Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's Old is New: LAB recycles 1880s LAW Logo

At the national bike summit yesterday, the League of American Bicyclists announced a new logo.

Evolution of the new LAB logo
Clearly nodding to the past, they say:
Our new look may seem a bit familiar: It draws on our unique history and depth of knowledge, using elements of the original winged wheel logo of the League of American Wheelmen. But, with a modern edge and forward motion, it also showcases our commitment to propel the new, diverse and growing ranks of bicyclists in the United States, recognizing and representing the current and future face of the cycling movement.
Sometimes I wonder just how much has really changed. Are we perhaps just doing the same things we did over a century ago?

In 1895 Salem newspapers could spin enthusiastically for paved roads and effective action by wheelmen.
What the Bicycle Men are Doing for Good Roads.
April 24th, 1895
No one wants to see good roads any better than wheelmen. They get over the roads more than anyone else, and see the necessity for road reform.

Work for good roads is imperative. Before good roads can be obtained the public must be educated to see the imperative necessity of it.

Some one must give the good roads movement an impetus it has never yet had or we shall never have any good roads in Oregon. The wheelman can do this.

Start the boom now for better public roads!

Salem's four hundred wheelmen are interested and organizing to push the good roads movement....

Let the wheelmen organize and push and work together and two years will see a wonderful reformation in roads. THE JOURNAL invites the hearty co-operation of the wheelmen of Salem and the adjoining country in the cause of the Good Roads Reform.
Within seven years, sales of new bicycles had declined precipitously, the giant bicycle trust had gone bankrupt in 1901, bicycling was becoming working-class transportation and a toy for kids, and the League was in tatters.

In 1902 the paper reprinted something written out east:
Restoration of Wheelmen's League.
Anxiety: A new "boom" in 1902?
The plan to restore the League of American Wheelmen to something of the power and prestige it enjoyed in the early days of the bicycle will be commended in various quarters, particularly among those who recognized the good it accomplished and who regretted to see its membership dwindle from many thousands to a few hundreds. In its day and generation the L.A.W. did valuable service for the public, notably in forwarding the good roads movement, as well as securing the rights of wheelmen on the highways of nearly every state. Though the days of bicycling as a fad are happily passed and the fashionable folk have turned from it to the newer sports of golfing and automobiling, the wheel has by no means been relegated to the position of a wornout toy. Its use as a practical conveyance and for wholesome exercise has steadily increased in town and country, and this year there has been quite a marked revival in wheeling.
December 2nd, 1902
With the view of restoring the League of American Wheelmen to its former place in the esteem of all who use the bicycle it is proposed to make it a national touring association. The effort will be to encourage the popularization of the many picturesque and historic routes and scenes in this country which Americans are too apt to neglect through ignorance of their own country. Such a project would seem to furnish a field for work in which the league's usefulness could be indefinitely prolonged. The motor bicycle now furnishes a link between the wheel and the automobile, and there should be little difficulty in arranging co-operation between the L.A.W. and the motor car clubs for the objects outlined in the new plan - "good roads, liberal road rights and privileges, better hotel accommodations and an appreciation of the country's natural beauties and historic glory."
The more urban east coast was ahead of Salem, of course.  It wasn't until 1903 that Otto Wilson brought the first car to Salem.  But meaningful road reform was delayed until 1919 and the nation's first gas tax.

The LAW-LAB parallels can be a source of strength, but they're also a source of worry.  It didn't work back then - so what's to say it will work a second time?

As we saw with HB 2800 and the CRC, the Governor bikes for photo-ops in Belgium with Nike, but he advocates for the $4 Billion ruination of north Portland.  Too often bike advocates are just playing for table scraps, nibbling at the edges.  It's hard to see signs of real structural change in transportation policy and funding.  There are lots of happy tweets about the bike summit, but how substantial, really, are the accomplishments?  What will it take to ensure this, the fourth bike boom (those in the 1890s, Great Depression, and 1970s were the first three), isn't as transient as the others? 

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