This photo is most likely from the Brighton Bicycle Club’s annual race from Glendale to Hamilton. The race start was at the old toll-gate (which is still there if you look closely at the intersection of Springfield Pike and Congress Ave) and proceeded up what is now route 4 to Hamilton, Ohio.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in 1895:
There will be large crowds at Glendale and Hamilton as well as along the line to see the annual handicap road race of the Brighton Bicycle Club members to-day. The start will be at the first toll-gate near Glendale and the finish at Hamilton. The start will be promptly at 10:30 AM. The race has been the sole topic of conversation of the Brighton boys, and they have worked hard to get everything in shape for to-day’s event. The best racing talent of the club is entered for the prizes in to-day’s race, and there will be some hot work on all sides. Theo Bruckner, Billy Windisch, the Burger boys, Will and Al Lieman, Eddie Poorman, and Will Billen are among those carded to start.
The first prize for the 1895 race was a diamond pin.
The building in the background is the Century Inn on Springfield Pike, which was built in 1806. In the 1870′s the inn was renamed “Wheelmen’s Rest” to capture the bicycle traffic between Cincinnati and Hamilton.
Kaleidoscopic Views on Race Street on Saturday Night
It is extremely evident that the cyclists “own” Race Street on Thursday nights. Particularly that part of Race Street between Fifth and Ninth Streets. The bikers begin to arrive from all directions and all points about 8:00. The come on tandems and single wheels, the single wheel predominating. The prevailing costume of the ladies is the short-skirt. Now and then a bloomer girl makes her appearance…
The bicycle fiend, who has heretofore been compelled to confine his jaunts to the suburbs, has come into the city and Race Street is his paradise. Any evening scores of bicyclists wearing their knee-breeches and base-ball caps can be seen taking advantage of the pleasant ride on their machines which the new pavement affords. 1886 August 8 Cincinnati Enquirer
Race Street in Downtown Cincinnati has always been a lure for those in need to test their speed on the long straightaway. In the early 19th century the frequency with which impromptu races were run from 4th Street up to the Canal (on Liberty) led the City to pass an ordinance in 1822 prohibiting speeding. This prohibition applied to the horses, so when cyclists began to arrive in the late 1870’s the desire for speed was renewed.
And from the Reporter’s Notebook, Cincinnati Enquirer April 30, 1896:
The practice of “scorching” – the term used by bicyclers for fast riding – has become such a nuisance in some places that City Councils are passing ordinances against it …It is likely to be considered here unless more care is shown by the hundreds of cyclers nightly on Race, Seventh, and other smooth streets in that vicinity. Almost every night some pedestrian narrowly escapes being run over by some rider going at the rate of 20 miles an hour. While a few of the cyclists have bells or whistles, a large majority do not. The various cycle clubs, rather than have any trouble with the authorities, may take action themselves, as they are mostly people of standing and good sense, who are not disposed to abuse the privileges accorded them.
The Porkopolis Star writing for Bicycle World in the same year had a different take on the scene along Race:
As I passed up Race Street one Sunday afternoon not long ago and saw it deserted by all save the numerous small boy with his safety [sic], it struck me how different it was from the scenes of five years ago. Then the asphalt was but newly laid, and the sidewalks on Sunday afternoons were crowded by those who had come to see the bi-sick-els! Then it was that Levi was in this glory and excited the admiration of the applauding multitude with his then wonderful trick riding. Then was it that the complacent Archie Potter pedaled back and forth, firmly believing that he made many a feminine heart flutter. Then the voluble Sence on his glistening full nickeled wheel grew still more voluble when he took a fall. Then it was that Delni, on the only safety in the city would zig-zag at full speed up and down the street, apparently oblivious of the dangerous proximity of the ordinaries, and would have maledictions poured out on his head by the unfortunate riders whose sudden downfall he frequently caused. Here our Teddy [Alsup – a Crescent Club racer] began his famous career, and here was organized the Central Wheelmen who, like a meteor, flashed upon our gaze, dazzled us for a while…
The Central Wheelmen were formed after a gathering of eight young men at A.A. Bennett’s on 6th and Race on September 1, 1887. They initially held meetings in Bennett’s storeroom and shortly after rented rooms for the first winter at 282 Race Street, until finally finding good rooms at the Saxony Building at the corner of Ninth and Race Street. The moved there May 1st, 1887. The club continued to grow at a great pace, so once again the members sought out larger quarters. They settled on an old stone church located on Seventh between Central Avenue and John Streets. This building was large enough that they could furnish it with roller skates and polo equipment for indoor bicycle polo. In the winter the riders would train by sprinting from a standing start and doing gymnastics (such as lunges and standing high jumps). The old church had a wheelroom and assembly room as well. By the Spring of 1888 they boasted fifty members – having grown from just eight in a year. Membership dues were $5 for initiation fee and $1 per month.
Cincinnati has a great number of historic places. Many of them have historic markers. However, there are no markers anywhere in the City that memorialize the rich cycling history of the Queen City. We are home to one of the oldest clubs in the nation, our wheelmen were active in local businesses and helped shape the city by advocating for good roads. We had many active women cyclists who formed clubs and discovered the freedoms of the open road. Our many weekend excursions to the small towns outside of the city helped foster the idea of travel for leisure. I would think that the many cyclists who live in this town would be proud to have a monument near Garfield Place, which was the traditional starting point for runs in the 1890′s, or on 7th Street near the Associated Cyclists clubhouse, or on 14th Street next to Music Hall where the Brighton Clubhouse was (and still is) situated.
From Tit-Bits 1888 noted British author John Ruskin offered this opinion of the bicycle:
I not only object, but am quite prepared to spend all my best “bad language” in reprobation of the bi-, tri-, and 4-5-6 or 7 cycles, and every other contrivance and invention for superseding human feet on God’s ground. To walk, to run, to leap, and to dance are virtues of the human body, and neither to stride on stilts, wriggle on wheels, or dangle on ropes, and nothing in the training of the human mind with the body will supersede the appointed God’s way of slow walking and hard working.
To which an anonymous author in The Wheel replies:
We learn that good old John Ruskin has been giving his opinion on bicycling, which he considers an abomination. All the papers have printed John’s “opinion” though it don’t amount to a jot; is of no more account, in fact, than the opinion of a Cincinnati Porker or a Texas steer on Munkacksy’s “Christ before Pilate.” Someone has suggested that if Rusky would only ride a bike instead of deride it , why he might change his opinion.
Sketch found in the August 8 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1897.
The “Wheel Notes” of the July 19, 1896 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Women’s Rescue League based in Washington DC had issued a statement regarding the growing menace of women on bicycles. They proclaim that “bicycling by women and girls promotes waywardness” and that “the wheel is satan’s agent to demoralize and produce a tendency to make women degraded and outcasts from social purity.” They go on to claim that “bicycling by young women has helped more than any other medium to swell the ranks of reckless girls who finally drift into the standing army of outcast women.”