9,100, Crowley said.

"Pasadena had more bicycles per capita than any place in the world,'
he said. Bicycle races then were the equivalent of NASCAR races today
and competitors from across the country trained in Pasadena, he said.

"The Rose Parade originated as a bicycle parade,' Crowley said. "The
1900 parade had 350 bicycles and only a few horse- drawn carriages.
After the parade bicycle races were held at a velodrome at Lincoln
Avenue and Hammond Street.'

It was difficult for women in Victorian clothing to ride early
bicycles or the high-wheel models; but once the safety bike was
invented women took to riding and the new-found freedom fostered the
women's liberation movement, Willwerth said, changed women's fashions
and ended the age of the corset.

Bike mania fostered road building, road signs and maps, and the star
system for rating hotels in the second half of the 19th century, she
said. Urban sprawl appeared as people were freed to settle beyond
walking distances. Early car makers such as Gottlieb Daimler, Carl
Benz, Henry Ford and Charles and Frank Duryea started as bicycle
mechanics, she said.

The Wright brothers' 1903 flyer, the first motorized airplane, was
built in their Dayton, Ohio, bicycle shop, and Albert Einstein said
the idea for his theory of relativity came to him as he rode his

More than two dozen bikes will be displayed at the museum, including
the "Draisine Running Machine,' a rare 1817 pedal-less machine made
of wood, a Wright brother's bicycle with an early gear-shift
mechanism, an 1895 Elliott lady's bicycle made mostly of wood to
reduce weight, an 1860's velocipede (meaning "fast foot') made of
iron that weighs 150 pounds, and an early bicycle that seated
courting couples side-by-side.

Five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong's 2001 yellow
jersey is displayed, along with accounts of the exploits of Charles
"Mile-a-Minute' Murphy, who reached speeds of 60 mph on a bike in
1899, and lectures about Major Taylor, the era's top bicycle racer
who, to skirt laws banning African Americans from racing, said he was
an American Indian.

The exhibit will run through Aug. 1.

The museum is at 470 W. Walnut St. For additional information call
(626) 577-1660.

Emanuel Parker can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4475, or by
e-mail at [email protected] .

Information Copyright © 2004 Pasadena Star News
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