A century of cycling

PERTH’S hidden bike-riding history’s being uncovered at the museum of Perth, and the exhibition shows cycling isn’t some fad that came riding in, covered in lycra, in the past few years.

“Cycling has been an important part of Perth’s transport mix for many years,” museum chair Reece Harley says. “The seven bikes in our exhibition each have a fascinating story and represent different types of cycling… for entertainment, for business and for racing.”

While it’s a common refrain from anti-bike drivers to yell “get off the road!” or argue in online comments that roads are for cars, Mr Harley says “the roads of central Perth were built before cars had been invented”.

Like many cities around the world Perth eventually got taken over by cars. But while some today reckon Perth could never be a cycling city again (marked by the phrase “Perth’s not Amsterdam”), Mr Harley says many European cities were relatively late to the game in becoming cycle-friendly.

• Museum of Perth chair Reece Harley with a squadron of old timey bikes. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• Museum of Perth chair Reece Harley with a squadron of old timey bikes. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

“People assume that European cities have always been cycling meccas. That’s not the case. Many European cities were just as car-centric as Perth, however in the 1970s many of them changed their thinking in regards to transport and they’re now reaping the benefits.

“Many cities around the world are investing heavily in cycling infrastructure. The research shows that if you build it they will come… the more cyclists there are, the safer people feel to choose cycling as an option.”

Among the historical bikes on loan from the WA Historical Cycling Club is an 1874 penny farthing—which was warned to get off the road by more “modern” vehicles in the 1930s—right through to Steele Bishop’s bike that he rode to win the individual pursuit crown in the world championships in Switzerland in 1983.

The exhibition runs until March 27 at the museum, down Grand Lane in the CBD. Incidentally, that building itself used to be home to the WA League of Wheelmen, cycling’s governing body that boasted “hundreds of wheelmen throughout the colony” and which sought to “secure a fair and equitable administration of justice as regards the rights of cyclists on public roads”. Near a century on, their work remains unfinished.

by DAVID BELL

922 Kyilla Primary 10x3

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