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1896 Bike Parade Was an Old-Timey Critical Mass

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Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden History, where Curbed highlights a Bay Area location with a secret past. Maybe it's no longer there, maybe it's been converted into something else, but each spot holds a place in Bay Area history - even if not many people know it. Have a suggestion or know a place with a secret history? The tipline's always open or you can leave a comment after the jump.

Article on bike parade from the San Francisco Call [Photo: Historic American Newspapers]

Critical Mass is a tradition loved by Bay Area bikers, but the idea of a massive bike parade is nothing new. Back in 1896, hundreds of cyclists took to the streets of San Francisco in a variety bike clubs demanding better road conditions.

Back in the day, the city's streets were merely dirt and cobblestone roads, muddy and crisscrossed with streetcar tracks and cable slots. On July 25, 1896, residents took to the streets as members of various bike clubs in response to the Good Roads movement, which advocated for (you guessed it) better roads. More than 100,000 spectators watched the parade, which included floats and bands, and the bikes were adorned with ribbons and lanterns. In the end, the parade led to unanimously approved resolutions in favor of new roads. 101 years later, the Critical Mass took place in San Francisco in 1997.

Bikes in Golden Gate Park, 1899 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

· The Great Bicycle Protest of 1896 [Processed Word]
· 19th Century Bicycling: Rubber was the Dark Secret [SF Streetsblog]