Louisville has a long history of bicycling and a strong heritage of both recreational and functional cycling.
Though the Mayor's Hike, Bike & Paddle is gaining popularity, with over 9,000 thousand participants at the most recent event, it is not the first - nor the largest - ride of its kind in Louisville. In October of 1897, over 10,000 people rode from Downtown Louisville to Iroquois Park (then Jacobson Park) via 3rd St. and Southern Parkway. This is the same route that today's Hike and Bike sometimes takes. By some estimates, up to 50,000 gathered to either participate in or observe the event.
One summer day in that same year, nearly 3,000 cyclists of all types were seen making the morning commute through the corner of 4th St. and Walnut St. (now Muhammad Ali Boulevard). Metro is in the process of performing its latest commuter bicycle traffic counts - including some near this same location - today.
For more details and interesting stories on Louisville's bicycling heritage, visit the web page on the History of the Louisville Bicycle Club. Though cycling - especially commuter cycling - doesn't hold the same place in our transportation culture today, it has a place in the hearts and memories of our citizens, and - as these stories remind us - of the city itself.
Events like the Hike & Bike and Bike to Work Day harken back to an age where bicyclists were the primary means of transportation in Louisville. Every day you can see more and more people - though on notably more high-tech bicycles - riding to work, school, and the store in Louisville. These new pioneers give us hope for a future in which Louisville will, in the words of Mayor Jerry Abramson, "reclaim its heritage as a center for bicycling."
Photos courtesy of the University of Louisville Photographic Archives.