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Looking back on 140 years of Peoria bicycling history, and how cyclists paved the way for paved roads

Looking back on 140 years of Peoria bicycling history, and how cyclists paved the way for paved roads

Elijah Furuness is a student supervisor at the Special Collections Center at Bradley University’s Cullom-Davis Library. He’s researching the history of the Peoria Bicycle Club.…

Tuesday, Oct 11

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Elijah Furuness is a student supervisor at the Special Collections Center at Bradley University’s Cullom-Davis Library. He’s researching the history of the Peoria Bicycle Club. Urban planners today talk about making cities more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly through the addition of more bike lanes, trails, and other accoutrements.

In many ways, this movement is a resurgence rather than a new concept. Peoria first became a bike town in the 19th century.

This era of the city’s history is of particular interest to Elijah Furuness. He is a student supervisor at the Virginius H. Chase Special Collections Center at Bradley University’s Cullom-Davis Library.

Furuness is researching the history of the Peoria Bicycle Club. Started in 1881 by a group of Peoria merchants, it quickly became one of the city’s most prominent social clubs, with over 400 members.

"They were a very large organization. But there were financial pressures, especially towards the turn of the 20th century, when a lot of the people that were initially interested in bicycles found themselves being swept up in the craze of car manufacturing," said Furuness, who is also an avid bicyclist.

That trend extended to the city’s bicycle factories and manufacturers like Charles Duryea.

"As the 19th century came to a close, many of these factories shifted their production from bicycle parts to just wheels, then to just rubber specifically for automobile parts, and many of them converted entirely to automobile plants," Furuness said.The Peoria Bicycle Club disbanded around the turn of the 20th century, but original members continued to meet […]

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