SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga nonprofit Bikeatoga has announced they have been awarded two grants from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation to commemorate Saratoga’s historical bike paths and one of the country’s first true bicycling road trips.
One marker is set to commemorate a ride taken by Wentworth Rollins on July 4, 1879 on a 52-inch Columbia high-wheel bicycle, beginning at 59th St and 8th Ave in New York City and concluding in Saratoga Springs, according to a press release from Bikeatoga.
“Rollins was among the first, and quite possibly the very first, bicycle tourists in America, and he chose to ride to Saratoga,” said Ed Lindner, Advocacy Chair for Bikeatoga, in the release.
Rollins walked and took a train for parts of the journey due to road and weather conditions, arriving in Saratoga Springs on July 8, the release states. He eventually headed west and reached Chicago.
The marker will be installed on Broadway near Washington Street. A second marker will commemorate the city’s network of historic 1890s bicycle paths.
“The 1890s bicycle boom changed America.” Lindner said. “Working-class families that couldn’t afford a horse and carriage suddenly had access to cheap and reliable transportation.”
“It’s significant, given the role of the bicycle in the women’s movement, that the earliest mention of the Saratoga Springs bicycle paths is a report of an August 1897 meeting of the Saratoga Women’s Association at which the organization voted to donate seventy dollars to the Good Roads Association for construction of the paths,” said Bikeatoga member Jen Natyzak in the release.
Natyzak teaches bike maintenance skills as an instructor in the group’s Womyn’s Wrench Night, the release states.
By 1899 the paths had been built, and ran to Albany, Glens Falls, Ballston Spa and other communities, according to the release. One popular path ran along the south side of Union Avenue to Yaddo, Saratoga Lake and the White Sulphur Springs.
The historical marker will be installed on Union Avenue, near the location of the original bike path.
Bikeatoga President Greg Faust offered thanks to Saratoga Springs Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub for his support.
“We worked closely with Joe O’Neill, Deputy Commissioner of Public Works, to find suitable sites to install the markers,” Faust said in the release, adding, “The application would not have been successful without Commissioner Golub’s support.”
“The Department of Public Works was proud to play a part in securing funding for these Historical Markers. This success story highlights two important values in Saratoga Springs; we value our history, and we also want to encourage our residents and tourists to make biking their regular means to explore the city,” said Golub in the release. “I’d like to thank Ed Lindner of Bikeatoga for bringing this opportunity to our doors and for working with Deputy O’Neill on the process of application and installation. And thanks also to the Pomeroy Foundation for the grants, which cover the full cost of creating and shipping the markers and poles to Bikeatoga.”