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Working For Good Roads

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There is no finer examplo of what organization can do than tho League of American Wheelmen. A few years ago local ordinances in hundreds of places kept bicycles from the streets and relogated tho cyclist to the rcalm of nuisances. The league was forraed and the matter was carried to the courts. Before long decisions were obtained from several supreme court3 that bicycles were vehiclcs in the eyes of the law, and the wheelmen obtained the same rights and privileges accorded to wagons. Any one who knows what the prejudice against bicycles was in many parts of the country cannot f ail to appreciate that when these concessions wero gained the league had won a very considerable victory, and will not be skeptical of the announceinent that the league is quito likely to be successf ui in the fight which it is now carrying on f or the improvement of roads - a question only less vital to tho wheelmen than the other, and a question, moreover, which has as much importance for the public at large as for the riders of bicycles. The league, when it began tho battlo for better roads. went directly to the legislatures; but it soon found that before the representatives of the people could pass laws taxing their constituents for such an object all opposition among those constituents must be removed. Surprising as it undoubtedly is, the opposition was very emphatic from the very class which would most be benefited. The farmers, who suffer more than any one else from the effects of bad roads, cried out most loudly against any improvement. As soon as tho leaguo found this out tactics were changed, and a campaign of education begun. Thi3 is being ardently carried on by the wheelmen in two ways. First, a bureau has been established which has in charge the distribution and compilation of road improvement literature. Arguments, statistics and directions are sent thence all over the land by thousands. Anothor branch is a lecture bureau. It isincumbent upou this bureau to find good speakers in every locality who are well informed on tho subject of road improvement. Whenever meetings of farmers in the country or of boards of trade and like organizations in cities are to bo held these speakers are sent to them with instructions to dclivcr lrioL, intcrcsting and informing addresses on road improvement. It seems impossible that these measures, so vigorously carried out, can fail to rosult in good. Mr. Gcorge R. Bidwell and Mr. Isaac B. Potter, of New York city, were the originators of tho road improvement project on the part of the L. A. W. They began and won the fight for tho opening of Central park to the wheelmen, and after it was over took up the question of better roads. Mr. Bidwell spoke the other day of an interesting experiment which has been tried in several counties in New York state nnder his direction and which is particularly convincing. Carefully ascertain the horse population of a cotmty in which the roads are bad. Thon average the quantity of road work - the average weight pulled - which a horse can do. Then take a county where the roads are good, carry out the same plan and compare the results. Mr. Bidwell says that these experiments show that in New York state good roads doublé the puiling power of horses, thus reducing by one-half the number of horses necessarily bought and supported in order to do a given amount of work. The saving in wear and tear of vehicles is hardly less. In New York state a roads improvement association has been formed, which has 2o,000 members. There is not even a majority of wheelmen among tliem; they are men in all walks of life on which good roads have an influencc. A permanent organization was effected last spring at a convention in Utica, and the association will give its support to any wise legislation having road improvement in view. Mr. Bidwcll says that the road reformers havo made no extravagant requests. They recognize that macadam or telford roads are impracticable in many sections of the country because tho material for making them could only be obtained at great expense. But he thinks that in states like New York, for instance, one great artery of trade could be constructed, such as a macadam road from New York to Buffalo. This should be of good width, carefully built and should, in his opinión, be a state institution. He argües that such a highway would have a good moral effect on every cross road in the state. The people would sce how much easier their loads were hauled over tho hard, smooth state road, and would improve the minor thoroughf ares. He also thinks that in the improvement of roads lies the solntion of the convict labor qnestion. Most men are not anxious to break stone and he argües that in putting the convicta at road making the number of honest men who would be deprived of employment by convict labor would bo reduced to a minimum. The wheelmen are a class, and can hardly espect sympathy from other classes unless their interests are identical. That this is tho case in the matter of road improvement is patent, and that the wheelmen are earning the thanks of these other classes can perhaps be more easily shown them by reference to last winter 's gubernatorial messages. Memorials were submitted to a dozen different governors setting f orth the economy and necessity of good roads, and so sensible were tho arguments presented that each of the governors responded by calling the attention of the state legislatures to the subject. The proposition has been made that the league be opened to everybody, whether wheelmen or not, for associate membership. The present membership of the league is 20,000. If this plan were carried out the membership could easily be increased to 150,000 and the road reform inovement pushed with correspondingly greater expedition.


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Ann Arbor Courier