16 November 2016

TWBC Legacy

About a year ago, I was talking with a neighbor and amateur historian about what I knew of Tacoma's bicycle history.  Specifically, I referenced the "World's Longest Highest and Only Exclusive Bicycle Bridge in the World" that was built by the Tacoma Wheelmen in the 1890's. To my surprise, he not only knew of the bridge, but owned an original copy of Scientific American from May 8, 1897, that highlighted this very bridge. Here is a scan of the cover and the article.



Here's a partial transcription:
     "Many people from the East visit Tacoma every summer. A good proportion of them are wheelmen, and they were surprised to learn in the early part of 1896 that the Wheelmen's Association had decided upon the bridging of the gulch in the southern part of the city which leads to the good roads beyond. The nature of the riding district makes the bridging of the gulch of more importance than the casual visitor may imaging. The opening of the elevated cycle path, which had been built the preceding year, was the means of lengthening the cycle path, so that the riders have now four miles of excellent cycle path from the bridge direct to prairie roads. Since the completion of the bridge, which is the largest cycle bridge in the world, the wheelmen cannot understand how they managed to get to the prairie roads by the inconvenient old route. Many of the citizens were opposed to the building of a cycle path. There was an argument as to how the bicycle license money should be expended, and it was finally decided to construct the bridge. Some few hundreds of the wheelmen objected to the license being enforced, but they soon saw the benefits derived from the levy, and to-day there is not one of the 2,500 wheelmen who objects to the payment of the $1 per annum license.
     The length of the bridge at the roadway is 330 feet, the height 110 feet, the width at the top 12 feet, the width at the bottom 50 feet. The trestle is built of 8 X 8 timbers thoroughly braced, the bents being 20 inches apart. The total cost of the bridge and approach was $984.50.
     The management of the local road improvements at Tacoma is admirably divided between the Wheelmen's Association and L.A.W. The former attend to all improvements within the city limits and the L.A.W. officials take care of the outside work. The road committee is now at work with new propositions for the convenience and accommodation of the riders, and, as a result of their labors, there will be several small bridges built in Tacoma. Those constructed under the supervision of the L.A.W. will bear neatly painted signs. The wheelmen of the district desire to demonstrate their banding together for concerted action. The bridge is a fine example of what good results a little money judiciously expended could produce. It should be an incentive to those interested in good roads to prosecute the work."
The original bridge is long gone. I believe it was replaced by the Delin Street bridge, a larger structure for car traffic, which was very recently renovated to include bike lanes. 

The Tacoma Wheelmen continued to operate as an active club for decades, had some off years, but was resurrected in 1974. Up until yesterday, they were known as TWBC, Tacoma Wheelmen's Bicycle Club. 

Last night a vote of the board and general membership approved a change to the club's name to Tacoma Washington Bicycle Club, removing the gender-specific language and keeping the longstanding acronym under which they have successfully advocated for decades. They currently operate as a 501c7 non-profit and I'm personally grateful that they have sponsored Kidical Mass Tacoma for the last four years.

As a member, I appreciate the more inclusive name. As cyclists we share the terrain of Tacoma with members past, present and future. Focusing on place in the club name is an excellent way for us to carry on the legacy of local riders. 

More local trail history on the TWBC website here

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