Roads in the 19th century could have easily gone into disrepair to the point of no return as the days of carriages were ending with the railways taking off, and motorized vehicles not yet around. The roads were largely unused during this time. With the evolution from hobby horse to velocipede to bicycles, cyclists were about the only group who were traveling long distances on these roads at the end of the 19th century.
“It’s well known that the automotive industry grew from seeds planted in the fertile soil that was the late 19th century bicycle market.”
Lobbying organizations for cyclists were prominent in the US and UK at this time. They were powerful and respected, the president and prime minister respectively involved in their interests. Their goal was road preservation, and they were quite successful at it. Motorists lobbying organizations did not arise until 30 years later.
“The improvement of roads was first lobbied for – and paid for – by cycling organisations.”
This is where I got my information from, a solid read. And I say put this in your back pocket because I frequently encounter those in my life who sympathize with the safety woes of cyclists, but still find our presence on “their roads” to be a hindrance. Well, FACT: the automobile industry as well as the road systems wouldn’t be what they are today without the cycling community. And PS we paid for them (back in the day).
A well respected authority on the roads of the UK and the world in the early 20th century, William Rees Jeffreys writes,
“cyclists paved the way, as it were, for motorists. Without the efforts of cyclists, he said, motorists would not have had as many roads to drive on. Lots of authors in the early days of motoring said the same but this debt owed to cyclists by motorists is long forgotten.”