Bicycling Here in 1889

Footnotes to Long Island History

Bicycling Here In 1899


Thomas R. Bayles


            Bicycle riding was a favorite sport for men and women around the turn of the century, and tags were issued at 50 cents each to be attached to every bicycle in Suffolk County.  The following is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for May 23, 1899.

            “Riverhead May 23:  County Judge B. H. Reeve of Greenport has appointed the board of sidepath commissioners who will do the work in Suffolk County under the new Elsworth sidepath law.  These seven men include William B. Hedges of Patchogue, Charles Edwards of Riverhead, J. H. Davis of Port Jefferson.  The sale of license tags permitting their owners to ride upon the sidepaths of Suffolk County will soon be begun.

            “Patchogue, May 23:  That the midsummer meet and bicycle carnival of the New York State Division of the League of American Wheelmen, to be held here on June 30 and July 1, will be a success, is foreshadowed by the extensive preparations which are being made.  A baseball diamond is being put in condition for games, the cycle paths of the vicinity are being placed in proper condition for the summer season and the midsummer meet especially.  Parties of 10 can secure board at private boarding houses at reasonable rates where they can be secluded.  Safe sailing upon the Great South Bay, and salt and fresh water fishing and bathing will be among the attractions offered.  Those desiring board should address Jesse C. Mills, chairman of the reception committee.

            “Riverhead, June1, 1899:  The first meeting of Suffolk County’s new sidepath commission was held in the courthouse here yesterday.  All the commissioners were present including Henry H. Preston of Shelter Island, who was elected permanent chairman, Edwin D. Fishel of Riverhead, Jesse H. Davis of Port Jefferson, Ansel B. Gildersleeve of Huntington, Samuel H. Higbie of Babylon, William B. Hedges of East Patchogue and William R. Reimann of Sag Harbor.  The license fee for wheelmen was fixed at 50 cents per year and the secretary was authorized to purchase 10,000 wheel tags, which will be distributed between the various commissioners fore sale to cyclists.  It is the intention to have them placed on sale in every village and hamlet in the county.  The inscription on the tag will be “New York Sidepath License NO.-1899.

            “L. B. Green of the Patchogue Argus and a member of the committee of arrangements for the League of American Wheelmen cycle meet at Patchogue late this month, addressed the commission and invited the members to Patchogue to act as judge at the big bicycle parade of July 1.  This was accepted and the commission will attend.”

            “The meeting adjourned to meet at the Central Hotel at Patchogue on June 19 at 10 a.m.  The following notice was ordered sent to all newspapers for publication:

            “Riders of bicycles in Suffolk County are required by the Elsworth sidpath law, passed by the Legislature of the state of New York in 1899, to procure a license to be placed on the left fork of the bicycle.  Licenses may be procured upon the payment of 50 cents, and the law states that anyone who rides a bicycle upon any sidepath in the county without such a license on his wheel is subject to a fine of not more than $25 or 25 days imprisonment.”

            “At 6:30 p.m. on Saturday July 1, a bicycle carnival and parade will be the greatest event of the day.  Prizes will be awarded to the lady and gentleman having the most handsome costume, also the ones having the most handsomely decorated bicycle.”


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