New Trail in Cheshire, and Bicycle History in New Haven

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On Saturday I rode south from Hartford to check out a newly-built segment of the East Coast Greenway in Cheshire, CT, and continued on to learn about bicycle history at the Arts and Ideas Festival in New Haven, CT.

The East Coast Greenway is a bike/walk route that stretches from Maine to Florida, and supporters are filling the gaps to convert more to off-road trail. The new segment will add 4 miles of trail through a beautiful wooded portion of Cheshire, CT, and connect to existing trail in the north (Southington) and south (Hamden and New Haven). While not yet finished nor officially open, the new trail is mostly paved and rideable, if you don’t mind a bit of gravel on the bridge aprons, and going around some fences (as hundreds of other riders have already done, judging from the tracks left behind).

New trail at the transition from Southington to Cheshire, CT
New trail at the transition from Southington to Cheshire, CT
Not officially open, but rideable across bridges
Not officially open, but rideable across bridges
Southern entrance to new trail in Cheshire, CT
Southern entrance to new trail in Cheshire, CT

I arrived in New Haven in time for a public demonstration by The Wheelmen, a group of antique bicycle collectors who gather to share their knowledge and show how people rode these two-wheeled inventions. (And yes, the group also included some Wheelwomen.) New Haven’s Arts and Ideas Festival coincided with the International Cycling History Conference and a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Pierre Lallement’s invention of the velocipede and his ride on the New Haven Green. While I had read some of this history, and seen a few old bikes on display in museums, this was a treat because never before had I seen  so many people in one place, actually riding these bikes. They paraded their cycles in chronological order, and featured several items that were created in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford, the late 19th-century epicenter of bicycle manufacturing in the United States.

The Hobby Horse from 1819
The Hobby Horse from 1819
The Velocipede from 1869, with pedals on the front wheel
The Velocipede from 1869, with pedals on the front wheel
Another Velocipede, after 1869, I believe
Another Velocipede, after 1869, I believe
The High Wheeler, which came after the Velocipede
The High Wheeler, which came after the Velocipede
2016-06-25-Weed-Sewing-SciAmerican
Scientific American 1880 on the Weed Sewing Machine Company of Hartford, where Columbia Bicycles were produced.
Columbia bicycle ad featuring a female rider, from Pope Manufacturing in Hartford
Columbia bicycle ad featuring a female rider, from Pope Manufacturing in Hartford

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Jack Dougherty

Jack Dougherty writes about cycling adventures, advocacy, and his growing appetite at JackBikes.org.